My football meetup is now settling in to spend more and more time at Hottie Hawgs. Since my wife now knows they smoke, she’s asked me to bring back their smoked meats when I go. Pictured below are Hottie Hawg’s brisket and their ribs.

Both meats are genuinely smoked, both meats the real deal. The brisket was good, in my opinion, the ribs excellent. I know Hottie’s chef considers their brisket their pride and joy, but I learned to appreciate smoked meats in Georgia proper, from the hands of the original owner of Spiced Right in Lilburn. I tend to use ribs as my “gold standard” for smoked meats.

Hottie’s has decent tacos, around 3 dollars a pop. I had a brisket taco and a shrimp and andouille taco, both pretty darned good.

Hottie Hawgs Smokin’ BBQ
2057 Main Street NW,
Atlanta GA 30318

Reservations and to go orders: (404) 794-5224

Hottie Hawg's Smokin' BBQ on Urbanspoon

Fresh Air is an inconspicuous restaurant in Macon Georgia, that is near exit 167 on Interstate 75. If you exit 167 while heading south, turn right on the feeder and follow it for 2-3 miles. When you see a Gold’s Gym sign and then a Longhorns, start looking. Fresh Air is a bit behind the Longhorns.

The location of the restaurant is good, near the intersection of I-16 and I-75, and it is the winner, by far, of a AJC blog article that asked what the best barbecue in Georgia was. We have been traveling a bit recently and decided to stop here while passing through Macon.

Inside, it’s as modest a restaurant as it was outside. There was an equally modest menu, with three plates, a BBQ plate, a pulled pork plate, and a chicken plate. My wife ordered the rib plate (around $9.20), I had the pulled pork plate (less than $7.00), and my daughter had their pulled pork sandwich ($2.49 iirc). On the table there were two barbecue sauces, one hot and one mild.

The pulled pork was moist and tender, and covered a bit with a reddish sauce. When I first tried the pork, the taste hit me and I wasn’t quite used to it. After trying the hot barbecue sauce, it became apparent that the sauce (and therefore the pulled pork) had a really big vinegar based kick. And though the first sensation you taste in the sauce is the sour of the vinegar, the sauce then gives a fair amount of spicy heat, showing a bit of complexity.

I’m not much for vinegar sauces, but I liked Fresh Air’s sauce. I’ve never been able to eat Brunswick stew before, but I could eat Fresh Air’s Brunswick stew. My wife loved the beans she had. All the sides were good, in our estimation.  The ribs were not bad, not the best. They were tender, but didn’t have as much smoky flavor as I’d like. My daughter gobbled down her sandwich. She obviously wasn’t complaining.

Overall, I thought the restaurant was good. The inexpensive plates and especially the pulled pork sandwiches make this restaurant a great value, especially for families on a budget.

Fresh Air Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

The Snellville edition of Texas Roadhouse is on Dogwood Road, close to the intersection of Scenic Highway (124) and Dogwood. The restaurant is in the same large mall area as Men’s Wearhouse and O’ Charley’s, but on the Dogwood side of things. The steakhouse is actually much easier to get to down Dogwood, as that part of Scenic Highway gets a little crowded with traffic. From Ronald Reagan you could exit Web Ginn Road, head towards Brookwood High School, and then hang a left on Dogwood to get to Texas Roadhouse.

As compared to Outback Steakhouse, which we reviewed recently, the atmosphere here is more informal. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Peanuts are served in small metal buckets, all you can eat. There were times when I had a hungry impatient daughter.  Giving her some peanuts kept her hands busy, kept her from complaining until she received her meal.

Occasionally the waitstaff will dance. I’m not sure what the rhyme or reason is, but it’s entertaining when it happens. Items on the menu, for what it’s worth, go by common names here, as opposed to something made up.  You can order a choice sirloin without any feeling of guilt. Steaks are good, competitive in price in my memory and served with good sides. My wife has had good luck with chicken, or ribs, or some combination of the two. Among the appetizers I’ve tried are the buffalo wings and the rattlesnake bites (stuffed jalapenos), both good. In terms of salad dressings, my wife favors the ranch dressing and I’ve had good luck with the italian. My daughter eats all kinds of things here, though I think lately she’s been getting chicken tenders. Service, in my experience, has been good to very good here. Waitstaff will come by, refill drinks, ask how you are doing, and make food suggestions if you need them.

If I haven’t said, this is a popular place and can get crowded for dinner. It might be worthwhile to choose times carefully if you want to just stick your head in and eat.  But in summary, this is a good steakhouse, worth going to, a bit more informal than Outback. I recommend this steakhouse highly.

Texas Roadhouse
1969 Dogwood Road
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 985-1450

Texas Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

There is an exceptionally long and interesting thread in a AJC blog, where for days people posted about what they thought were the best BBQ joints in Georgia. I have a text file where I have been writing down every BBQ place mentioned in that thread. I’m not even half way through. The highest ranked so far is Fresh Air, in Jackson and Macon Georgia.  Others receiving more than 10 votes (so far) include Harolds of McDonough Boulevard, Sam and Dave’s BBQ1 in Marietta, and Fatt Matts’s, though Fatt Matt’s has about half as many people who dislike the food there.

What caught my eye while doing the rankings were the descriptions for some of the places.  Paul’s BBQ in Lexington, GA, for one, is only open on Saturdays. And the reviews for a place called Mad Dog’s BBQ in Conyers emphasized the quality of the ribs, the richness of the smoking, the sheer BBQ smell of the place.

In years past we would have gone to Spiced Right in Lilburn, but the last two-three times we were there, the ribs were no longer smoked (Update: more recent visits to Spiced Right show they do smoke ribs these days). There was a Famous Dave’s down the road on highway 78, but it closed. After using MapQuest, we decided Mad Dog’s was about 45 minutes away by car. That’s a long ride, but as we would head south down 124 to I-20, then I-20 east to Highway 20 and 138, it was an easy 45 minutes (unlike, say, the gridlock of the Lenox Square area).

We went there and ordered a couple rib plates and a pulled pork plate. Compared to prices at Famous Dave’s, Mad Dog’s is a notable bargain. The restaurant is on the end of a strip mall and very unpretentious. And I can thankfully say that everything reviewers have said about their ribs is true. They are deeply, richly smoked. You can smell it and taste it in the meat.  You could smell it on our fingers at least two hours after the fact. Fine ribs. I told the people working there it was worth every minute.

The sides are served in heaping portions and every side I tried was good. The pulled pork wasn’t as smoky, but it was exceptionally tender. They had two sauces that we tried, a mild and hot. The hot had a vinegar base, and wasn’t “burn your mouth out” hot, but had a reasonable bite.

I will note that on the way there, we passed at least two other BBQ places. There is a Smoky Bones at Stonecrest Mall (I do like Smoky Bones) and Jim and Nick’s is on the way down highway 138/20. I’ve not tried Jim and Nicks. But if the goal was to get my wife her “smoked to the very bones” ribs, Mad Dog’s more than amply succeeded.

Mad Dog's BBQ on Urbanspoon