The Atlanta barbecue scene is badly underestimated, it appears, even by bloggers who blog in this city. From this perspective, it’s merely a boring repetitious set of chain eateries, whose products are predictable and monotonous, and whose only differentiating factor are the sides or perhaps the sauce.
I have news for ya’ll: this also is Atlanta barbecue.
Stuffed with barbecue
See that dumpling? It comes from Canton House, the famous dim-sum place on Buford, and yes, it’s full of barbecue.
In this city, perhaps you didn’t know, but the Koreans have barbecue, the Chinese have barbecue, and the Vietnamese add barbecued meat to their banh mi.
meat on the "barby" at "Iron Age"
Honey BBQ from Ming's BBQ
Since the work barbecue itself comes in part from the Taino people of the Caribbean, it also appears that the Southern style of cooking meat is also a direct descendent of the Caribbean barbacoa.
That suggests strongly that jerk chicken, from Jamiaca and smoked, is also a style of barbecue.
Tastee's (Snellville) jerk chicken: Is this a kind of barbecue?
Is it or isn’t it? I’m not claiming barbecue expertise. I’m merely a student in this genre.
What about pastrami? It’s a smoked meat, isn’t it? How closely related is pastrami to barbecue?
Even restricting the point of view to “Southern barbecue”, I’ll note that there are two common ways to prepare meats in this “style”, and that is to smoke the meat indirectly (leads to a smoke ring and great smoke flavor), or to broil the meat and then finish it on the grill (grill lines, and fall off the bone tender). The latter is indeed favored by chain restaurants. It’s easier, and you’re in no danger of running out of product around 3 pm in the afternoon. They’re easily distinguised, by the presence or absence of smoke rings on the meat.
"Steve's Sampler" from Big Shanty Smokehouse
Getting back to Texas style barbecue: using Robb Walsh’s book as a reference, I counted 6 kinds of Texas barbecue. Using the same source, the Wikipedia counts four. Looking over various Wikipedia entries (like this one on US barbecue, and this one on Texas barbecue), the Wikipedia missed the Caddo Indian style (not common anymore), and I counted the Southern Texas style perhaps twice. So, four styles are extant currently. To note, as Robb Walsh says:
When visitors from Carolina and Tennessee come to Texas, they are generally astonished to find that we eat a lot of pork here as well as beef brisket. That’s the problem with the beef generalization. Yes, we barbecue beef – but we’re fond of other meats.
I know this to be true, for when visiting relatives in Granbury, Texas, I had some good pork ribs over in Glen Rose.
Pork ribs from Glen Rose TX. The smoke ring is clearly visible on these ribs.
If you talk to bloggers who actually smoke meats in their spare time, they’ll note a merrily promiscuous character to Atlanta barbecue. The city doesn’t appear to care what is good, it just adopts any style that tastes good. So I’ll reiterate the question that comes to me after all this: just how many different kinds of barbecue can you count in this city?