I recently paid a visit to two of the newer BBQ joints to open up in the metro and came away with mixed emotions. Both Smoke Ring (Castleberry Hill) and Righteous BBQ (Marietta/East Cobb) received favorable first impressions from several legitimate sources so I figured that was enough for me to hop back on the BBQ train. My plan was to try the pork, brisket, brunswick stew, and any other unusual items that caught my fancy. For me, having quality brunswick stew is a must for any decent BBQ joint in the southeast, and luckily both of the offerings I tried were pretty solid. I hit Righteous first; it’s in a strip mall off of 120 and is a no frills hole in the wall with few tables; most people appeared to be getting takeout there. I really wanted to like this place, but the brisket was really dry and the baked mac and cheese had the consistency of hard plastic; it appeared to have been made much earlier in the day and allowed to just hang out and dry up. I also tried the collard greens and could only muster two bites, as the salt content was off the charts and made the dish virtually inedible.
The pulled pork had a little more moisture, but not enough to get me excited.
I was starting to regret my decision for going later in the afternoon, until I tried the brunswick stew; well seasoned and chalk full of tender hunks of beef and veggies.
I should probably go back and try it again when the pork and beef is fresh off the smoker, but they should do a better job of keeping the meat moist so there is better consistency in quality throughout service; there are just too many good BBQ joints in and around Atlanta to have to suffer through dry meat.
After the sub-par experience in the burbs, I was leery of trying another BBQ joint less than 24 hours later, as my faith was running low, but boy am I glad I did! Smoke Ring re-affirmed my belief in local BBQ and blew me away with the quality, breadth of offerings and the ridiculously huge portion sizes!
Smoke Ring is a full service restaurant and bar near the GA Dome that is pretty big; it has a beautiful interior made up of different shades of dark hard woods that have a really cool reclaimed look.
Their menu is a little larger than most BBQ spots and they have interesting tidbits on the menu like smoked salmon cakes, trout dip and an impressive list of sliders (see the “Underbelly” w/ pork belly and caramelized onions). The one item that caught my eye right off the bat was the tempura fried, smoked ribs…to be fair they were country fried and no tempura batter was in sight, but they were amazing and surely healthy!
We went straight for the Q with orders of pulled pork, brisket and a few sandwiches. First off, the platters are $10 – $12 and come w/ jalapeno corn bread and choice of a side (brunswick stew and the triple creamed corn were among the favorites)…and they’re fricking huge; at least 3/4 lb of meat on every plate. Needless to say there were plenty of to go boxes needed at the end of the meal.
All the meat was juicy, tender, well seasoned and had great bark. I’m not sure if we just hit them at the right time, but I would put their meat up against anything else in Atlanta.
Last but not least was the brunswick stew, which had a ton of flavor and was injected with a little sweet and smokey bbq sauce; I prefer this style over the places that puree and/or do a fine chop of the veggies…I think it’s a texture thing for me.
Smoke ring is a great addition to the BBQ scene in Atlanta; quality food, good service and a willingness to be different bode well for their future!