This article appears in the June issue of 400 Life.
I’ve heard it bemoaned in Forsyth County that there aren’t enough options for barbecue, and I suppose that’s true if the premise is that there’s no such thing as too much barbecue. The truth is that there is quality barbecue to be found in virtually every corner of the county, a variety of styles to choose from and a diverse group of players in the local scene.
Their story: Paul Doster was co-owner and head chef of Swallow at the Hollow, the famous Roswell barbecue joint, when he decided to branch out in 2009. Doster opened the first ‘Cue in Milton that year. A year later, the Cumming location opened in 2010. There are now four ‘Cues in metro Atlanta after a new location recently opened in Lawrenceville.
Their barbecue: ‘Cue takes pride in its “homemade, y’all” motto. That includes not just the smoked pork, beef brisket or chicken breasts but also the breaded pickles and the four sauces served on the side, each one influenced by one of the country’s major barbecue regions. “We don’t have a microwave in here,” says Brad Fyle, general manager at the Cumming location. If Fyle doesn’t know what to get for lunch, he finds himself gravitating toward ‘Cue’s smoked wings, served with either ranch or blue cheese dressing, or bologna and cheese sandwich. “It’s as good as it gets,” he says.
Where: 1370 Buford Highway
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Sunday
Contact: 770-888-1048, cuebarbecue.com
Their story: City Barbeque has its origins from a competition barbecue team in Columbus, Ohio before founder Rick Malir opened the first restaurant in 1999. The barbecue chain now has about 50 restaurants in six states, including this location that opened in 2018.
Their barbecue: Honoring its roots, City Barbeque describes its barbecue as “competition quality.” And though Malir grew up in Kansas, City Barbeque’s menu borrows from a variety of regional styles — Malir says the pork resembles North Carolina-style barbecue, the brisket is Texas-style and the ribs are the sweet-and-spicy style that is the staple of Malir’s hometown. One of City’s signature menu items is the More Cowbell Sandwich, pictured above — brisket topped with provolone cheese, peppers, crispy onions and horseradish on Texas toast.
Where: 4210 Johns Creek Parkway
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday
Contact: 770-284-3115, citybbq.com
Socks’ Love Barbecue
Their story: Steven Hartsock gave up a successful job in construction to go after a passion for barbecue. First it was a seasoning business. Then he tried catering and opened a commissary kitchen in 2015 called The Catering Kitchen. In 2018, he experimented with opening to customers for lunch hours and changed the name to Socks’ Love Barbecue this past March.
Their barbecue: Hartsock sums up Socks’ Love’s menu as “wood-fired honest barbecue and creative comfort sides,” and the restaurant’s method is simple, Hartsock says: “It just takes time.” Socks’ Love starts smoking its meats at 6 the night before and keeps going until just before the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. The other trick Hartsock says, is to portion and slice the meat to order.
Where: 1050 Buford Highway, Suite 104
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or until sold out), Monday-Saturday
Contact: 470-302-8383, www.sockslovebrands.com
Ferguson’s Meat Market
Their story: The family-owned and operated business has been a staple of the Coal Mountain community in north Forsyth County since 1992. Ownership is now on its third generation of the family.
Their barbecue: While Ferguson’s offers a wide variety of fresh meats, those venturing in for a quicker bite to eat can go for their jumbo barbecue sandwich, a half pound of Hickory-smoked pulled pork topped with Ferguson’s special sauce and served with homemade coleslaw, baked beans, mac ‘n cheese with sweet tea.
Where: 3360 Matt Highway
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Saturday
Contact: 770-844-9517, fergusonsmeatmarket.com
Big D’s BBQ
Their story: The well-known Dawson County company actually got its start in Alpharetta in 2007. Owner Darin Muenchow moved that location to near the North Georgia Premium Outlets in Dawson County in 2009, and added a second location in downtown Dawsonville in 2013. The Cumming location makes three Big D’s restaurants for Muenchow, a Forsyth County resident.
Their barbecue: Big D’s is unique enough for serving breakfast until noon, but the restaurant is also known for its North Carolina-based barbecue, particularly its ribs and pork brownie sandwich made from the burnt ends of the meat, Muenchow said. Another distinguishing factor of Big D’s: they remove as much gristle — or fat — from their meat as possible.
Where: 212 Atlanta Road
Contact: 470-695-7444, bigdsbbq.com
Wilkes Meat Market & Deli
Their story: What started in Tucker in the early 1960s eventually made its way to Forsyth County in 2002 and has been serving the Silver City community, and beyond, ever since.
Their barbecue: It’s a lot of work operating an old-fashioned, full-service meat market, so good thing Wilkes has “Old Hickory Pit,” its commercial smoker. “It’s the Cadillac of smokers,” owner Ray Lynn says. That’s what Wilkes uses to smoke Boston butts for their pork sandwiches, accentuated with two different rubs — Head Country, which won a Jack Daniels championship, and the Wilkes’ homemade product. Oh, venture in on the weekends for Wilkes’ signature smoked wings at $9.99 a dozen.
Where: 5515 Bannister Road
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday
Contact: 770-889-8839, wilkesmeatmarketanddeli.com
Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q
Their story: The company’s name comes from its founders – Jim and his son, Nick. The two turned an old pizza parlor in Birmingham, Ala., into the first Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q restaurant in 1985, according to the company’s website. Now, the company has 34 locations in seven states.
Their barbecue: Where Jim N’ Nick’s Alabama roots can be found in its barbecue is its white sauces used to dress its smoked meats. The chain also incorporates an eastern-Carolina vinegar. And who could forget those signature cheese biscuits that are plopped down every time for a tantalizing appetizer.
Where: 3130 Ronald Reagan Boulevard
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday
Contact: 678-845-1565, jimnnicks.com
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Their story: The first location opened in Dallas in 1941 by Travis Dickey, a World War II veteran, according to the company’s website. Dickey’s sons took over the business in 1967 and started expanding it in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the 1970s. The company began franchising in 1994 and now has more than 500 locations in 44 states, including the one in the Country Folks Superstore complex in north Forsyth County.
Their barbecue: Dickey’s holds on to its heritage by specializing in Texas-style barbecue, which is known for using a dry rub that’s heavy with black pepper and coarse-grain salt. But Country Folks Superstore co-owner Chase Wales says their location also makes their meats more moist to add a Georgia twist. Also, Dickey’s serves “finished weight meat,” Wales says. “If we’re saying you’re getting eight ounces of meat, you’re getting eight ounces of meat.”
Where: 2730 Spot Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday
Contact: 770-887-8884, dickeys.com
Their story: Founder Bob White was an insurance salesman and financial planner in Hickory Flat who loved to cook for neighborhood parties and church cookouts, according to the company’s website. He decided to serve barbecue one Saturday out of an old barbershop and quickly sold out. A year later, in 1991, he opened the first Slope’s BBQ in Roswell. There are now four locations in Georgia.
Their barbecue: Of all the barbecue restaurants in Forsyth County, Slope's is perhaps the most devoted to serving Georgia-style fare. One of the more intriguing menu items: the rib sandwich with three ribs served on garlic toast.
Where: 436 Canton Highway
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday
Contact: 770-886-1678, slopesbbq.com