|The outside ain't nothin' special, but inside....oh, man!|
The word itself is strange. Some end it with que and some with cue. Some just write it as BBQ or Q. The word has a dimly lit past, but probably comes from an Indian word meaning 'no sex until the meat is cooked.' Hence the need for slow cooking. I made that up. It really means sacred pit of fire. Which I suppose could also apply to sex.
You’ll find the good stuff all over the southeast United States, from the lapping waters of the Atlanta on the east coast and west through the blazing sun of Texas. But, the type of barbeque changes. A few geographic hints tell you what to expect. The further west you go, the more likely you’ll be eatin’ beef and red sauce. Come east from Texas and you get more and more pork. North Carolina and north, you’ll have pork with vinegar-based sauce. Cross the line into South Carolina and Georgia, and it’s pork, with a mustard based sauce.
In this day of cultural homogenization, you’ll likely find bits and pieces of each, but it’s rare to find a Q-Joint that does all of it well.
I found one, at 2243 Akers Mill Rd. Atlanta, GA. It’s just off Hwy 285 and no matter where you are, make the trip! Heirloom Bar B Que. This is old-fashioned style Q, which only comes from hours and hours of smoking slabs of meat over a wood fire, with nothing hurried. When you're doing barbeque, there's no substitute for low temps and lots of time.
At Heirloom, you’ll get smoky Q at it’s very best, whether you’re talkin’ fall-apart beef brisket, or pulled pork. Have a particular style sauce you like? They’ve got it. Best of all, everything’s made in-house.
Have you noticed a trend in the kinds of food I like? First off, it’s fresh with a CAPITAL F! Secondly, the chef (or in this case Chefs) have got to be passionate about what they do and how they do it.
Chef Jiyeon Lee is a South Korean native. Taylor Cody is a Texan, transplanted. Both labored through their apprenticeships at a list of places that would grab any knowledgeable foodie’s attention. You can read all about both chefs on the Heirloom web page.
What makes a great Q joint? First off, it’s got to be so understated and unpretentious that the food is the only reason, outside of a flat tire, or medical emergency you’d give the place a second thought. If it’s a chain, forget it. Packaged sauces? Climb back in your car. But, if you don’t see a barbeque pit and smell the smoke, RUN.
In Heirloom’s case, you pull into a partially overgrown parking lot, and soon figure out you don’t have to go through an old convenience store to get to the food. It’s next door. Walk in, belly up, and before the screen door flaps closed behind you, a smiling face will take your order. While you wait on your grub, grab a white, plastic spoon and taste some of the sauces in a rack on the wall behind you. Take your time. They’re all wonderful.
Heirloom is tiny, with an eclectic interior, and sensationally efficient service. Grab your paper-wrapped bag of goodies, follow the crowd outside, and stand at an elbow-high table to savor the smoky flavors of a barbeque paradise. The sacred fire pit is right next to you.
I had the brisket and thought I’d been transported to Texas. Brisket has got to be tender. These savory slices fell apart. Another in our party ate succulent pulled pork and said not one word until every scrap of the sandwich disappeared. Our fairest member dug into a half rack of fall-off-the-bone pork ribs. She didn’t offer to share.
Specials and sides change by the day or the week, or whenever. I had Korean style sweet potatoes, thinly sliced, fried, doused with a sweet soy sauce, and sprinkled with white sesame seeds. A perfect accompaniment to the spicy, smoky tang of the brisket.
How do I find these places? I often wonder that myself. We’d driven four hours, and passed through on our way to somewhere else. Just happened to read Heirloom had been named the Best Barbeque in Atlanta. Never heard of the place. Culinary luck on a grand scale.
Now Heirloom's barbeque fills my dreams and as Ah-nuld says, Ah’ll be bock!