You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Review: Smoky whole-hog ‘cue at B’s Cracklin’ BBQ


My favorite moment in a barbecue joint tends to be the first one. The doors open and you take your first breath of that bewitching aroma of meat and smoke. It is pure and simple, the unadulterated magic from which barbecue is made. That smell whets the appetite just as well as an amuse-bouche at a four-star restaurant.

Everything to love about barbecue is in the smoke. It is such a mysterious substance: flavored air. You can’t sell it by the pound or put it in a bottle. (The utter unpleasantness of liquid smoke proves this.) No matter what a joint touts as its specialty — whether that be a secret rub or a spectacular side or a special sauce — the purist’s barbecue test comes down to only two factors: the smoke and the meat.

B’s Cracklin’ BBQ in Riverside is the sort of place that attracts the attention of purists, for good reason. This is the second location opened by Bryan and Nikki Fuhrman, a couple whose first joint in Savannah attracted the attention of Garden & Gun, Bon Appetit and Southern Living, among others. What’s all the fuss about? Well, the smoke and the meat. Bryan fires his smokers using only wood, avoiding the gas- or electric-assisted machines that some contemporary barbecue joints depend on for consistency these days. It’s an old-school, labor-intensive choice that also happens to look pretty good in magazine spreads.

More distinctive, though, was his choice to source local, pasture-raised hogs. That kind of meat tends to be overlooked in the barbecue world, especially because of the priority for old-school budget price points. B’s has gone through some sourcing changes since its beginnings in Savannah, but at the Atlanta location, he’s using hogs from Gum Creek Farms in Roopville and Hunter Cattle Company in Brooklet. The proof, as one might say, is in the pork.

<<More metro Atlanta restaurant reviews

The smoked pork served at B’s is as simple and elemental as it gets. After smoking overnight, whole hogs are pulled and chopped into fairly short strands. The resulting meat, sold by the pound, on plates, or in sandwiches, has a distinct but not overpowering quality of smoke followed by deep porky flavor. Unlike smoked pork butts, which tend to wallop with higher ratios of rub and bark, the pulled whole hog served at B’s is a subtle but pure experience.

Tossed with the house vinegar-based sauce, topped with diced slaw, and served on a fluffy H&F Bread Co. bun, the Carolina’s Finest sandwich turns that elemental purity into a full meal.

The pork ribs aim for (and hit) a similarly simple mark. They’re dry-rubbed and smoked to a precise texture, the meat still standing up on the bone but tender enough to be pulled off with your fingers. Fans of sauced, sweet ribs will like these drizzled with the thick, house-made peach-mustard sauce, but I’m more than happy with them the way they are.

The lesser options here are the brisket and chicken, though they’re not bad options. Brisket is rubbed thick with black pepper and salt and sliced thick, too. I’ve found it to be consistently tender, though occasionally drier than I prefer. You’d no doubt be more than happy with it chopped on a sandwich, but it doesn’t possess the destination-worthy distinction that the pork does.

As for the chicken, well, if you’re ordering poultry at a whole hog barbecue joint, I have to assume that someone has brought you kicking and screaming. You’ll be fine, because the chicken is moist and smoky and simple, but the bird is not the main event here.

Speaking of main events, I sometimes hear of people who think the sides are the main event at barbecue joints. Bless their hearts. Those misguided souls will still find satisfaction at B’s. The collards are a respectable and lean balance to the heavy meats. The macaroni and cheese is thick and rich, the top browned to a crisp. No gut-buster will find disagreement with it. I suspect some Georgia aficionados, on the other hand, will take issue with the Brunswick stew. I certainly don’t care for it, laden as it is with canned tomato flavor.

Cornbread is served in the form of thick, griddled hoecakes, some laden with crackling skin from the whole hogs. I’d rather be able to order the smoked skin itself, like some whole-hog joints offer.

The best side at B’s is hash and rice. This deliriously rich rice and gravy concoction is a combination of hog’s head and other trimmings slow-cooked with the house peach sauce. It’s the only side that I’d even consider calling a main event at B’s, in part because every time I get a cup of it in front of me, I start inhaling every last bite, my eyes roll back into my head, and I almost pass out from pleasure. It’s almost enough to make you forget about the purity of that simple smoke and meat. Almost.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

Another classic diner turns off the grill, a victim of rising rents

John Vasilopoulos and Nick Tragaras stood before an assembly line of egg sandwiches. Tragaras slid the eggs and bacon from the griddle onto the buns as Vasilopoulos followed to wrap and stack. It was a familiar rhythm for the owners of Cup & Saucer, a diner on the eastern edge of Manhattan’s Chinatown. But on Monday afternoon, after more than...
In Atlanta, first-rate food leads to second chances
In Atlanta, first-rate food leads to second chances

Work starts early for those at Gathering Industries. Each weekday morning before 7 a.m., Ryan Williams opens the kitchen on McDonough Boulevard, just a block from the United States Penitentiary. He likes sports analogies and if you ask for a job title, he says he’s a “utility player.” “I leave the cooking to the professionals...
Atlanta’s coffee shops serve up java for Gens X, Y and Z
Atlanta’s coffee shops serve up java for Gens X, Y and Z

When I think about the bad old days of coffee in Atlanta, when you could still get away with selling a cup of hot black water fit for a gas station and call your place a cafe, I’m afraid I sound like an old man talking about walking 5 miles uphill both to and from school. To young ears, it might not sound real. A decade ago, you might have found...
Review: Jai Ho could use a little focus in showcasing flavors of India
Review: Jai Ho could use a little focus in showcasing flavors of India

When I first came to Atlanta in the ’80s, Little Five Points was where you went for Indian food. Then it seemed that all the city’s Indian restaurants were clustered around the intersection of Moreland and Euclid avenues. Every place had a similar menu of North Indian classics, and a cheap, set-price lunch menu that began with a cup of...
In Bristol, England, a restaurant goes back to rustic basics
In Bristol, England, a restaurant goes back to rustic basics

Some chefs serve commercial mayonnaise. For Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, the chef and an owner of Paco Tapas, and Dave Hazell, the head chef, making mayonnaise is a two-day process. Crab shells are roasted and then infused in vegetable oil for 48 hours. The flavored oil is blended with ingredients like cider vinegar distilled from apples grown in nearby...
More Stories