If living south of the Mason-Dixon Line has taught me anything, it's that barbecue is better down here. Whether your palate craves ribs, brisket, pulled pork or chicken, Southern barbecue just can't be beat.
Residents of Kennesaw are fortunate to have one of the best barbecue restaurants in the South. Big Shanty Smokehouse, at 3393 Cherokee St., held the title of Best Barbecue in Atlanta on Urbanspoon.com for all of 2009, and after one visit (and about 1,000 times after that), I found out why.
In 2008, Chic Dillard opened what is becoming a juggernaut among Kennesaw restaurants. Chic and with his wife, Sissy, run the everyday operations at "The Shanty." Their daughter, Shannon, makes award-winning desserts (she won first prize at 2009's Taste of Kennesaw) and works the counter.
Their menu is loaded with delectable meats, homemade sides, daily specials and, of course, Shannon's pastries.
When I walked into the restaurant, the Dillards greeted me in true Southern fashion, with a hello and a smile. The big board menu displays the regular options, while a dry-erase board lists specials and daily side dishes.
For this review, I sampled the beef brisket sandwich, Brunswick stew and apple cobbler.
The sliced brisket was served on a hamburger bun with a side of barbecue sauce, pickles and a bag of chips. The Texas-style brisket was layered high on the bun. A pink smoke ring, essential to good brisket, surrounded the tenderly cooked meat. After slathering the meat in sauce, I was pleased by the succulent flavor. The meat melted in my mouth.
The caramelized dry rub is excellent, and a hint of paprika accentuates the brisket's outer layer.
The traditional barbecue sauce accented the smoky flavor of the meat perfectly. There is only one sauce option, so if white or spicy sauce is your preference, you might be disappointed. Hot sauce is available on every table if that's what you fancy.
The Brunswick stew contained pulled pork, chicken, onions, beans and corn. The red barbecue sauce was the dominant flavor. Combined, those ingredients enveloped the taste buds. The vegetables and sauce nicely accented the pulled pork and chicken. Each spoonful contained all the elements.
After this meal, I barely had room for dessert. I pushed on, however, and dug in to the final course. The apple cobbler had a flaky brown crust and featured fresh apples coated in a wonderful glaze. Subtle traces of cinnamon brought out the flavor of the apples and crust.
Based on the cobbler, Shannon deserves her reputation for desserts. Sampling one of her creations is a must when visiting The Shanty.
The rest of Big Shanty's menu offers typical barbecue items: brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, chicken, smoked salmon and homemade sausage, as well as many sides. In addition to the regular menu, Chic and his crew cook up daily specials. Currently, they are dishing out smoked turkey ribs and "incredible smoked duck."
Hands down, Big Shanty Smokehouse serves some of the best 'cue in Georgia. This place gets an easy A.