It ain’t Georgia barbecue without the Brunswick stew

Brunswick stew at Old Brick Pit BBQ. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
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Brunswick stew at Old Brick Pit BBQ. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS

One of my favorite food landmarks in Georgia is the Brunswick stew marker on I-95 outside the city of Brunswick. A cast-iron pot squats atop a stone monument with an inscription claiming that the first batch was made nearby on July 2, 1898. So specific!

Culinary historians are more inclined to believe that the dish originated in Brunswick County, Virginia, where a history sign traces it to a hunting excursion in the 1820s. Whatever its provenance, the stew is clearly more widespread in Georgia today.

Brunswick stew is one of those one-pot mysteries that ought to be a main dish, but usually appears as a barbecue side in parts of the South. In Kentucky, it’s burgoo. In South Carolina, it’s barbecue hash over rice. In Georgia, Virginia and parts of North Carolina and Alabama, it’s Brunswick stew.

Brunswick stew at Old Brick Pit BBQ. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Caption
Brunswick stew at Old Brick Pit BBQ. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS

Once made with squirrel and other game, stew can be found in domesticated versions in most Atlanta barbecue places. It comes in different consistencies and contains different meats (usually pork, beef and chicken), different vegetables (always corn and tomatoes, sometimes lima beans, onions and potatoes), and different seasonings and levels of spiciness. The one constant: It’s as red as Georgia clay.

There are many fine examples of stew locally. Here are some classics:

Old Brick Pit BBQ

This is as close to textbook Georgia Brunswick stew as you’ll find inside the Perimeter.

4805 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. 770-986-7727, oldbrickpitbbq.com.

Old Hickory House

Two generations of Atlantans grew up loving this stuff. At the last outpost of the barbecue chain, the stew is still thick, smoky and slightly sweet.

2202 Northlake Parkway, Tucker. 470-645-1454, oldhickoryhousebbq.com.

Scott’s Walk-Up Bar-B-Q

Scott’s, a few blocks from the Booth Western Art Museum, makes a meaty, vinegary rendition that usually opens my sinuses.

206 N. Tennessee St., Cartersville. 770-382-1600, scottswalkupbbq.com.