Little excites the mind and palate as much as a plate of really good pulled pork. And contrary to the tastes of some, there is such a thing as bad barbecue. Or maybe, as writer Bruce Haney put it, some barbecue joints are just more equal than others.
Consider Community Q BBQ, new in Decatur, one of the more “equaled” of spots. Born of barbecue royalty Sam & Dave’s BBQ1 and BBQ2 in Marietta, owner David Roberts has not only brought the best of that barbecue spot’s pit skills to his new ITP home, he’s brought his macaroni and cheese with him, too.
The back story: Sam & Dave’s BBQ1 opened in 2005 with BBQ enthuisiasts Sam Huff and Dave Poe minding the meat, and Roberts as third man in, making his now-famous three-cheese mac-n-cheese and peppy cole slaw as part of the mix of incredible offerings. The formula was so popular it became prolific, with a second location opening in 2006. Last year, Huff and Poe split — Huff kept spot number one, calling it Sam’s BBQ1 and Poe kept spot number two, calling it Dave Poe’s BBQ. Meanwhile, Roberts, who has as much experience in the restaurant biz as he does potatoes in his potato salad, began making plans of his own.
Plans came to fruition late last fall, when he opened this, his own barbecue spot, with Stuart Baesel, who also worked at Sam & Dave’s, and Jim Laber, a former Inland Seafood dude who wanted to learn the ropes. In a busy strip mall near Emory, “Community” is the perfect christening, because everyone from students to schoolchildren are packing the tiny spot’s space noon and night.
I’m not going to pull punches here: A comparison between Community Q and Sam & Dave’s BBQ 2 shows a lot of similarities. The beef ribs (when Roberts hasn’t run out of them) are big, hulky, charred masses of tender, meaty yum. Beef brisket is lean and tender, streaked with that rare aura of pink around the edges. Most of the meats don’t need sauce, but it’s nice to be able to choose between sweet, ketchup-based Georgia-style or a peppier mustard sauce a la Carolina.
Pulled pork isn’t quite the best I’ve ever had, but it comes darned close — shreds of tender meat are piled high on thick slices of Texas toast, accompanied by a few slices of dill pickles.
And then there’s that macaroni and cheese. Foodie blogs rave about it. Mothers caution against eating too much of it. Men fall to their knees over it. And yes, the AJC has printed the recipe not once, but twice in our food pages. It remains one of our readers’ favorites on ajc.com.
It says something about a barbecue joint when the mac-n-cheese makes the grade as much as the meat. I’m not exactly sure what it says, but I’m not complaining: Roberts uses rigatoni pasta, coats it with sharp cheddar, Monterey jack and Parmesan cheeses and lots of heavy cream, then bakes it until it melds into a mass of oozing, cheesy, almost unidentifiable heaven.
His baked beans, chock full of bits of brisket and lots of zesty flavor, are worth crowing about, too. Ditto the collards; swimming in pot likker and dotted with tender bits of pork and pepper. Plus there’s house-made banana pudding and (sometimes) key lime tarts crowned with fluffy, toasted meringue. But aficionados will come for the meat, and they won’t be disappointed. St. Louis-style ribs are plump and dripping with flavor; a half chicken on the bone is a tasty alternative to pork and beef.
Perhaps the biggest draw to this immediately likable barbecue spot is Roberts himself. At the counter taking orders, supervising the kitchen or meandering through the many occupied tables covered in burlap tablecloths, he wears ownership well. He is a true showman.
The community clamors for his ‘cue and contagious sense of good humor.
Community Q BBQ
Food: Southern BBQ
Service: Counter service with lots of spice
Price range: $ - $$
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
Hours of operation: Open for lunch and dinner Mon.-Thurs. from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Best dishes: I likes ’em all
Vegetarian selections: It’s ’cue, but the mac-n-cheese is veg-friendly
Parking: Adjacent lot
Reservations: No; but call ahead for the community table to reserve for up to 12
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: Only the meat
Noise level: Medium
Address, telephone: 1361 Clairmont Road, Decatur, 404-633-2080
Web site: www.communityqbbq.com/
Pricing code: $$$$$ means more than $75; $$$$ means $75 and less; $$$ means $50 and less; $$ means $25 and less; $ means $15 and less. The price code represents a typical full-course meal for one excluding drinks.
Key to AJC ratings
Sets the standard for fine dining in the region.
One of the best in the Atlanta area.
Merits a drive if you're looking for this kind of dining.
A worthy addition to its neighborhood, but food may be hit and miss.
Food is more miss than hit.
Restaurants that do not meet these criteria may be rated Poor.
You can write your own review here .
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