Our region’s barbecue restaurants are as specific about their sweets as they are their sauces. In Atlanta, banana pudding is the classic post-barbecue dessert, peach cobbler a close second. Head north (see our road trip sidebar), and you’ll see Southern layer cakes — including bright-green Key lime pie, strawberry, chocolate and caramel — sliced, plated, wrapped in plastic and ready to go. If, after eating pulled pork, brisket and all the fixings, you find yourself with a hankering for something sweet, consider these delectable pies, cakes, and — of course — banana puddings.
White chocolate banana pudding at DAS BBQ
Asked to write about banana pudding for this barbecue-themed dining guide, I was dismissive. I was pretty sure my experience would be quite limited, since all the banana puddings at Atlanta barbecue restaurants taste the same. Well, the evening I tasted DAS BBQ’s luxurious, from-scratch vanilla custard, topped with what looks like a snow blast of white-chocolate crumbles, I had a mea culpa moment. My bad! It’s indeed possible to enjoy a really delicious banana pudding at an Atlanta barbecue joint, and this is it. Ask for two spoons; share with a friend.
1203 Collier Road NW, Atlanta. 404-850-7373, dasbbq.com.
Dr. Pepper chocolate cake at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
On my most recent visit to this Little Five Points institution, I felt I needed a taste of something sweet to cancel the Tomminator I had just polished off. (It’s a ridiculous pile of tater tots smothered in Brunswick stew and an insane amount of melted cheese — shoot me now!) But, I didn’t know how much I’d love this showstopping pile of chocolate cake flavored with the sweet-spicy old-school soda pop known as Dr. Pepper. A not-overpowering amount of the fizzy beverage peps up three fat layers of chocolate cake, which is iced, in part, with Dr. Pepper pastry cream, then slathered with shiny chocolate ganache. I’m super-annoyed at co-owner-chef Justin Fox for putting this on the menu, as if I needed another reason to summon my will power every time I pass this venerated establishment.
1238 DeKalb Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-577-4030, foxbrosbbq.com.
Bourbon pecan pie at Sweet Auburn Barbecue
Pecan pie is one of the South’s most iconic desserts, so, of course, it goes with barbecue. Sweet Auburn’s wildly extravagant house-made version essentially is a pecan mini-tart, topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and salted caramel. You might consider requesting your pie without the chocolate: It tastes like Hershey’s, and it doesn’t add much. The thing that sends this cute little pie into the stratosphere is the salted caramel, which marries wonderfully with the crunchy nuts and hint of whiskey. Next time you have a bad day, stop by and treat yourself.
656 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 678-515-3550, sweetauburnbbq.com.
Caramel cake at Anna’s BBQ
This adorable 6-year-old Kirkwood joint is full of caveats. A sign on the cash register advises that there is a $1.50 collard upcharge. (Is there a shortage? Still?) Another tells you not to ask if such-and-such is good, point being that everything here is good! I certainly can vouch for the caramel cake, and I suspect that any of the Southern layer cakes, baked by owner Lakesia Anna Phelps’ mother, Lola, will not disappoint — from carrot to bright-green Key lime to Kool-Aid-colored strawberry. But, man, that caramel: three layers of delicate white cake, swiped all over with that luscious, bordering-on-butterscotch icing that church ladies have been perfecting for generations. And, if you are a sweet potato lover, try the cobbler concocted with what most assuredly is candied yams. (Tastes likes Thanksgiving.) You’ll get a generous pint, made with love, and, I suspect, a bit of sass. When I asked Phelps if her mother might share her caramel-cake recipe, she told me, no dice.
1976 Hosea L. Williams Drive, Atlanta. 404-963-6976, annasbbqrestaurantatlanta.com.
Classic banana pudding at Zeigler’s BBQ & Catering
I made a special run to this fast-casual spot because I wanted ribs, and I wanted nanner pudding — nothing else would do. Both were exceptional. The pudding came in a plastic foam cup, nestled in its own little paper-lined basket, and topped with crushed vanilla wafers and clouds of whipped cream — not overly sweet; impossible not to finish. Go for the ribs; stay for that stellar pudding.
3451 Cobb Parkway NW, Acworth. 770-529-5227, zeiglersbbq.com.