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Talking sauce (or not) with Jonathan Fox of Atlanta’s Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

Heirloom Market’s Table, Heirloom and Kitchen sauces. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

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Heirloom Market’s Table, Heirloom and Kitchen sauces. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

For many barbecue purists, sauce is a sacrilege.

They reason that, if the pitmaster has done the good deed of rubbing, smoking and rendering a tough, primal piece of brisket or pork shoulder, it should be tender and tasty without further alterations or additions.

Of course, sauce can be integral to certain barbecue styles. Think Lexington-style pork tossed in “red” vinegar sauce, or smoked chicken slathered in Alabama white sauce. And, sometimes, it’s just fun to have something spicy to perk up what’s on the plate.

When to sauce, or not to sauce, is the question. Locally, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q comes to mind, mostly because the sauces there always seem more like a clever condiment rather than a necessity.

Arguably the most popular sauce from the most popular barbecue restaurant in Atlanta, Fox Bros.’ versatile signature barbecue sauce is presented as a “sweet with heat” hybrid that mixes the flavors of Texas and the deep South.

“That’s the first sauce I ever made,” said Jonathan Fox, who later developed it into a brand that’s now widely available at Kroger and by mail-order. “When we first brought our brisket to Smith’s Olde Bar, that was the sauce we served. It’s Texas, where were from, and it’s pretty bold, and it’s got some bite to it. We added some vinegar to thin it out, and molasses and brown sugar to give it some Southern sweetness.”

Fox Bros. also serves and sells a spicy barbecue sauce that was developed as a wing sauce, with butter in the recipe, and more heat and tang in the flavor profile.

In addition, there’s a restaurant-only, Nashville-style white sauce — made with mayonnaise, buttermilk and touch of barbecue sauce — that “you can put on anything,” Fox said.

Asked what Atlanta barbecue sauces he favors, besides his own, Fox didn’t hesitate in declaring the Korean-American flavors of Heirloom Market BBQ the winner, with its Korean sweet heat, Table mild, Hotlanta mustardy hot, and Kitchen spicy fresh sauces regularly on offer to sample or take home.

“I think anything Heirloom does with their sauces is great, just because I like those flavors,” Fox said. “I’m not a sauce fan, really. But, the way they do their meat, it really helps enhance everything. It’s a condiment in the way condiments are meant to be used.”

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