Georgia grits cakes, barbecue, cocktails to put on your GPS

Bayou’Q features sauteed shrimp in Cajun gravy, dotted with smoked tasso ham and andouille sausage, over cheesy grits cakes. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.
Caption
Bayou’Q features sauteed shrimp in Cajun gravy, dotted with smoked tasso ham and andouille sausage, over cheesy grits cakes. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

As we move full-stride through summer, here are some dining field notes from near and far.

A lip smackin’ dish from Louisiana

In my book, Louisiana has gifted our nation with some of the drabbest, yet best-tasting, cuisine. Dirty rice, gumbo, etouffee … all ugly and delicious. Ladle me some more.

The other day, I cleaned a plate of the ugliest Louisiana eats. Man, that was some delicious grub. I’m speaking of shrimp and grits cakes from Bayou’Q Smokin’ Bistreaux & Bar.

Bayou’Q combines barbecue and Cajun fare under one roof. (Having sampled six dishes, it seems they do Cajun better than barbecue.) The first location debuted last summer in downtown Roswell and another opened in the old Tilted Kilt space on Cobb Parkway in Vinings in March.

ExploreGuide to barbecue around metro Atlanta
Bayou’Q combines barbecue and Cajun fare under one roof, with  locations in Vinings (pictured) and Roswell.  Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.
Caption
Bayou’Q combines barbecue and Cajun fare under one roof, with locations in Vinings (pictured) and Roswell. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Here’s what you get with Bayou’Q’s shrimp and grits cakes: a dozen sauteed shrimp in a sassy brown Cajun gravy, dotted with bits of smoked tasso ham and andouille sausage, poured over two, round, crisp grits cakes, cheesy with Gruyere, provolone, sharp cheddar and smoked Gouda. It’s enough to share, but so good that you won’t wanna.

The Vinings location offers a sports bar setting inside, and an outdoor patio with a partial awning — and a view mainly of asphalt. (So, focus on the food and the company you are keeping.) Consider it the next time you need a quick bite before a Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre show or a Braves game, or when hunger strikes after shopping at Cumberland Mall. They also do takeout.

Bayou’Q. 2960 Cobb Parkway, Atlanta. 770-850-1987, bayouq.com.

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Notes from North Georgia

During a Fourth of July weekend getaway to Blue Ridge, I ventured downtown, looking for a bite to eat. After popping into about four different restaurants on Main Street, each of which either had no seats or a 45-minute to an hourlong wait (including a spot with a mere three menu items, because the place was so severely understaffed), I happened upon Whiskey & Water.

It’s located just off the main drag, on Depot Street, in a renovated 1930s post office that previously was home to Blue Ridge Brewery. July 2 happened to be the quiet opening day for this seafood and bourbon bar, and there was no wait.

Small towns are not where I expect a fine mixed drink, but Whiskey & Water proved to be an exception. A Sazerac and an Old-Fashioned, in particular, were highly balanced, served in thoughtful glassware, and priced a few bucks below the dollar signs we’re accustomed to paying for cocktails in Atlanta.

Whiskey & Water touts sustainably sourced fish and seafood. The catch that I tried (shrimp, grouper, cod) tasted fresh, and was treated with respect by the kitchen. The menu consists of familiar snacky appetizers (order the smoked fish dip), soups and salads, handhelds, and surf and turf entrees. My recommendation? The Day Boat grouper sandwich: a pan-seared fillet so large that it hangs out of the sides of a kaiser roll that also sandwiches lettuce, onion, tomato and swipes of a dill tartar aioli that brings moist tang to the whole shebang.

Heading north on Ga. State Route 515? Consider stopping at Bigun's Barbecue. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
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Heading north on Ga. State Route 515? Consider stopping at Bigun's Barbecue. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

On the drive back to Atlanta, a sky-high billboard plunked alongside Ga. State Route 515 begged for a pit stop. A barbecue joint with a patio sheltered by an overhead metal canopy that makes it look like a gastronomic QT gas station? Pull over!

Bigun’s Barbecue likely has been the talk of the town in Talking Rock since it opened in 2008, but it’s new to me. Brisket is the smoked meat of choice here. I wanted more smoke. Try lots of sides: the redneck lasagna, for sure: spiral pasta gets the mac-and-cheese treatment before getting dumped with Brunswick stew and a shower of grated Parm. Save room for a handheld fried apple pie.

Whiskey & Water. 187 Depot St., Blue Ridge. 706-946-0551, whiskeywaterbr.com.

Bigun’s Barbecue. 362 Carns Mill Road, Talking Rock. 706-253-7675, bigunsbbq.com.

A brisket plate from Bigun’s Barbecue comes with two sides and a choice of bread or cornbread muffin. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.
Caption
A brisket plate from Bigun’s Barbecue comes with two sides and a choice of bread or cornbread muffin. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

ExploreAJC Summer Dining Guide 2021: Restaurant Refresh

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