Sunday, April 19, 2015

Quick Take: Franklin Barbecue, A Meat-Smoking Manifesto

By Dru Chai

The fact that Franklin BBQ has been showered with so many accolades has many old-school pitmasters grumbling. Is Franklin BBQ really the best BBQ in the country? Is it worth waiting in that long line? Everyone has their own opinion, and until you try it for yourself, you just can't judge. Here's my take on Franklin BBQ.

One thing's for sure -- Aaron Franklin's rise to BBQ stardom couldn't have happened to a better human being. In my opinion, Franklin BBQ's formula of success goes something like this:

- 10% Media
- 10% Brisket
- 80% Aaron Franklin

Yes, I think Aaron has that much of an impact. He's a huge driving force in the success of his BBQ restaurant and the Franklin BBQ empire because he's just such a darn nice guy. Not only is he down-to-earth, but you can relate to him. After just a couple of minutes talking with him, it already feels like he's a long-time friend or neighbor.

Franklin Barbecue, A Meat-Smoking Manifesto was released last week and it's already my favorite BBQ book. Most of what he covers in the book is a more detailed version from his excellent series of instructional videos on YouTube (there will be a series on PBS coming soon). Although the book is great for both BBQ novices and those who have a couple of years of meat-smoking experience, there are several longer chapters that delve into the details -- content that most BBQ enthusiasts will truly appreciate.

The book isn't heavy on BBQ recipes or glossy food porn. There is no secret to his BBQ. He's just really, really passionate about what he does. He's a great storyteller, and explains his techniques with ease and precision. It's almost as if you're hanging out with him by the pit, beer in hand, bonded by the love of BBQ.

Dirty Smoke rating (5.0 out of 5 stars)
Highly recommended! Purchase the hardcover on for $17.99.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Eating Out: Fat Matt's Rib Shack in Atlanta, GA

By Dru Chai

What exactly is "real and authentic" BBQ? If you ask 100 different people, you'll more than likely receive 100 different responses. Where do you find the best BBQ? Same thing.

Every state in America has its own hybrid of BBQ restaurants -- from national chains to regional restaurants to the mom and pops. Take Atlanta, for instance. At first glance, you would think that the BBQ is influenced by the Southern cuisine. It is, to a certain extent. But just like the rest of America, there's a little bit of something for everyone.

On a recent trip, I had the opportunity to check out Fat Matt's Rib Shack, located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. Anthony Bourdain stopped by for a visit on The Layover, and it's one of the more popular restaurants on Yelp. 

Fat Matt's is probably one of the nicest hole-in-a-wall BBQ restaurants that I've ever been to. The neon sign welcomed me with open arms, the words "RIBS" painted on the windows was steaming and mouth-watering, and the staff was super friendly.

As for the actual food -- well, let's just say I had low expectations and Fat Matt's passed with flying colors. I ordered a half rack of the ribs, along with a side of Brunswick Stew and mac 'n cheese. When I sat down with my plate of ribs, I immediately knew that thee ribs were obliterated to the point of no return. They were so overcooked, that the meat immediately disintegrated as soon as I chewed it a couple of times. 

The ribs had zero smoke flavor, zero bark, and zero soul. It did, however, come with some BBQ sauce that was pretty decent. It is an absolute must to douse the ribs with the sauce, otherwise there would be no flavor at all. The stale white bread didn't help matters, either. The one saving grace was the Brunswick stew -- the southern version of "everything-but-the-sink" stew.

Like Bourdain said, is it real BBQ? Hell no. Does it matter if you're enjoying an icy cold beer with good company, while enjoying some music in the late hour? You can be the judge of that. I checked my BBQ judging hat at the door.