Way back in the late 1970’s, I was a student at the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia. Who would ever have imagined in those pre-internet days that my journalism schooling (along with 34 years in the journalism business) would come in handy to write a food blog? I mention this because tonight we are attending a Grady College alumni event. Barbecue places are always good venues to have a group gathering, and for this shindig, we search for good BBQ in the “wilds” of Buckhead.
I should mention that this event is organized by a fellow Grady alumna, the genteel and lady-like Lauren Patrick, who writes a fun blog at Pretty Southern. She’s got that journalism thing going too.
There’s a big patio outside that must be fun in nice weather. It’s raining tonight and we can’t sit there, but we can assure you that we would be out there if we could. My family actually used to live across the street here in the early 70’s, at the now-torn-down Paces Apartments.
The decor is fun and whimsical. There are sayings on the ceilings here. Don’t strain your neck trying to read them.
There are two bars. Around thirty people are at our event, and we take up one of them.
Long-time Atlantans will recognize the Peaches records sign, which used to be about a mile from here. We don’t know if this is authentic or a repro, but it’s a nice nod to Buckhead’s past, when there was a large Sears store across West Paces Ferry from here.
We order a couple of draft beers while we meet and greet people. I get the Allagash White and Eve goes for the Boulevard 80 Acre Wheat. Both beers look exactly the same. I may have switched them as I was carrying them back from the bar, but we both enjoy them, because beer is the natural complement to barbecue.
You can get free nuts at many bars, but this bar has pork rinds. These are salty and slightly spicy. Although I’m not a pork rind fan, once you get started on these, it’s hard to stop. We don’t think the secret ingredient is crack cocaine.
The guy next to us is eating what looks like some awesome brisket. We like to sample as many things from a menu as we can, and fortunately Smokebelly has a sampler platter. You can pick two to four of their specialties.
Of course, we pick all four. Our sampler comes with pulled pork, sausage, turkey and brisket. The beautiful sliced brisket from the diner next to us does not appear on our platter. It turns out you can order the brisket either chopped or sliced. We did neither because we were not given the choice by our server. Of the four samples, the turkey is the best and the brisket is the most disappointing. The sausage has a nice kick. The pulled pork is made better by the two sauces that we select, the sweet (which is spicy) and the cherry cola, which is pretty good. Our brisket is forgettable. The sliced brisket would have been a lot better.
We should mention the two sides that come with the sampler platter. The sweet potato soufflé is enjoyable and the kale, which is highly recommended by a fellow alum, tastes like collard greens. It’s so southern to take something like kale, which is so good for you, and make it fattening. Oh well, this is certainly not a health-food establishment.
The bottom line on Smokebelly BBQ: This is not the best barbecue inside of the perimeter. It’s a fun space that’s good for gatherings, but the food is just average. We weren’t blown away by anything on our sampler plate. If you are looking for BBQ, there are much better places within just a few miles of here like Pig N Chick or Greater Good. If you seek somewhere to “chill” after work, Smokebelly might be a place for you to check out.