Saw the latest issue of Atlanta Magazine the other day and it struck me their cover story must be a short one. This classy city mag is delving into territory it doesn't understand, telling big-city readers it has found 10 good barbecue restaurants within Greater Atlanta.
First off, there aren't 10 good ones to be found in the counties it serves, especially when the magazine's food critic admits the restaurant he ranks first "incorporates Korean flavors with Southern know-how in ways that feel evolutionary and organic rather than heretical and unnatural."
In other words: kimchi meets collard greens.
Critic Bill Addison calls the area a melting pot of styles and sauces. You may find pulled pork tinged with vinegar alongside barky Texas brisket. Sauces may include sweet stuff from Kansas City, something tangy from Memphis and a mustard-heavy blend from South Carolina.
"Most local pit masters take prompts from regional traditions, and the plural is important," he wrote, adding that Atlanta's barbecue signature is "a willingness to embrace scrumptious change."
Their issue is already out, and next week the June edition of Texas Monthly hits the streets with its list of the top 50 barbecue joints in the Lone Star State.
Their statewide taste-test comes out every five years, and sales are always as hot as a wood-burning grill. The list will be released this week on www.texasmonthly.com.
To show how ingrained barbecue is in the Texas culture, the magazine recently hired a full-time barbecue editor whose Twitter handle is BBQ-snob. Daniel Vaughn took a cut in pay as an architect to write about meat.
Even before hiring Vaughn, Texas Monthly was smug about smoke. "The use of beef brisket and its indirect smoking method," it wrote in 2008, "is superior to all other regional varieties of barbecue. This is an incontrovertible fact."
You're wrong, Cowboy.
Brisket ain't barbecue, and the best barbecue is served within the sound of my voice, not west of the Mississippi.
If the critics of these two publications want to taste the good stuff, come on down. We'll go to places like 13th Street, Clearview, Smokey Pig, Chester's, Ed's, Hog Rock, Fat Freddie's, Macon Road, Brennan Road or Mike & Ed's. On the way, we'll go to Country's for some country vegetables, banana pudding and better sweet tea than they'll find in Atlanta or in Austin.
We'll serve ribs or Boston Butt. If they want a sandwich, we'll pile on some barbecue cole slaw and give them a choice of yellow barbecue sauce -- hot, hotter or hottest -- the kind that leaves a permanent stain on your shirt.
Spend a few days here and they'll take back all they've written, and when they leave they'll take their kimchi with them.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at www.twitter.com/hyattrichard.