Folks in these parts tend to have very strong feelings about their barbeque. I guess that rings true throughout the South. Whether you find yourself in Kansas City, Memphis, the Baby Blues (Carolina country), or the great state of Georgia, you are likely to find a bevy of opinions as to which style reigns supreme. While I am far from an enthusiast, I have spent my entire childhood in the Deep South. Consequently, I am well versed on this traditional American food.
Though the impetus behind our recent visit came from another member of the team, it was ultimately my direction that led us to Fox Bros. in the Little Five Points/Candler Park area of town. When it was all said and done, I felt like I had let my friends down.
Many people call Fox Bros the best barbeque in town. I think that title comes as the result of attrition and not because of a wealth of great examples around these parts. While the population explosion here in Atlanta has brought with it a slow and ongoing maturation of the food scene, the couple of BBQ spots I had a real affinity for during my childhood have all fallen by the wayside.
Late in the 90s, the Fox brothers got their start as a nomadic band of caterers. At that time, you could find the duo in most every part of town; however, the food was a fixture at Smith’s Olde Bar near Morningside/Ansley Park. Though they were never my favorite BBQ caterers in the city, [that title goes to Lowcountry Barbecue], I always found their food to be really good. I remember the ribs for one reason alone: the meat fell off the bone like Humpty Dumpty fell of his wall.
Fast forward approximately a decade and Fox Bros is now a well-established Atlanta restaurant backed by a strong following. The building is equipped with plenty of seating, a large patio, and a free-standing smoke hut. The styling’s are cuisine appropriate; they wanted to make it into a dive bar meets Texas rib shack. To be honest, I find it a bit forced. Ultimately, that’s neither here nor there as most people will identify environment.
Our last visit was timed to coincide with the NCAA Tourney. While I had been misinformed with regards to their TV provider (standard Comcast HD as opposed to satellite and/or some sports package), the five or so televisions make it pretty easy to watch a game. Keep in mind, this isn’t a sports bar, so you’ll have a hard time convincing the staff to pump sound from the TVs.
The service here is proficient and friendly. Momentary lapses seem to come with every meal; however, it is usually the result of an over worked waiter who forgets to drop in frequently enough. It’s nothing to be alarmed by, especially since the staff is overtly friendly. Nonetheless, you should be prepared if you are left holding that fork you just dropped. The full bar and small, but highly desirable, selection of beer makes that time pass a little quicker 🙂
Fox Bros delivers a muddled East Texas style. The sauce is much thinner than the E. Texas stuff I am used to and elements of other BBQ styles tend to work themselves into a few of the items. Admittedly, the word muddled may give off too many negative connotations. In reality, the sauce drifts toward sweet and is a well designed sauce if sweet is your thing.
The main shortcoming is in the preparation. In short form, I would say the meat is inconsistently tasty. The rib meat no longer melts away as it used to and the chief smoker dude seems to over cook them from time to time. I really did not pick up on this until my last visit; in the past, I was a more passive eater. The brisket seems to surrender to another fate: being undercooked (and thus a bit chewy at times). As it is Texas-style, FB’s brisket is untrimmed. The pulled pork is the most consistent of the bunch. I have only had the chicken one time, so I cannot speak to that with any confidence. While the rub used on each cut of meat allows for a pretty consistent flavor combination, the texture of their food seems to change from visit to visit.
Although the previous paragraph speaks well to our recent excursion, one element of our meal was far more out of wack than ever before: the cooking temperature. Without fail, every item we ordered, from the Texas tots to the mac’n cheese was lukewarm (and that’s being generous). The experience was the most far from center of my dozen or so meals at Fox Bros.
We started with two 1/2 orders of the Texas tatters (one part tots+pulled pork, one part fries+brisket). I really enjoy this (as much as anyone can enjoy injecting pure fat into their body). To make these, Fox Bros. will take your tatter of choice, smother it in BBQ sauce, add your meat, and dump on top a heap of cheese and jalapenos. Both orders were cold but the flavor was excellent. Any inconsistencies with the included meats were lost in the cornucopia of sweet and savory. The side of ranch, sprinkled with cayenne, makes this a winner. We later discovered that mixing the ranch with the sauce is a worthy tableside concoction. Oh yeah … for those of us that don’t mind cream cheese filling, I also enjoy their stuffed Jalapeno’s.
For the act, we had a slab of ribs and an “Everything Plate” split evenly between chopped brisket and pulled pork. One rebel with a very distinct cause had a pulled pork sandwich all to herself. The food arrived and my head sunk! Again … cold to the touch! Grrrrrrrr! So the ribs were overdone, the brisket under cooked, and the pulled pork was just right. Sound familiar?
We also consumed three side orders of mac’n cheese, an 8 oz cup of Brunswick stew, and some fried okra. I enjoy the mac’n cheese if for no other reason than their use of shells for the pasta. Our dining neighbor, one of the cutest kids I’ve seen, promptly smothered her face with the stuff … that’s proof enough for me! Their Brunswick stew has never impressed me. Regardless of whether you think this stew was invented in Brunswick, GA or Brunswick County, VA, I think Fox Bros could do a better job. It’s a little too soupy and bland for my liking. IMHO, Harold’s is the best Brunswick stew in the city (their cornbread rocks too). As with everything else: cold sides!
The best we could surmise was that the temperature suffered because we showed up during linner (too late for lunch and to early for dinner). Even that argument doesn’t seem to hold water. There were a good number of patrons when we showed up and the catering truck was getting filled up. Regardless, the kitchen was ill prepared.
Despite the inconsistencies, the food at Fox Bros tastes pretty good. I can assure you that the patio area will be a bevy of activity in the upcoming months. I recognize that I have a reputation for being a bit of a hard-ass; and that is something I embrace. Though this review might seemed like a stiff slamming of Fox Bros, I found myself tapping the “I like it” button for Fox Brothers over on UrbanSpoon. At its best, the restaurant will do you right. On an off day, you’ll still get out of there feeling alright.
Ratings (Explained Here)
ATLANTA BLOGGERS ON FOX BROS