A DBA Barbecue Redux In Virginia Highlands [Updates] 2

Posted by Foodie Buddha on November 02, 2009

dba barbeque - the logo by foodiebuddha.

As time goes by, I am presented with the opportunity to head back to some of the restaurants I’ve already chatted up.  Since my initial visit to DBA Barbecue, there have been a number of changes.  Doug Morgan has moved on, and in his place, we have Drew Kirkland.  Kirkland, who was previously stationed at The Albert, spent four years under celebrity chef Kevin Rathbun.  According to Matt Coggin, one of the three owners, Kirkland has brought with him a Lang Smoker.  I’m not sure if that’s a big selling point or not – my knowledge of smoker producers is definitively lacking.

After a fairly lackluster blind date, I was hopping to see an improvement from the restaurant.  Unfortunately, the food seems lost in the doldrums of barbecue mediocrity.  Given the high price point and the extended opportunity to fix the problems, I would say this return visit was far more disappointing than the first.

As this is an update, I won’t take too much time to regurgitate the unchanged.  The decor is still upscale (for a b-b-q joint), the servers are still very nice, and the food is still very underwhelming.  To the best of my recollection, the menu is relatively stagnate.  The lack of movement isn’t a problem, but the price point sure as heck is.  While the majority of the apps hover around the reasonable $5 price point, sandwiches vault up to the $9 level and the plates range anywhere from $11 to $22.

They don’t skimp on the portions, but I’ve seen larger.  I guess the real problem is that when comparable plates of superior quality can be had elsewhere for a several dollars less, you have a problem.

dba barbecue - texas toast fingers (trip 2) by foodiebuddha.

To start off our meal, we selected a half-dozen smoked wings, a half-dozen oysters, and an order of Texas-Toast fingers.  I wasn’t quite as fond of the Apalachicola oysters this time around.  The sauce was still as muted as before, but the shuck job wasn’t that impressive.  I’m not terribly surprised by the last fact, as it would seem counterproductive to bring in a top notch shucker for a one-off menu item.  Apalachicolas are noted as being plump and large.  These were just the opposite.  The soft flavor was there, but not the strong aftertaste I’m used to in this type of oyster.

The smoked wings were nice, albeit eerily uniform in shape and size.  That aside, they carried a distinct, yet easy to accept, smoked flavor.  The skin was just crisp enough to give you a little bit of a crunch without sacrificing the meat inside.  Though I have a distinct love for Buffalo wings, these were perfectly acceptable alternative samplings.

dba barbecue - smoked wings (trip 2) by foodiebuddha.The Texas toast fingers were a gut buster waiting to happen.  Two halved slices of Texas toast showed up with a smorgasbord of solidified fat.  In addition to a hefty portion of pimento cheese, we found tomato slices and crisped bacon inside.  Given the already buttery nature of Texas-toast, this was too much for me to consume.  I won’t call it bad, just extremely rich.  The dish seems to rely on fat for its flavor, and that left both my dining buddy and myself a little woozy after consumption.  Still, someone may love it for the exact reasons I disliked it.  This is a barbecue spot after all, and cholesterol is the name of the game.

We each ordered the two-meat/two-sides combo.  Amongst our four meats, we had the short-ribs, the baby back ribs, the pulled pork, and the brisket.  It seems my initial thoughts still hold true:

Rather than elaborate on each individual element, I want to speak in generalities.  This isn’t to skirt the issue, rather, it’s just amazing how similar of an experience we had with the meats and the sides.  First, the meats.  Adam actually filled out a comment card and what he said seemed to hold true for everything we had.  All the meats drifted toward the dry side.

The brisket and pulled pork were as dry as they could have been.  Meanwhile, initial bites of both rib samplings sent juicy tenderness down my throat.  However, that was all for not as further exploration left us jumping back and forth between dry and juicy.  This inability to cook the meat consistently rang true during meal one.

The sauce here definitely drifts towards the sweet side; however, it ultimately defined itself as “out of the bottle grocery material.”  I never was able to associate those pre-packaged jars with any particular style of barbecue, and such is the case with the flavor of the DBA sauce.  If someone thinks otherwise, please let me know.

Last but not least, we have the sides.  The Brunswick stew was a shell of its former self (and it wasn’t that good to begin with).  We looked each other and almost simultaneously blurted out “Tomato water.”  The Texas creamed corn was actually creamy this time, though not obtrusively so.  I actually preferred it during my first trip, when the spice helped balanced out the sweetness.  This was a little too sweet for me, but still a solid sampling.  The potato salad isn’t worth mentioning and the Mac & Cheese reminded me of knock of Kraft Mac-and-cheese.

Service remained strong and came absent the mix-ups of our initial trip.  The staff is friendly and the drinks are flowing.  The restaurant is clean, and it might be a half-decent sports bar substitute (they do have a flat screen after all).  The food won’t get me back; however, the friendliness of the staff and the effort they put forth (you can tell they try) just might.

FOR THE FULL ALBUM, VISIT
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D.B.A. Barbecue Restaurant Address & Information

1190 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30306 // 404.249.5000 // D.B.A. Online Reservations // D.B.A. website // D.B.A. menu
D.B.A. Barbeque on Urbanspoon

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  • Taonkhu

    I completely agree with pretty much everything you said. Our server was friendly and the place was clean but that’s all I can say was good.

    My dining companion and I both ordered a pulled pork plate with mac & cheese and coleslaw. About a minute after we placed our order I noticed two plates with pork go under the heat lamp. There were only 3 other tables occupied at the time (one of which already had its food) so I thought either the service here is super quick or those plates are going to another table. I was wrong.

    Ten minutes passed by as the steam from the originally hot pork slowly vanished before the sides were added and the plates were brought to our table. The meat was of course cold and oddly both dry and wet at the same time. It tasted like in effort to combat the dry meat they’d tossed it with some sort of alcohol like whiskey. I could understand if the kitchen was swamped or if there was some other problem that held up service, but this was not the case. While the meat sat there getting cold the cook who’d plated it stood their alternately staring at the t.v. or talking with the servers.

    As for the sides. The mac & cheese was a bland stove-top concoction sprinkled with bread crumbs. The coleslaw could best be described as coleslaw soup.

    I really wanted to like this place. I live within a 5 minutes walk and wanted a good barbecue place I could go to without having to drive to Daddy-D’z. Sadly, unless I hear that the food has dramatically increased in quality I see no reason to return.

  • Derek

    DBA has made vast improvements since it opened. The pulled pork is remarkably better – still not perfect, but vastly improved. They have real wood smoker now, which makes a huge difference. Spare ribs are also meaty and tender. The wings are about the best in the city of Atlanta, regardless of size. Creamed corn and slaw are very good and the corn muffins are outstanding If you want cheap meat, got to Eats. If you want good quality BBQ (intown) and the best service of any BBQ restaurant in the Southeast, then you should try it out. (Note that I am also a certified BBQ judge, so I am qualified to comment on the quality of the ribs and pulled pork.)


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