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.
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.
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.
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
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