I feel like I should preemptively duck for this one. Community Q, a Decatur meat emporium, is the result of a Triforcean partnership between David Roberts, Jim Laber, and Stuart Baesel. Backed by Roberts’ foundation at Sam and Dave’s, the trio has set out to save Atlanta from the clutches of the evil Ganon and his barbecue minions.
Not surprisingly, the amount of love doled out on Community Q has been nothing short of intense and swift. The Geek chimed in (several times in fact), Top Chef did it, and the carnivorously anxious gang at Creative Loafing also made a trip out. Speckled in between these notations were riblets from the young, the restless, and the truly irascible. In between all this hustle and bustle, I, joined by a duo of foodies, managed to sneak my way in to dine on some swine.
After seeing what S&D has put out for the past few years, I’d say CQ is playing in that pigpen. Though people often dismiss me as a curmudgeon, I wasn’t the only one at the table to walk away less than blown away. This was advertised as something transcendent … alas, it was not. While one of the better barbecues in Atlanta, there is still a long way to go. Though I will most certainly be back, this meal did little to make me feel like a drive beyond Daddy D’s or Fox Bros is necessary.
It seems that people are prone to emotional reactions anytime they step foot in a barbecue joint. They want something in the decor that strikes at their inner most id. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but that’s okay. I look for some place that plants their flag and sticks by it. The Q has done just that. While you won’t find the rustic ambiance of a shack, or the paint flakes of your favorite dive, you will find an approachable yet nicely styled establishment. Kitschy accents cover the walls and plastic lined tables/booths. Just off to the side, you’ll find a large wood community table. Nice to see the owners actually incorporate the aspect of communal eating … it is in the name after all. Given that they setup shop in a strip mall, those responsible have done a nice job giving the place some personality.
Seeing as I was running late, the ordering had been done for me. However, I did scamper back over to the counter and checked out the menu and such. It’s straight forward and simple … most any type of meat you want is available, and in both bone-in or pulled preparations. All come in sandwich or plate+sides options. Meanwhile, à la carte sides, bulk options, and some family meals (to-go) are available. Dessert as of this writing consists of a banana pudding. However, most everyone is guessing that something special is in the works … Baesel was a pastry chef under Guenter.
Service here goes the way of Taqueria Del Sol, so there just isn’t a whole lot to say. Friendly staff members took our order, a friendly owner delivered that order, and the rest is pretty much just peas and carrots. We received the obligatory “how is everything” in a quick and non-intrusive sort of way, and everything else was as it should have been.
Joined by my guest blogger extraordinaire (that’d be Adam) and another buddy (who hails from a family that owns a ‘cue joint), we set out to sample some of the most hyped barbecue to hit this city in the past 10-years. The hype was a disservice to say the least.
After more than my share of years running around the pits of the Memphis In May World Championship Barbecue Contest, I’d say that hype like this should only be reserved for the most special of places. Regardless of the significant stylistic differences between St. Louis, Memphis, NC, and Texas bbq’s … the execution requirements are the same. Tender meat, noticeable seasonings/sauce, and a crisp exterior are necessities. Even if the flavorings of Community aren’t your cup of tea, there is a baseline for comparison.
On the table were some pork ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, some collards, mac, slaw, and b’stew. While all of us had a different combo, we had a chance to sample one and others. All served on tin treys that ended up being quite the problem (more on that in a bit).
Ribs are where a pit-master will stake his/her reputation. CQ’s are St. Louis style, where a dry rub has been invoked. These just didn’t blow me away. The dry rub was too sparse; St. Louis BBQ is known for its liberal use of rub. This left the flavors muted and soft. Though they came off the bone with ease, they didn’t quite fall off as really fantastic barbecue meat should. A fine rib by most standards, these were solid, but nothing more.
The pulled pork and brisket did little to evoke a feeling beyond “pretty good for this city.” Of the two, the brisket was definitely the better option. The thick cut meat was juicy in spots, dry in others. The meat itself split without too much difficulty, but like the ribs … I’ve had better. The table side sauces helped masked the dryness but the vinegar undertones of the seasonings seemed to take a back seat to some of the sugars.
The pork itself was the most notable disappointment and the one item that I would say was below average. It was severely dried out and consequently mushy. To further disappoint, it had almost no seasoning. I’d say this was good if I hadn’t been exposed to really fantastic samplings elsewhere.
Then there were the sides. Adam absolutely adored the collard greens. While I may have more time at big festivals, his knowledge and passion for the cuisine far exceeds mine. He was also lukewarm to the experience as the whole. The Brunswick stew and slaw were decent, neither worth ordering nor avoiding at all costs.
The most notable discrepancy between me and those that came before may be in the insignificance that is the mac. My rendition seemed a shell of the version put out for others. While they have absolutely adored it, I just didn’t care for it nor do I see the potential. The cheese mixture was uninspiring, the thick cut rigatoni didn’t adhere to the cheese, and you basically ended up with a cheesy noodle that did little to fluff my passion for the delish dish. The cream base is definitely solid, but Carver’s is still better.
One of the more problematic aspects of the experience are the serving trays. They seemed to sap the heat out of the food particularly fast. Even moments after they trays landed, I found the found the food far less than hot.
Has it seemingly found its niche atop the meat pile that is the Atlanta barbecue scene? It seems so. However, we still have a long way to go before any one of our pits can really hold up outside this city. In the meantime, CQ is headed in the right direction, seems to have a decent foundation, and could easily be a very solid to potentially excellent barbecue establishment. Expectations should be tempered and time for further smoking required.
Atlanta Foodies On Community Q BBQ
- Omnivore on Community (12.04.09)
- Chow Down Atlanta on Community (12.01.09)
- The Food Abides on Community (11.19.09)
- BBQ Geek on Community (11.18.09)