Thursday, May 5, 2011

BBQ is Not a Verb, Y'all! A Review of Moe's Original BBQ in Atlanta

As any good Catholic girl or boy might do when preparing for Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, I thought long and hard about the Lenten sacrifice I would make. The last few years I've tried to adopt good habits like daily mass, daily prayer, or daily acts of kindness and compassion, but this year, I decided I would actually make a true sacrifice by giving up meat for 40 days.

I knew that at every meal as I had to think about how to prepare or buy a meatless meal, I would actually think about the reason I had sacrificed something. I did great, eating no meat except fish, until I was invited to review a new BBQ restaurant here in Atlanta. And sadly, that's just an unfair temptation to a Southern girl's heart. With all apologies to Jesus, I went to the media tasting at Moe's Original BBQ at 349 14th Street in Midtown just three days before my fast would be over. I sincerely felt bad about it, but boy, was it good!

Now, let me get this out of the way. I've mentioned it before...I don't really like chain restaurants and rarely eat at them with the exception of taking the kids out for lunch. That said, the fact that Moe's Original BBQ is a chain did not faze me all that much once I stepped into the joint which is housed in the renovated Kool Korners Grocery location near Georgia Tech and smelled the 'cue cookin' in all its smoky glory.

The location itself isn't "lived in" enough yet, but I've seen plenty of places near Tech get that shabby-chic, lived-in and well-loved look quickly enough. And with a Wednesday Ladies' Night and Thursday night Team Trivia along with the occasional music on Friday and Saturday nights, it won't take long.

Of course, the food itself will be the biggest draw. I had a very hard time deciding what to order, but ultimately went with a basic pulled pork platter. I also tried the smoked Buffalo wings and my new vegetarian fave, the BBQ Tofu sandwich. In a word....Amazing!

Of course, the menu is ample with selections ranging from the basic pulled pork and ribs, to the more adventurous  Shrimp Moeboy sandwich, Mahi Mahi and catfish.

The pulled pork had a great smoky flavor, but most importantly, it was super moist, even before I put any sauce on it. All of their meats (and the tofu!) are smoked on site. I was curious since the company bills itself as serving "Bama-style" BBQ, a style of 'cue with which I was previously unaware. Having lived my whole life in the South, I am well familiar with the various styles of 'cue and sauce. Hell, my home state of Tennessee is known for favoring two very different styles, but even my husband and my dear friend Lucy who are both from Alabama weren't sure what style of BBQ their home state would be noted for, both pointing to Dreamland BBQ as a reference.

After talking with Brett, one of the owners of the Atlanta Moe's BBQ, I learned that part of the reason they call theirs "Bama" style is the fact that the restaurant originated in Tuscaloosa and the other being that Alabama, like Georgia, is something of a melting pot of BBQ styles. I must say, I liked what I had. A lot. And yes, they do offer a white sauce on request, though it does come with the uniquely delicious chicken wings, as a delightful alternative to bleu cheese. It also came on the BBQ Tofu sandwich along with their red sauce, which was the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. I always have to mix sauces at most places to find the taste I'm looking for, but this sauce was, in the words of my foodie twin Goldilocks, just right.

As far as sides go, I only tried the mac-and-cheese which was pretty good, and the marinated slaw which was out of this world. I like a little more brightness to my mac-and-cheese, but it was nice and moist and cheesy, not bland or starchy in the ways it so often can be when ill prepared. The slaw was truly fantastic with bits of jalapeño mixed into a blend of red and green cabbage and the standard slaw mix which is all then marinated overnight in their vinegar-based dressing. Good stuff. I look forward to going back and trying their banana pudding, the only dessert I saw offered. Oh! And I almost forgot. Cornbread. They serve cornbread with their platters which is a little different from what I'm accustomed to around here. It was good, though I prefer a slightly less sweet cornbread. The sweetness was cut by bits of jalapeño throughout and it was moist. I can forgive overly sweet cornbread, but will not abide that which is too dry.

Finally, as a parent, I also have to give a shout out to the kid-friendliness of this place. Due to its proximity to GA Tech, I'd be inclined to get in and out of there before 8 p.m. since Moe's does offer a full bar and lots of drink specials, but it's just the right kind of open, loud (in the best possible way), bright, fun space that welcomes kids and families as well as the Midtown lunchtime crowd and happy, good-time seeking college students. There's also a deck, which although it wasn't open when I was there because they didn't have their custom-made deck furnishings yet, should also be a great place to hang this summer, with or without the wee ones in tow.

I'll definitely be heading back and despite my misgivings about chains hope they'll open a second Atlanta store in my neck of the woods.