southern eatin'

Joes-bbq-blue-ridge-ga-pulled-porkWord got out last week that the best barbecue in the nation, says TripAdvisor, is at Joe’s BBQ in Blue Ridge, Ga. Ironically, TripAdvisor said the second best place for barbecue was at another Joe’s Barbecue, this one was in Kansas City, Kan. The two eateries are not related.

Since we were in the Georgia mountains, why not try out the Blue Ridge place? So we arrived at 11:45 a.m., saw this relatively small restaurant on East First Street, and found there were 33 people in line ahead of us. Already we had decided on take-out food, but even though, we were still shuttled to the line to await our turn.

Others in line, we found out, had just heard about the top designation for this relatively out-of-the-way place, and also came to check it out.

Joe's BBQOnce inside, about 12:15, Joe Ray said: “Might as well wait where it’s cooler.” We had learned that Joe has a Gwinnett connection, having lived in Lilburn and Snellville back in the 70s. He was so busy scurrying around that we didn’t get to talk further with him then.

Up until about four years ago, Joe was in the mortgage business, first with Decatur Federal, and later with SunTrust in Gainesville and later in Blue Ridge. About four years ago, after retirement from SunTrust, he opened the restaurant. “We don’t profess to having the best barbecue, but the readers of TripAdvisor thought otherwise. We’re just thankful for the ranking. After the story came out, we have had the biggest weekend ever since we have been opened.”

Once in, we found one reason for the slow line: not many tables. We counted 26 chairs inside, plus three tables of six outside, and a porch with places for about four tables. Its slogan: “Small place, great taste.”

Customers place their order, and pay immediately at the cashier.

Joes-bbq-blue-ridge-ga-dining-roomThe menu has dry-rubbed hickory-smoked pork or ribs or smoked chicken, plus Brunswick Stew. Besides barbecue pork ($12.50 a pound), or sandwiches, you can get a half or whole rack of ribs ($11.50 or $21.99). The pulled chicken comes at $12.50 a pound, or half chicken ($5.95) or whole ($8.95).

A featured item is the barbecue stuffed potato, pork or chicken, at $8.95. Drinks include nine types of mostly American beer.

Finally, we emerged about 12:30, all ready to try out the taste.

We found that the pulled pork comes smoked without sauce, though Joe’s supplies sauces in containers. The pork is beautifully cooked, but needs the sauce to add to the taste (mild, spicy, or hot.) The half chicken is smoked beautifully, with a particularly good taste. Of the two, we preferred the chicken. While we didn’t get the ribs, we saw several customers gnawing down on them, and the meat was thick on them.

With this Number One rating in the nation, Joe’s either has to enlarge, or its customers must get there sooner. It’s open only on Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., and on Sunday from11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Joes-bbq-blue-ridge-ga-signWhile we’re at it, might as well show you the other top 10 barbecue places, according to TripAdvisor. They include:

  1. Joe’s BBQ – Blue Ridge, Georgia
  2. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – Kansas City, Kansas
  3. Bogart’s Smokehouse – Saint Louis, Missouri
  4. Reuben’s Smokehouse – Fort Myers, Florida
  5. Andy Nelson’s Southern Pit BBQ – Cockeysville, Maryland
  6. Captain’s BBQ – Palm Coast, Florida
  7. HogsHead Café – Richmond, Virginia
  8. Buck’s Smokehouse – Destin, Florida
  9. Franklin Barbecue – Austin, Texas
  10. Pappy’s Smokehouse – Saint Louis, Missouri

Our take on Joe’s BBQ: Good, but surprised it’s called best in the nation.

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Editor's note: Elliot's stories are also found at GwinnettForum.com. Images: Pulled pork platter by Bonnie E, dining room by by RockManFree and sign by TeamGil - all via the TripAdvisor; the photo of the building is from Joe's BBQ.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.