Cheap Eats - 'Cue Barbecue
Swallow at the Hollow alum branches out in Milton
FOOD GROUP: Boutique barbecue where everything is homemade
BACKSTORY: Paul Doster left his post as chef at the famed barbecue joint Swallow at the Hollow to branch out on his own. Doster is always there, in his whites, making the rounds from table to table, which adds a charming personal feel to his souped-up barbecue shack.
SAUCEY: Georgia barbecue has long been ridiculed for not having its own style. But isn't Georgia's style of barbecue about combining what's best about other regional barbecues? Doster plays to diners' allegiances — and prejudices — by offering a trio of homemade sauces: a vinegar-based sauce via North Carolina, a mustard-based tribute to South Carolina, and a sweet, peppery tomato-based tribute to Tennessee. Mix them up or go pure.
MEAT ME: Baby back ribs are inconsistent. Read: tender on some visits, tough on others. The brisket follows the same sad path despite having a beautiful pink ring of smoke. The chicken, however, wows each time. You can get it pulled on a sandwich or served in a monstrous half-bird portion you'll be picking at well after the bill is paid.
The pork, like the brisket, has the telltale ring of smoke and good flavor — especially after you hit it with the sauce of your choice. Get it chopped, not sliced. The best meat, however, is the homemade sausage, which packs a seriously spicy punch. Each link is bursting with juice and crushed spices. The accompanying pickles (homemade, of course) and mustard take this wow to pow.
A LITTLE SOMETHING ON THE SIDE: 'Cue excels when it comes to its side dishes. Like everything else on the menu, Doster cuts no corners. Hand-cut fries are golden brown and fluffy on the inside. Coleslaw comes in two different styles: a tangy mayo-based concoction or neon yellow Pittsburgh that verges on tasting like sauerkraut. Baked beans infused with bacon bursts with sweetness and smoke. Deviled potato salad tastes just as you'd expect; like a mashup of potato salad and deviled eggs. Creamy mac and cheese made with elbow macaroni feels creamy — not greasy — on the tongue.
RISE UP: When we say everything at 'Cue is homemade, we mean everything, including the bread. Huge rolls that look like the kind you get with a side of honey butter at a meat and three act as a vehicle for the sandwiches and sliders. Barbecue platters arrive with a crisp slice of what may be the best buttered toast you ever put in your mouth.
BOTTOM LINE: The consistently packed seats are proof enough that 'Cue is doing something right. Stop by the next time you are trekking up or down Ga. 400 for a little Georgia-style hybrid barbecue.