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The Road to Good BBQ

Posted by Tom Haines, Globe Travel Writer  May 5, 2008 07:14 AM

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I wrote a story recently about Alabama barbecue, and not long after, a reader sent an email:

"This note is to urge you, if you are in Atlanta anytime (on your way to
Alabama?), to try Harold's Barbecue (not far from the Braves field on
the south side), Williamson Brothers Barbecue (near Rte. 41 in Marietta
on the north side), Georgia Barbecue (in Smyrna to the northwest), or
an Old Hickory House (several I think in a chain, but good). With
your chopped pork sandwich and cole slaw I would more than urge you to
have some Brunswick Stew (more of a thick soup than a stew as we might
know it here) and corn bread. Every place in the southeast serves
Brunswick Stew, the Georgia variety, not the Virginia style.

(A rack of ribs at Dreamland Bar-B-Q, in Tuscaloosa.)

"Whenever I see the name of a new barbecue place around Boston I call
and ask if they serve Brunswick Stew. So far, I have found none that
do, though a few say they do know what it is. I'm hoping I will find
one that does serve it."

The reader wrote again the next day:

"Just maybe one of your blog readers will know of a place
that serves Brunswick Stew. Incidently, about 10 miles south of
Conway, NH there is a barbecue place that puts out a delicious aroma
which you can smell from several miles away. It does not have
Brunswick Stew either. We haven't been up that way in several years
but have been to Conway to the hostel named for our son, Albert. (See
the web site Of the places in the Atlanta area
I mentioned, I should have said the Old South Barbecue in Smyrna and
not the Georgia barbecue.

"Back in 1985 I worked for a few months in Charlotte and went to a
number of places there though I don't remember any names.

"If you should get to Atlanta and try the Williamson Brothers place off
of Rte. 41 in Marietta be sure to see the Big Chicken, also on Rte. 41
(actually a fried chicken place nestled under a 25 foot high chicken).
All directions in or around Marietta begin with "...go to the Big
Chicken and turn, etc....".

"Lastly, I will attach to this a recipe for Brunswick Stew from my
sister who lives in Marietta. It is just a simple txt file."

And here's that recipe:


1 Chicken, three to four pounds, or pieces. (Use a frying
chicken, less fat.)

1 Pork roast, two to three pounds. (A shoulder, picnic,
or whatever. If you use boneless butt, use a
smaller piece.)

Put chicken and pork in a stew pot, cover with water, add
pepper, celery leaves, and a sliced onion. Cook (simmer)
until done, about one hour.

(Cook chicken and pork separately if you might want to
make less, or have extra chicken stock.)

(You can use less than above, but try to use equal
amounts of pork and chicken.)

When meat is done remove from liquid. (You can let stock
cool and remove fat before finishing the stew.)
Remove meat from bones and shred with fork or food
processor, or chop fine.

To stock in the soup pot add:

3 chopped onions
Garlic to taste (minced)
1/2 cup lemon juice or vinegar
Catsup - 1/2 cup to start, more if you like
Worcestershire sauce - 3 T, or more
Pepper, Salt, Tabasco
1 or 2 pkgs. frozen white shoe-peg kernel corn,
or 2 or 3 cans, or 4 ears corn (cut off).
(Yellow corn could be used.)
The shredded meat
1 can tomatoes, or 2 chopped tomatoes

Mix together and simmer at least 1 hour or more, until
thick and the way you want it. You can use barbecue
sauce to season, add more corn, or add butterbeans, or
even cream style corn. (As I understand it, the original
use of beans was to thicken the stew, and they were
mashed to a puree.)

The stew should be fairly thick, not like soup.

Serve hot with cornbread.


That recipe, though, was not the final word, as the reader sent a third email five days later:

"There is one more place you should try if you, and your son, are
in Atlanta. It is not barbecue but well known enough that you should
be able to say you've been there!! It is The Varsity, that was at one
time the world's biggest drive-in. It is on North Avenue at (I think)
Spring St. and the expressway, next to the Georgia Tech campus. Have
a chili dog, some fried onion rings and a fried pie. They have other
things but these are the signature menu items. Bon apetit."

Now if you've stuck with this blog entry this far, you no doubt have a taste for barbecue. Care to share a recipe of your own? Perhaps a spot in New England that serves Brunswick Stew? Or someplace down south worth the pilgrimmage?

Post it in the comments section.

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2 comments so far...
  1. the best BBQ I've had in a long time is in Dorchester on Geneva Street out of a trailer parked on what seemed was a vacant lot with a picnic table. Maybe the ambiance added to the food's appeal!!

    Posted by Bobbe Anderson May 6, 08 01:10 PM
  1. A recent Food Network program featuring BBQ stressed the importance of the sauce used. There are different types used in different localities. North Carolina recipes tend to use a vinegar based sauce. Piggy Park, a well know South Carolina restaurant, uses a mustard based sauce and in Georgia it's a ketchup based sauce. The cooking of the meat is pretty much the same... slow cooking by heat and smoke and not by flame.

    From what I've read Brunswick stew originated in Virginia. Hunters used a variety of meat, including squirrel.

    Many of the southern foods, like fried tomatoes and collard greens, came from the lack of food following the Civil War. People chose to fry the tomatoes while they were green intead of facing starvation. This is probably the one thing that we Southerners have to thank the Yankees for ;-)


    Posted by Jim Floyd May 20, 08 12:57 PM
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