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October 24, 2005 - 12:46 pm

HODGES BAR-B-QUE

This past Wednesday was Robert’s and my first foray deep into the pits of metro Atlanta barbecue.

Before I get into this first review, however, I think it may be helpful to specify just exactly what we mean when we say “barbecue” since I have come to understand that this term may have different connotations depending on what area of the world you live in.

If I’m not mistaken, when someone from somewhere other than the southeastern portion of these United States invites you to a “barbecue,” what they are really inviting you to is a “cook-out.” They are not inviting you over for succulent, slow cooked pork covered in mouth watering homemade sauce with just the right bite, bun optional, and a cool, tangy cole slaw on the side. Be warned: what they are actually inviting you over for is any old piece of meat they haphazardly throw on a gas grill and a bag of Lays potato chips tossed into a bowl. This is a fine thing as it involves both meat and fire, and even sometimes beer, but it is not, in fact, a barbecue.

In the south, a barbecue begins at least a day ahead with much fanfare and comradery. It continues with so much smoke billowing up from the smoker in your back yard that the local firemen come by with their sirens blaring at 7:00am even though they know it’s just you slow cooking all night over hickory chips because they want to be the first to taste the pork without any sauce before anyone else comes by and to give you and your buddies shit for passing out on or around your picnic table with an empty bottle of Jim Beam and several dozen empty bottles of imported beer strewn around your feet as that pork smokes quietly in its blazing little inferno, dangerously close to your throbbing head.

Or you can go to Hodges. Or one of many other fine establishments that take the prep time down from two days and one drunken night to just standing in a cafeteria-style line, specifying bun or no-bun, and pointing to which two “sides” you want.

So. Hodges.

MEAT: Robert and I both found the pork very tender for how lean it was. It was pulled, not chipped, and I prefer it that way, although I’ve had good chipped pork on occasion.

SAUCE: The sauce was fair to good. It was just a bit vinegary, and a little too sweet, but still pretty good. I think I liked it more than Robert who, I gather, is incredibly particular in this area. Also, Robert would rather have had the option to add his own sauce, but we were not given that choice.

SLAW: Surprisingly, Hodges does not offer cole slaw. We’ll see if this is a trend and, if so, may need to revise our slaw review to sides in general. What they did offer were fabulous turnip greens – although not as spicy as I like – and an above-average macaroni and cheese. The greens were tender but still stood up to your teeth. I added hot sauce, and they were great. The mac and cheese was made with a sharp cheddar that helped add life and zing to the elbows.

SWEET TEA: The tea was superb. Not so syrupy it made my nipples hard, as is often the case at barbecue joints, but still sweet enough to go down real easy. Perfect.

ATMOSPHERE: Robert and I sat in a recently enclosed portion of the place. What does not show in the photo below is that the restrooms used to be outside the building but have now benefited by the enclosure. That sure is an improvement. The floors are wide plank boards thickly coated in layers of glossy brown outdoor paint. Overall a nice screened porch feel. I liked it.

The focal point of the dining room has to be the altar to some of our legends who have passed.

I’m sure this is not necessary, as I know all of you are familiar with these fallen greats depicted in the upper left rendering, but for the record, clockwise from top left: Tupac Shakur; Lisa “Lef Eye” Lopes; Aaliyah; Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.); Bob Marley; Jam Master Jay (from Run DMC); and Marvin Gaye. Of course, JC makes an appearance (that's him on the cross just above the Ten Commandments) along with my man Martin. I figure the folks at Hodges thought enough of those last two guys to give them each their own spot, you know? I would've done the same. Y'all stop by Hodges and pay your respects.

OVERALL RATING: B+

HODGES BAR-B-QUE
2141 Candler Drive
Decatur, GA 30032
(404) 289-1804

~Samantha

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