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Barbecue, with a side of beefcake 

XL cup o' charm is free at Thompson Brothers BBQ

When your boyfriend of six years is one of the hottest men on earth, you tend to take other women's reports of extreme male pulchritude with a grain of salt. Female friends, one of whom is a vegetarian, had been encouraging me for weeks to visit Thompson Brothers BBQ. When asked about the food, few could remember what they ate, but all remarked on the brothers' athletic builds and brilliant smiles. I'll drive across town to check out a new barbecue place any day of the week without the added incentive of exceptionally handsome men serving up the ribs.

Daaaamn: Once you have a look at the family photos, however, or speak to the gracious, breathlessly charming Thompson brothers themselves, you may just forget where you are. A large picture of the five brothers hangs above the register. Wall-mounted shots feature one brother suited up in Air Force gear, and another, muscles rippling, on the field in the middle of a UGA football game. You can't help but notice that stunning smiles of sugar-white teeth and sparkling, dark eyes run rampant in the Thompson family.

And yes, the Oklahoma-style barbecue is quite good, too. Chopped pork ($4.79) is chopped to order and is pure succulence, melting into a good smack of hot, spicy, brown sugar-tinged sauce. Chicken ($6.79) can barely hold itself together on the bones. Underneath crispy skin, the meat is so buttery and sweet, you'd think it had been braised. Bologna ($3.39) is the most surprising of all, smoke-tinged and wonderfully chewy around the edges.

Beefy, beefier, beefiest: The "Whole Nine" single combo ($8.79) features 1/4-pound each of ribs, chopped beef, bologna, beef sausage and one side. If your eyes are bigger than your tummy, this massive mountain of meat suffices for two meals. Chopped beef ($4.89) fabulously combines moist shreds of beef alongside charred bits, all dressed with a kiss of smoke. Beef sausage ($4.25) pops with a crunchy skin, and wedged into a thick slice of Texas toast, it's total link heaven. Brunswick stew ($4.50) is the densest, heartiest version you'll find, packed with shredded meat and corn. It's just sweet enough, with a tangy, pungent edge. Ribs ($4.99) aren't where the brothers shine. The meat isn't charred enough and seems a little raw at the bone.

Sweet, gooey and upside down: If you thought the meat was good, you'll love the sides even more. I despise baked beans, but took one bite of the brothers' version and was immediately converted. They're just sweet enough, infused with a meatiness that cuts the candy edge. Cole slaw is just-sliced and dressed fresh, crisp and cool. Pineapple upside-down cake ($2.59), concocted from a family recipe, is a must, with a deeply browned edge where caramel and buttery cake fuse into a toothsome, addictive treat.

Their barbecue is as special as their warm, personal service. I imagine they'd really ring it in, should they put out a tip jar ... as long as they didn't mind sifting through piles of phone numbers and marriage proposals.

cynthia.wong@creativeloafing.com

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