Here's the beef 

One Star Ranch demystifies the phrase "Don't Mess with Texas'

Just when you think you've got things figured out, something comes along and throws your whole worldview out of whack. Take barbecue, for instance. Around here, barbecue can be boiled down to one simple word: pork. Sure, there are variations on the theme, and everyone's got their preferences: wet- or dry-rubbed ribs (wet for me), ketchup- or mustard-based sauce (ketchup, hands-down), coleslaw on the sandwich or on the side (on the sandwich, please). But there's one thing I think we can all agree on: Real Southern barbecue is pork.

So what to make of One Star Ranch, a Buckhead hole in the wall that serves up Texas-style 'cue? That's right, Texas-style. That means beef. One Star's reputation is built on its massive beef ribs, and it's easy to see why. Tender, smoky meat clings to the biggest bones you've ever seen. Charred outside and juicy within, minimally sauced, a single beef rib reduced my usually civilized husband into a grunting Neanderthal. My only complaint: They need to serve these babies on bigger plates.

The menu has its share of pork items, but for my money, beef is the way to go. Pork ribs were smoky-tasting and nicely charred on the outside, but they didn't hold a candle to local legends like Fat Matt's or Daddy D'z. Ditto the pulled pork. Barbecued chicken hit the spot, though. Too often, barbecued chicken -- the white meat, especially -- gets dried out from overcooking. Here, crispy skin lacquered in barely sweet barbecue sauce hid meat that was juicy and perfectly cooked. Even the white meat.

As with most barbecue joints, sides were hit or miss. Outstanding baked beans were a far cry from the mushy, candy-sweet dish I'd grown to despise since childhood. I've never understood the fascination, but these beans were a different story altogether. Plump kidney beans hadn't lost their shape or texture from overcooking, and shreds of meat gave the beans and their kicky sauce lots of flavor. Crunchy, creamy, but not sloppy coleslaw also won me over. Jalapeño cornbread, on the other hand, was crumbly and dry.

One Star Ranch is one of those weird Buckhead anomalies, a rundown barbecue shack wedged between swanky condo developments and much fancier restaurants. But somehow, it works for them. At lunch, the place is elbow-to-elbow with local office workers. Service is down-home and as sweet as can be. I guess whether you're a die-hard pork barbecue person or you're willing to allow that Texas-style isn't half bad, the bottom line is this: Everybody needs to eat with their hands once in a while. Grunt.

florence.byrd@creativeloafing.com

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Covering Brookhaven to Inman Park

HEARTY IRISH EATS Meehan's Public House in Brookhaven has recently added weekend brunch to its regular menu. The specialty of the house is a gigantic Irish breakfast: two fried eggs with caramelized onions, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, bangers, Irish bacon, baked beans, and black and white pudding. Other brunch items include French toast, omelets and breakfast sandwiches. Of course, no brunch would be complete without the requisite Bloody Mary and mimosa. Brunch is served from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. 4058 Peachtree Road. 404-467-9531. www.meehansalehouse.com.

BECOME A CHEESE WHIZ Learn the ins and outs of artisan cheese on Wed., Dec. 1, at Violette. The restaurant is hosting a cheese class from 7-9 p.m. led by guest cheese-monger Matt Bonano of Alon's in Virginia-Highland. The class will cover cheese basics, along with milk types, flavors and textures, as well as how to shop for and properly store cheese. Finally, the class will outline how to pair wine with cheese. $49 per person. 2948 Clairmont Road. 770-668-0435. www.violetterestaurant.com.

SANTA'S COMING TO TOWN It's not too soon to make reservations for Breakfast with Santa at Buckhead Diner. The annual event, held this year on Sat.-Sun., Dec. 11-12, is a family favorite. Kids and parents get to enjoy a special holiday breakfast and a visit with Santa Claus. Santa's elves provide the entertainment, and each child will receive a special surprise stocking from Santa. $30 per person. 3073 Piedmont Road. 404-262-3336. www.buckheadrestaurants.com.

SANTA'S COMING TO TOWN, TAKE TWO Another option for intown families is the Food Studio's Breakfast with Santa. It will take place Dec. 11-12, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Parents and kids will be served a two-course breakfast followed by a special visit with Santa and a gift to take home. Cost is $34 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Children under 1 are free. 887 W. Marietta St. 404-815-6677. www.thefoodstudio.com.

CHRISTMAS IN THE KITCHEN Two upcoming classes at Cook's Warehouse Midtown should get you in the holiday spirit. Local chef Virginia Willis teaches "Quick and Easy Holiday Hors d'oeuvres" on Wed., Dec. 1 from 7-9 p.m., and "Sweet Treats and Cookies for Santa" on Sat., Dec. 4, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. The hors d'oeuvres class ($40 per person) will have you ready for a holiday soiree in no time. The cookie class (hands-on, $65 per person) focuses on festive goodies like gingersnaps, cookie press cookies, and easy chocolate fudge. 549-I Amsterdam Ave. 404-815-4993. www.cookswarehouse.com.

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