That's how it is at Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q, Marietta's high-volume, high-quality purveyor of Alabama-style barbecue. The Williamson Brothers' catering trucks are familiar sights at Braves games and other public events. But the best way to savor Danny and Larry Williamson's pork sandwiches, ribs, 'cue plates, onion rings and bottomless glasses of tea and Coke is to hunker down at a rough wooden table or booth in one of the warren of rooms, porches and hidey-holes at their headquarters on Roswell Road, a few blocks east of the Big Chicken.
Entering the decade-old restaurant from the parking lot, assaulted by massed bottles of Williamson Bros. barbecue sauce, hot sauce, black pepper, T-shirts, koozies and mugs, serious 'cue fans might fear they've strayed into some ersatz operation, a Cracker Barrel knockoff, say, or a misbegotten child of Sonny's and Hooters.
Fear not. Tote a quart of sauce home or buy it later at a local supermarket. The slather works wonders even on lesser breeds of meat.
But the Williamsons' slabs, platters, rotisserie bird-breasts and similarly substantial fare are the draw, not the souvenir counter. In a pinch, I start with a jumbo chipped pork sandwich. The meat is sweet and tender, the bun substantial enough to contain the sauce and meat. Order the pork on a plate and swap the bun for garlic toast, which also works for me. A choice of one or two sides is included with most plates. Nearly greaseless onion rings shouldn't be missed. Creamy coleslaw is a good second pick. French fries are great when right out of the fryer but don't keep well on the plate. Once they're cool, they're dead. Brunswick stew is too greasy-gravy-like for comfort.
Pork ribs are lean but tough, a significant disappointment after the succulent pork. Rotisserie chicken is better, though nothing to plan a meal around. Then there's the beef. Folks, there is a reason that barbecue beef is seldom served shredded -- and this is it. The stuff tastes like baby food garnished with brown sauce and dill pickle. Don't go there. Opt for the four-vegetable lunch special instead. Or a Polish sausage.
Or stick with barbecue pork. At Williamson Bros., most meat items come several ways. Pork can be had in sandwiches (two sizes), on plates solo or in combination, on a salad, in a quesadilla or atop a stuffed baked potato. How bad can any of that be?
If you have room, which I seldom do, finish with a slice of homemade pie. The lemon is a lot better than might be expected -- dense and fairly tart, topped with whipped cream, equipped with a Graham cracker crust and tastier than many Key lime models around town selling for three times the price ($3; $12 per whole pie). Coconut, chocolate and banana versions are offered, as is a coconut cake.
Depending upon the sex of your server, table service is either perky-businesslike or manly-businesslike, fast either way. Orders are rushed to tables by runners as soon as they're filled. You might have to wait for a table. But not long.
Always great to see new concepts in Atlanta, especially the pay-an-arm-and-a-leg-for-finger-food-and-overrated-cocktails variety.
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