When a restaurant changes hands, it's a tricky situation. How to retain enough of the original flavor to keep loyal customers happy while making the necessary changes to bring in fresh faces?
At Rolling Bones Premium Pit BBQ (377 Edgewood Ave., 404-222-2324, www.rollingbonesbbq.com), the changes made by new chef/owner Todd Richards (formerly of the Four Seasons hotel and Spice restaurant) and his partners are a big improvement. The drive-thru is still there, the retro diner décor is the same, but the food at this “Southern-style” barbecue joint has received a serious upgrade. The menu is more chef-driven and now includes slight gourmet twists such as Benton’s bacon in the creamy potato salad, smoky sweet "Reggie’s baked beans," and balanced, flavorful mustard greens. The new owners have also started using Georgia hickory and pecan to smoke the expanded selection of meats and side items. Corn is smoked in its husk and slathered with paprika and butter. The new and vastly improved “Memphis-style” barbecue sauces (hot or mild) hint of tomato, spice, sweetness and tang while the consistency masterfully straddles the fence between too thick and too thin.
A surprising offering of smoked duck brined in a mix of citrus and soy sauce is a brilliant marriage of Peking duck and Southern smoke. The taut mahogany skin is at once chewy and crisp. The dark flesh is admittedly dry at times (like the underwhelming beef brisket), but enjoyable nonetheless. The duck makes an appearance in another inspired hybrid: an enormous sandwich of pulled duck and sticky fig relish served between two slices of towering buttered Texas toast. Other fowl offerings — such as the bone-in chicken and medieval turkey wings so large they have to be hacked into two pieces — are juicy no matter what cut you order, thanks to the herb and citrus brine. And don’t overlook the “Southside market beef links.” The thick slices of sausage explode with beefy succulence after each bite into the crackly natural casing.
Since this is the South, the pork dishes better be on point. And they are. You get your choice of dry-rubbed or brined meats. The difference is negligible to most palates, including mine. The spareribs — which you can upgrade to center cut for $2 — have a nice amount of sticky fat that almost seems to have fused with the meat during the cooking process. The chopped pork shoulder is tender and riddled with loads of black bark.
While most of the changes have been positive and promising, the restaurant still struggles with key issues. Depending on the time of day, the simplest order takes too long to get to the counter. The limited parking makes it difficult to pop in for a bite. Until the new owners figure out a way to solve these problems, the drive-thru is a good option if you’re short on time. And Zifty-holics will be happy to know the restaurant not only delivers through that ever-expanding service, but the food actually travels quite well.
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Definitely some fun going on in and around Atlanta these day.
It is always nice to see a variety of food at these types of events.