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Friday, July 5, 2013

Fly me to the Moonie's

Man, I hate to be behind the curve in trying out a new, well-regarded barbecue place. Moonie's Texas Barbecue, way up in Flowery Branch, has been on my list for far too long, surely due to that OOOOTP location. The Georgia Barbecue Hunt blog wrote about it over a year ago, and more recently Atlanta Magazine gave them some good props and EatItAtlanta hit it, too. So, when my wife and I decided to head up to the north Georgia mountains, passing right through Flowery Branch, I knew a stop was in order.

Moonie's dubs themselves "an authentic Texas meat market." Their Texas origins, the ability to order the brisket or pork by the pound, sausage by the link, and the fact that they slice to order - all serve as good qualifications for that claim. Just walking in the place makes for a happy moment, as a rush of post oak-fragranced smoke hits your nose from the smokers just behind the counter.

Clockwise from top left: Pork, sausage, creamed corn, brisket chili, moist brisket, pickles and such
  • Brad Kaplan
  • Clockwise from top left: Pork, sausage, creamed corn, brisket chili, moist brisket, pickles and such
The brisket is clearly the star of the show, as it should be for any self-proclaimed Texas barbecue joint. And it's offered in both moist and lean cuts. The moist meat is falling apart tender, with a good deal of meltingly soft fat throughout. The lean has more structure and slices fairly firm. Guess which one I prefer? (Hint: fat is good) Top notch stuff, for sure, but I'm not sure it's worth the hour-plus roundtrip on its own.

I was pleasantly surprised by the pork. There was not really an evident smoke ring, nor much crispness to the bark, but the meat was tender and lightly smoky. The sausage was less successful, dry and gritty with spice. But a dash or two of the mustard-based sauce on the table helped measurably. Moonie's also has a sweet tomato-based sauce and a spicier rendition, but I recommend taking the brisket at least without any sauce. It doesn't need it.

We just missed out on ordering Moonie's Frito chili pie, as the Fritos ran out, but did get the brisket chili as a side. I'm not really familiar with the many style of Texas chili, but I'd place this one in the camp that veers to Italian-American meat sauce. It's basically beef and canned tomatoes in a thin, oily, spiced-up tomato sauce. Strange, but strangely addictive, too. There are plenty of other choices for sides and other meats as well (here's the menu), so variety is not a concern.

If you're headed up Flowery Branch way, Moonie's makes for a fun little pit stop, a pleasant change of pace from other Atlanta area barbecue joints. Oh, and I noticed that they're installing a new smoker, a sure sign that business is good.

Moonie's Texas Barbecue
5545 Atlanta Highway
Flowery Branch, GA 30542
(678) 828-8366

Open Tuesday - Sunday, 11AM - 8PM

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