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6. Sam's BBQ-1

Sam and Dave’s BBQ-1 sparked a local barbecue revolution when it opened in late 2004. Its smoked beef and pork, tended with finesse, needed no sauce as embellishment; the brisket in particular was an epiphany of supple meat and melted fat. Beyond their own ex-employees, Sam Huff and David Poe have undoubtedly inspired other circuit winners to open suburban joints. (Bub-Ba-Q in Woodstock is one that comes to mind.) I thought about all that during recent meals at Sam’s BBQ-1, when I couldn’t deny that the barbecue’s level of polish had slipped. The brisket I once so admired was dry on both occasions. The pulled pork could have been moister, and the ribs were overcooked, with the meat tumbling off the bone as I picked it up. (Ideally, the meat should have some cling.) And were those really black beans in the “Texas-style” chili? No Lone Star carnivore would approve their presence. Don’t get me wrong: Huff’s endeavors still beat most of the barbecue in the metro area. But knowing what he’s capable of, I’m hoping he again starts paying closer attention to the details that take barbecue from solid to exceptional. 4944 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta, 770-977-3005, bbq1.net

This article originally appeared in our May 2013 issue.