Thursday, June 14, 2007

BBQ Shack - Athens

Let me start off by noting that a shack is a most excellent venue for a barbeque restaurant, perhaps second only to a shanty. Unfortunately, the BBQ Shack is a veritable palace when compared to some other Athens-area barbeque joints, such as Jot 'em Down or Fresh Air (westside). It does score some style points for having a gravel parking lot, however. When you first arrive at the BBQ Shack, you will notice that it is closed. You will have to come back some time between Thursday and Saturday. When you do come back, you will be treated to a sparse interior featuring bench-style seats and those red and white checkered vinyl tablecloths. It's like having an indoor picnic, which I'm all for. There is usually a pitcher of sweet tea already on your table, something that every restaurant should do. I don't mean every bbq restaurant, I mean every restaurant. The bbq at the Shack is pretty tasty despite the absence of a lot of fat. Very good, but not great. A little bit dry for my tastes, and I wish the chopping/pulling of the meat wasn't so fine. The sauce selection is well above average with at least 4 choices, including mild, hot, extra hot, and hot and sour. None of the sauces trend too heavily toward their base flavor, save for perhaps the hot and sour (vinegar obviously). The mild sauce is notable for actually being good, a rarity in mild sauces. The sides, unfortunately, are below average. The stew isn't on par with what I would expect from a Georgia barbeque restaurant. The slaw is good, but nothing special. If I have a gripe about the BBQ Shack (other than the stew...) it is the portions. Your meal is served on a sectional plate, as it should be, but the bbq itself is not in the large section, it is in one of the smaller two sections. Instead, there is a lake of brunswick stew - which I've already noted isn't that good - in the large section. Don't get me wrong, it's still an appropriate amount of bbq, but sometimes I want more. I tried to remedy this problem by ordering a large pork plate, but found the portion of bbq to be about the same. There was more stew, of course, which I wasn't going to eat anyway. I have somehow made this mistake twice. In summary, the BBQ Shack succeeds in the two most important areas of barbequedom - the actual bbq and the sauces. The lackluster nature of the stew is a problem, but it doesn't stop the BBQ Shack from being a fine choice for bbq on the eastside of Athens. If it's open.