Sunday, October 18, 2009

Williamson Bros. Barbecue (3/10) - 1425 Roswell Rd., Marietta, GA 30062

During a recent stay with Murph in New Orleans, I came across a bottle of Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q seasoning salt in his kitchen.  I knew it was Murph's (the guy's only possessions are whey protein, sliced deli meats, and 2 glasses) so I inquired deeper.  It happens to belong to Murph's roommate, Mike "Moose" Moustoukas.  Moose is from Marietta, a town slightly northwest of Atlanta, and swears by Williamson Bros. food.  He gets excited that I'm travelling around and tells me to check out Williamson's when I'm back in Atlanta.  I'm heading back to DC shortly, so during my last few days in Atlanta, I made the excursion to see if Williamson could live up to the hype and unseat P'Cheen's as the best in town.

Williamson Bros. was started in 1989 by two brothers from Alabama who wanted to capitalize on the lack of solid barbecue in the Atlanta area (familiar theme).  I arrived on a Sunday afternoon and found myself amongst the masses of God fearing folk who must have just left Sunday services at their local churches for lunch.  A solid crowd coupled (well, maybe 4x) with the amazing smell of smoked meat, a strong recommendation from Moose, and a Neilson Report sign on the wall that declares that Williamson Bros. has the fourth best selling barbecue sauce in 2009 indicated that I was in for a great meal.  I walked through the crowd past the restaurant's open pit that was located behind the hostess' stand, and took a seat at the bar.

The open pit looked marvelous.  Logs were ablaze underneath racks of pork shoulders, ribs, and other large cuts of meat.  The fat from the shoulders on the shelf were visibly dripping below both onto the slabs of ribs and the open fire below, and an employee who oversaw the operation was keeping a keen eye open to ensure that a grease fire didn't consume and overcook/burn the meat.  Watching the pit whet my appetite and my only concern was what I should order for lunch.

I took a seat aside an elderly couple who said they ate at Williamson Bros. every opportunity they got.  The woman had a plate of chopped pork in front of her and recommended that I order the same.  I in turn ordered a quarter of dark meat chicken and a pulled pork sandwich.  While waiting for my food, I noticed that the Williamson brothers, Danny and Larry, were inexplicably proud of their 7th and 5th grade report cards, respectively -- when they mostly earned Bs, Cs and Ds and were mostly criticized for their lack of commitment towards learning social studies -- and consequently decided to hang their framed report cards on the wall.  Barbecue is quite the scholarly industry.

The sandwich appeared very appetizing but managed to disappoint in almost every way imaginable (the bread was good, congrats).  The meat, while lacking any substantially smoked flavor, was completely smothered in the restaurant's barbecue sauce which happened to be worse than the pork.  It was sweet, lacked any identifiable flavors or spices or any creativity that would allow me to distinguish it from any other mass produced barbecue sauce.  I guess that's why it was ranked 4th in sales.  Competitive barbecue teams probably manipulate Williamson Bros' sauce (using it as a base) into something that's a little more special and interesting.  I asked for Williamson Bros' additional sauces, and the waitress returned with a garlic, a chipotle, and Carolina mustard varieties.  The chipotle spiced sauce had a strong kick and was definitely my preference of the group.  Still, no awards or positive reviews coming from yours truly.

The quarter dark meat chicken was also smothered in the regular sauce and was overcooked and dry.  I took one look at the drumstick before deciding against trying to cut into it.  It blew my mind that this cut of meat got through multiple levels of oversight. If I ran a place, food like that would have no business being served to my customers.

I largely assume that due to its large lunch crowd and the restaurant's ability to rest on its reputation, Williamson Bros. is either unable to keep up its quality control because of the high demand and large crowds or it doesn't feel the need to turn out top notch barbecue day-in and day-out.  At some point in the past, I believe that Williamson Bros.' barbecue was probably great -- but then its popularity increased, crowds grew larger and larger, and it was then unable to meet the increased demand and quality took a turn for the worse.

I have witnessed this problem time and time again over my travels -- see The Shed Barbecue and Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue -- and my favorite meals are often in the small intimate locations where the pitmasters have better control of the product coming out of their smokers.

Bill who owns and operates The Brick Pit in Mobile, Alabama said it best (quote not verbatim but you should get the gist), "I always have to cook my best and make sure that every meal is close to as perfect as possible.  I'll never know whether my next customer has traveled great lengths to eat here because he/she got a recommendation or a referral from a friend or one of my long time customers of the restaurant."  Williamson Bros. needs to take heed to that advice.  A 3/10 is quite a poor score, but Danny and Larry are evidently accustomed to falling behind their peers.

Williamson Brothers. BBQ on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree. WB BBQ used to be great. Then, first went the plates and in came the throw away plates.. second, the portions became smaller and then the quality of taste went. I don't eat there anymore unless I'm just hungry. Favor is gone. 10/30/2012


Ratings and Reviews

In order to provide a consistent grading standard across each restaurant/region, I order a barbecue pork sandwich (and other meats/sides if a restaurant/region specializes in another specialty). In addition to comparing the quality of food, I will also take into consideration other intangibles (ambiance, atmosphere, service, authenticity, etc.) in my ratings as I deem appropriate.

Basically, a 10/10 represents an incredible meal, while a 6/10 score indicates a decent dining experience but a substantial number of dishes fell short of great. Lower scores indicate unpleasant experiences which I would most likely not even recommend to my worst enemy (Jonas Singer).

I reserve the right to continuously edit/update previous posts and to change rating scores as I see fit.