Friday, February 19, 2010

JJ's Rib Shack (2/10) - 2979 Campbellton Rd SW, Atlanta, GA 30311

When I committed myself to this spiritual journey to try as many different barbecue joints, I wanted to fully immerse myself in many different barbecue styles.  To fulfill this goal, I'd have to experience these places first hand by searching out some below the radar establishments that some barbecue enthusiasts might claim serves 'the best' the best cue.  Many barbecue restaurants around southwest Atlanta ("SWATs" I believe) are called 'rib shacks' and they hardly get a strong backing or recognition in the great Atlanta barbecue debate.  This is why when a commenter stated that customers at JJ's Rib Shack off Lakewood Freeway (opposite direction from the Amphitheater from I-75/85) often have to wait over 2 hours for barbecue, my interest was piqued and I knew that I'd have to go and ultimately share my experience with my readers.  Before I departed this morning, I tried to research this joint to no avail.  Supposedly JJ's opens at 12:30pm, has a devout local following, and is often frequented by many R&B or rap artists from the Atlanta scene.

I arrived right at 12:30pm in hopes of beating the crowd before a long line developed.  There was no line when I entered but rather a small gathering of customers had already found seating throughout the restaurant while they waited for their orders.  I took notice of the autographed posters of Big Gipp, Outkast, Goodie Mobb, and other performers behind the counter, and I ordered a half slab of small end ribs and a quarter dark chicken.  I  took a seat at the far end of the counter in  hopes of receiving my order within a few minutes.  I doubted that the hearsay about the long waiting times would apply this early in the afternoon.

A pair of women then entered the restaurant and immediately started up a commotion in what was an otherwise fairly calm room.  From what I could initially gather, they were both teachers and didn't want to wait for their order while their pupils were back in the classroom.  While trying to divert my attention anywhere other the potential ruckus that could have escalated into an all-out fight at any moment, I noticed a thick plume of smoke starting to blanket the front parking lot.  I figured it would be best for my sanity if I took a break from waiting and explored the back grills, the obvious source of the smoke.

A number of men were congregating under the covered patio that housed the three open pits.  JJ's was essentially a glorified backyard barbecue; the open grills were fueled by charcoal briquettes and a few sticks of wood just like a traditional weekend cookout.  But instead of sitting around drinking beers with friends telling stories and watching sports aka enjoying myself, I was forced to sit inside this joint for what seemed like forever without an alcoholic beverage in sight while listening to two women constantly bicker at the server while watching a syndicated game show hosted by Jeff Foxworthy while waiting... and waiting... and waiting...

By the time my number was called, I had been at JJ's Rib Shack for an hour and fifteen minutes.  I took my boxed food and left the premise essentially as fast as I could.  I headed northeast towards I-20W to my next location -- Beaver Creek Biscuits and Barbeque near Six Flags -- where the staff exhibited the complete opposite customer service and hospitality than the servers at JJ's Rib Shack.  They allowed me bring in my food from JJ's and eat it along side an order of their barbecue at one of their tables.  The barbecue chicken from JJ's highlighted my order and the dark meat was quite tender and well cooked.  My half slab was served already cut into individual ribs and smothered/swimming in sauce most likely to mask the charcoal flavor that penetrated the ribs.  After viewing the smokers and the heavy concentration of charcoal briquettes, the ribs tasted exactly how I anticipated.  They were grilled rather than slow smoked and the heavy application of sauce overpowered the flavor of my meat.  Fortunately, their sauce was incredible and I found myself mopping it up with provided slices of white bread

Independent of how infuriating the service was at JJ's Rib Shack, I thought the flavor of the barbecue deemed the experience a disappointment.  In hindsight, it blows my mind that JJ's doesn't place any emphasis on greater efficiency and instead seems enjoy knowing that its customers have to wait an extraordinarily long time to be served.  Essentially, customers cannot be employed and eat lunch at JJ's.  You'd think a profit motivated owner would want to tap into the working lunch demographic but obviously that's not the case here.

Jj's Rib Shack on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. Your assesment of J.J.s customer service is spot on. I've dined on their ribs for over 25 years and all I can tell you is that the customer service used to be WORSE than it is now! A pitbull disguised as a woman named "Tiny" used to run the place and give anyone with question a icy glare that would freeze the devil. Sadly she died last year and left the current "genius" pictured in your photo to run the front.

    I love the ribs and consider the chicken almost as good. The rib tips are a little dry but they give you a monsterous portion for your money. One good piece of advice...NEVER go to JJ's on the weekend or any later than 12:45 in the afternoon. You will turn blue waiting for your food.

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  2. I am sad to say that these reviews for JJs cannot be refuted. The ribs are amongst the best in this city, but the service has never been "customer service" in the sense of pleasing the consumer. I've been eating there since 1995, so I've learned to go for food and not pleasantries. Miss Tiny's bark was worse than her bite, and I have to admit that watching her "customer service" made the long waits a bit entertaining.
    I've always wondered if JJs owner cared about expanding and the incredible potential that the joint has to be bigger and better, yet the place has not changed in 15 years. So, maybe JJs isn't doing BBQ for the money.
    All I know is that when the craving comes, I will set aside two hours of my day, bring along something to occupy my (wait) time, and get me some of those ribs!

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  3. The wait is horrible if you go on a Friday or Saturday. Friendliness is not their strong point. But the rib tips make you wanna slap your Mama and not even run. I have tried many others including Srgt Wyatt, Mustard Seed, and Old Hickory house and I still have to go back to JJ's. It's so comical for the locals when first timers ask how long the wait is. But trust me...so worth the wait. I always leave flying on the highway sucking on a rib.

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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.