Okay, Atlanta is THE top barbecue city in the United States of America.
It a fact!
Can someone define what Atlanta-style barbecue entails?
Nope. In fact, I'll have an article appearing at Taste Trekkers next month arguing that there is no such thing, as I can easily find five Atlanta-area BBQ joints that don't taste a blessed thing like each other.
You could easily argue that Atlanta represents the point where Memphis-by-way-of-northern-Alabama -style peters out, going east. You have a number of Alabama transplants like the Williamson Bros. and a few chains like Jim 'n Nick's that bring that style.
You've got some of the homegrown "classic Atlanta" style of dry, coarsely-chopped pork, as seen at Old Hickory House, Mr. D's, Georgia Barbecue Co (former owner of the chain Jilly's, apparently), and Glenn's in Conyers. This style seems to be slowly dying out.
The western 'burbs have the Hudson's-style sauce, seen in nearly a dozen places, with the meat served drowned in blood-red, thin, vinegar-pepper-Worcestershire sauce.
You have some of the competition circuit champions setting up shop. There's one impressive family tree that stretches from the original Sam & Dave's to the two, now solo, and their three locations, to Community Q and Grand Champion. And you musn't discount Ziegler's and The Oink Joint, also competition regulars.
Oak has supplanted the more expensive hickory in a lot of these places. Southern Pride smokers are increasingly common.
I am second to nobody in my love and admiration for the celebrated barbecue in Texas, Memphis, North Carolina, and so on, but the genuine truth, for anybody willing to spend some time and energy here instead of rushing through to more press-worthy places in other states, is that some of the tastiest barbecue joints on the planet are right here.
(And while my earlier post seems to have been eaten, I'd like to add that Urbanspoon lists 268 open barbecue restaurants in the Atlanta metro area, and that number does *not* include wings and soul food places, because I myself edited them all out.)