Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Harold's Barbecue, Atlanta

After 24 hours in the capital of the syncretic “New South,” namely Atlanta’s Buckhead and Midtown sections, I felt hollow. Save their accents, the locals had excised virtually all traces of their region from the landscape and created a veritable Irvine. South of downtown, I was able to find some traditional southern charm and hospitality in the form of Harold’s Barbecue where the pleated-khaki-&-striped-blue-polo set was nowhere to be found. However, (as AO pointed out) the haggard conditions of the fences and guardrails alongside the roads leading to Harold’s Barbecue were circumstantial evidence that MADD was not particularly effective in south Atlanta.

Harold’s is set in a large shack with two no-frills dining rooms and a traditional lunch counter, which is where we sat. Anxious to try as much as possible and prodded by our affable waitress, I ordered the combination plate which came with chopped beef, chopped pork, a half dozen ribs, slaw, and as an appetizer, Brunswick stew. The stew, a cousin of American-style chili and my favorite item at Harold's, was made of pork and chicken, kernels of corn, and small shreds of tomato. The deliciously spicy and rugged pork was nicely offset by the sweet and sturdy smattering of corn. How the chicken contributed or why it was a participant in the stew are questions not easily answered.

As for the barbecue, the chopped pork was shorn of its fat and, hence on the dry side. The beef was somewhat fattier but still dry. The much more successful pork ribs were meaty and cooked with sauce on top and had just enough fat to bolster the flavor while avoiding the risk of turning into the infamous lardo pizza.

I belatedly observed that the most popular item was the sandwich of either chopped pork or beef. Harold’s Barbecue had a small smoky grill with low heat in front of the lunch counter that was dedicated to grilling the white sandwich bread and warming the chopped meat and over which the restaurant’s paterfamilias presided (though I’m not sure if he was Harold and I was too lazy to ask). The sandwich meat was chopped to order: it was taken from the kitchen, chopped at a station next to the small grill, and then placed on wax paper and onto the grill to prevent the meat from falling in the fire. With optional coleslaw, these sandwiches looked beautiful, and though I am sceptical of how the problem of dryness will be solved, I will certainly order one should I suffer the misfortune of returning to Atlanta. Harold’s homemade hot sauce was similar to a Tabasco sauce, but sweeter and more robust though its utility was to saving the dry chopped pork.

Harold’s Barbecue
171 McDonough Blvd., SE
(404) 627-9268

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