[This is the latest installment of “Cobb Cuisine, Culture and Community” by Brian Benefield]
Memorial Day is the unofficial kick-off to summer in America. The flowers are in full bloom, the bees are doing their bee things, and the humidity is getting thick as molasses. Many of us will be hitting the roads to head to the Gulf Coast of Florida or maybe Savannah to enjoy some downtime and enjoy some traditional holiday foods such as BBQ, burgers and imbibe in a cold beer or two. But if you are doing a staycation like us and don’t feel like sweating over a hot grill, you have about one million great options to choose from in Cobb.
I like to BBQ and grill out, which are two distinctly contrasting forms of cooking in the outdoor environs. The former involves slathering a large piece of pork the size of a Winnebago with a rub of sweet/spicy seasonings and letting it smoke at a low temperature for a long time. It’s always been interesting to me that when ordering BBQ in various parts of the country means getting different cuts of meat because of what is most prevalent in that particular region. Pork is king in the South, beef brisket rules in Texas, and in St. Louis, it’s all about the pork spare ribs. Conversely, grilling is cooking hot and fast for items such as burgers or steaks.
Sam’s BBQ-1, located in East Cobb, is what I like to call old-school BBQ, which means they only use high-quality meats, homemade sauces and cook with a wood-fired pit that imparts that unmistakable smoky flavor into the variety of meats they serve. Sam Huff had been winning BBQ competitions long before he opened BBQ-1. I was fortunate enough to attend his all-day cooking class, PORK U, several years ago at his house, which would make a great Father’s day experience gift. Sam is a funny guy with a quick wit and knows his stuff when it comes to BBQ. We cooked and ate everything from stuffed pork tenderloin to smoked wings, beef ribs, and brisket. Everyone in the class took home enough leftovers to feed a small army. I am a sucker for good side dishes at BBQ joints, and at Sam’s, they do not disappoint with mouthwatering mac n cheese and collards that have that tang of vinegar, and of course, you gotta add hot pepper sauce.
As I walk through my neighborhood on any given Summertime evening, a particular smell wafts through the air that lets me know burgers are being grilled. It’s an intoxicating scent that conjures up an ingrained memory of my father pouring gasoline on the charcoal grill after drinking numerous PBRs and then asking me to toss a match onto the explosively soaked coals. My eyebrows have finally grown back. If you are in the mood for a juicy, five-napkin-worthy hamburger, then head to another East Cobb staple known as Moxie Burger. The original location is at the corner of Johnson Ferry and Paper Mill Roads, but have expanded to Kennesaw, Roswell and several other Atlanta areas.
A winner of the best burger in Atlanta by the AJC in 2018, they take pride at Moxie in being a locally owned, no-frills place to gather with friends and family to enjoy a cooked-to-order high-quality hamburger. My wife, Cecilie, has a great philosophy on splurging on something she doesn’t ordinarily eat. “If you’re going to eat something fun like a burger, pizza, or french fries, get the best and make it worth it.” I think Moxie would agree with her sentiment. If you like spice, try The Heater with Angus beef, topped with lettuce, jalapenos, hot sauce, tomato, and onion straws. Cecilie would opt for the build-your-own style named The Entrepreneur so that she can pick and choose her toppings. Don’t neglect to get some hand-cut Moxie fries that are always hot and crispy on the outside and have a pillowy soft interior. And check out the vast selection of dipping sauces, including creole chili pepper, sriracha mayo, and lemon dill aioli, for all your fry dunking pleasure.
Originally called Decoration Day because of the early tradition of adorning graves with flowers and flags, the holiday dates back to 1868 to honor the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers. So as you sit down with your friends and family for the upcoming holiday to enjoy some traditional American foods, let us remember what Memorial Day is really about. We should all take pause and commemorate the fallen service members of our armed forces.
Visit Sam’s BBQ1 website at www.bbq1.net
And Moxie Burger’s website at www.moxierestaurantgroup.com
Brian Benefield is an Atlanta native born in Dekalb County, who has lived in Cobb since 2003. He has worked in Hospitality, Marketing, Real Estate, and most recently Food Tourism. Married to Cecilie Benefield for 12 blissful years. They have a dog, Miss Pickles. Hobbies are mountain biking, running, gardening, and trying new recipes in the kitchen. Member of Les Marmitions cooking club since 2016, where we cook 5-course meals with local Atlanta chefs.