“Come find me. I have a drink for you. I call it the Adios, Motherfucker,” John grinned, and left me and my friend Jaimes to wonder what exactly goes into an Adios, Motherfucker. Tequila, clearly, but after that? Jaimes and I would find out later, but until then we continued to enjoy our night at Moe’s Original Barbeque in Midtown.
The only person I wanted at my side for a foray into all things meat was Jaimes. She is no stranger to barbecue. In fact, some of my favorite grilling adventures come from this lovely, food-crazy girl. Naturally, she was going to be my co-pilot, as we investigated the newest Moe’s location here in ATL. Boasting several locations, Moe’s never lets the success go to their head. In fact, the establishment bends over backwards to show a flexible and diabolical love of all things smoky, caramelized, spicy and sweet.
Not only does Moe’s lean on traditional, familial “there’s, like, 15 ingredients in our rub” barbecue, this current Moe’s location refuses to let go of 349 14th Street’s past. Upon entering the establishment, a large Kool Korners Gro. sign is impossible to miss, crowning the curling, copyright cursive of red and white “Coca Cola.” Before Moe’s was Moe’s, Kool Korners Grocery was a hot spot for any foodie looking for a fix of Cuban sandwichery. Our host – chef, pitmaster, and all around badass Rocketman – was pretty clear that Moe’s was not in the market to forget the deeply forged roots of 349 14th St.
The space feels like a high-end dive, a plus in my books. Never really felt that a barbecue joint should be dressed up in the trappings of fine-dining with quartet music humming through the air. No, no! The more peanut shells on the floor the better, the more I have to yell for someone to hear me across the table, the better. Now, Moe’s does not have peanut shells or decibel violation, but there is a hominess that settles in as you find your seat within the belly of the beast.
A cold pitcher of beer later, and Jaimes and I are recovering from a feast. Rocketman and John pulled out all stops to make sure we really got to taste the spectrum of Moe’s barbecue offerings. Highlights for us? The smoked wings! Not fried. Not broiled. Not roasted. Smoking the wings brought an incredibly subtle char, and left the meat inside juicy. These scarlet gems of meat candy cannot be missed if you scoot your way down 14th St.! The St. Louis-styled ribs are a perfect balance of sauce to rub, allowing me to savor every flavor, instead of one overlapping the other. Butterfly fried shrimp and catfish can still be detected in a complimentary batter, and shine when combined with house-made remoulade. I was hesitant to try the collards, because I generally find them over-cooked and sour everywhere I go, but these collards are different. Just looking at them, you can immediately spot the difference. The collards are vibrantly verdant, and a not-so-liberally applied vinegar makes them shine. Instead of a vinegar bomb erupting and blinding my palette for the rest of the meal, I was actually enjoying the taste of collards, instead of dark green vinegar death.
The feeling I had, enjoying this food, was that Moe’s was in the market to respect the food, and broadcast the flavors. Let’s take their coleslaw, for example. Some barbecue joints will slather their coleslaw in mayo and call it a day. Moe’s does a light apple cider vinegar marinade, which maintains the texture, and avoids any mayo-cloying that can occur. Moe’s is also very conservative with sauces, keeping most of them on the side, or lightly drizzled over food so as not to mask anything. At the same time? These same sauces and rubs follow a certain barbecue tradition. You ever ask a pitmaster what goes into their rub, the best answer you could receive is a long sigh, and a laundry list of herbs and spices. A lot of the time, this sort of list won’t have measurements of quantities; a pinch of this, a bit of that, and some of that stuff over there.
Jaimes and I are on the patio, flirting with a couple of coconut pies while we smoke cigarettes, and cautiously explore the Adios, Motherfucker. John is nearby, also enjoying a cigarette the way someone enjoys a quick snack. He sits with us, and we talk about where we come from, what we cook, what we like about barbecue, and what doesn’t work. Just shooting the shit with some food philosophies, a conversational path I stumble down and cannot wait to call a past-time. There is something nostalgic about finding a good barbecue place, whether it’s a longstanding player in the food game, or a newcomer. You can reminisce on cook-outs with your own folks, or grilling with friends on a back-porch. You maintain tradition, you continue to tell a story that someone in your family (or their family) started years and year and years ago with salt, pepper, brown sugar, cayenne, a pinch of this, and a pinch of that.
If you want to find out what’s in an Adios, Motherfucker, or just enjoy some really great grub, check out Moe’s Original Barbecue at 349 14th St., Atlanta, GA 30318.