Food & Drink » Wine & Dine Review




Growing up, you probably knew a loud, popular, hard-partying guy, fairly grubby around the edges with a kid sister who reminded everyone so much of him. She had the same features and mannerisms, and she was just as likeable as her big brother. Although little sis seemed a bit stiff at first, it turned out she was just as fun. In the food world, recently opened Maddy's is like a baby sister to Fat Matt's, the Atlanta barbecue institution. Indeed, Maddy's owner, Jeff Buckalew, worked at Fat Matt's for years before opening his own spot in Decatur. The family resemblance is unmistakable, but Matt and Maddy aren't twins. What Maddy lacks in rough-and-tumble bluesy-ness, she more than makes up for with good manners, cleanliness and a big, fat smile.

Blue-hoo: Maddy's isn't shack-like in the least, but it is small and feels even cozier thanks to the darkly painted walls. Despite a few wobbly table legs, the joint is comfortable and tastefully put together. A large board mounted on the wall displays the simple menu, and the counter is serviced by enthusiastic college kids who happily turn over a tambourine or ukulele marked with a number that corresponds to your order. Sweet potato and egg custard pies are sliced and carefully wrapped, bake sale-style, by the register. During lunch, luxury SUVs occupy the parking spaces and a quiet Emory crowd fills the tables. At night, your car windows begin rattling as you pull into the lot. An earthquake or a freight train? No, it's a local blues band working over some of your favorite songs.

Slab me upside the head: During lunch, the ribs in a rib sandwich ($5) seem leftover and reheated but are still acceptably tasty. However, on a Friday night visit, a full slab ($16) is a Flintstones-like mound of gorgeous charred, creamy fat and tender meat that evokes all the falling-off-the-bone cliches you can think of. The ribs are delectably smoky, hot and so sizzlingly, wonderfully greasy.

On a chicken wing and a prayer: A barbecued chicken quarter ($3.75) holds sticky-sweet promise until I get to the breast meat, which is dry and flavorless. Go for the dark meat. Chopped pork ($7.75 for a quarter pound with a quarter of a slab or chicken) is a wet, bland victim of the steam table during lunch. At dinner, it is considerably tastier and fresher but still a bit wet for my taste. Maddy's Brunswick stew ($2 for a side portion) is one of the best versions I've had, chock full of succulent chopped pork and tiny corn kernels, in turns sweet and tangy. Baked beans (80 cents) are fabulously boozy, and cole slaw (also 80 cents) provides crisp, creamy restive bites to the full-on pig worshipping. Egg custard pie ($1.75) is tooth-achingly sweet, as one would hope for at a rib joint.

Although the live blues on the Friday night we visited appeared to inspire people to leave rather than stay and cut the rug, Maddy's was loads of fun. She may have learned a lot from her big brother, but she shows all the signs of coming into her own.

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