Wallace Barbecue, Austell GA

Many things cross my mind about what to talk about when Wallace comes up, but first and foremost is their sauce. They have two. One is a hot mustard-based sauce that’s bottled and on the table already. It’s terrific, and as promised, it goes very well with the restaurant’s Brunswick stew.

The other sauce is served with your order. I’d advise diners to ask for their pork dry, like David did when he and I went to supper Saturday night and ended up here. David’s on a pretty strict diet for blood sugar problems and needs to take it easy with the greasy fries and sweet sauces. I probably should have done it that way myself, because I like the way that Wallace serves their sauce on the side, piping hot, in a bowl.

The only other place that I’m aware of that does this is Sprayberry’s Barbecue down in Newnan, which is worth revisiting one day very soon, but possibly not this calendar year. The datebook is sort of packed. Now, the makeup of the sauce is quite baffling. I have heard that in Owensboro, Kentucky, they serve up a Worcestershire-based sauce, and kind of got a roundabout confirmation of that from the fifteen-sauce selection at Asheville’s Ed Boudreaux’s BBQ last month. I wonder whether Wallace might be using that as well. It’s certainly very thin and pleasantly vinegary, with pepper, but I couldn’t say beyond that. Our server, and you simply could not ask for a better one, politely declined to assist in identifying it. She explained that there’s one fellow “locked in the back” mixing up their sauces and that nobody but him knows the recipe. I just love that.

I first visited Wallace in 2002. Back then, I was working on a well-intentioned guide to barbecue restaurants here in Georgia that I had hosted on Geocities and waiting for tips on new, or old, places to try. Creative Loafing, the largest and best-known of Atlanta’s alt-weeklies, gave Wallace a good review, so I trekked down to Austell from my old apartment in Alpharetta one Saturday. That really was a haul when there’s nothing at your destination but one barbecue place and a thousand traffic lights and miles of abandoned, low-rent suburban blight along the way. Driving through the community of Mableton along what used to be called Bankhead Highway and is now Veterans’ Memorial Parkway has been one of the region’s most cringeworthy exercises for more than a quarter of a century. There’s really nothing wrong with this agonizing shithole of a road that a really powerful tornado wouldn’t fix.

Sadly, I haven’t found the chance to go back nearly often enough. I know that I’ve tried convincing my folks to have dinner out here instead of their usual barbecue haunts, but for some insane reason, my mom doesn’t like the place. Really, the only thing I have against them is the extremely greasy fries, which I had completely forgotten about. They’re really tasty, but I’m getting awfully close to forty and shouldn’t have fries twice in one day anyhow, particularly if the second meal’s fries are as greasy as this. I should have gone with the slaw.

Wallace is a pretty big place and it’s extremely popular in the area. Saturday nights, the place is packed with folks having a great time. I definitely need to find reason to head out this way again before long.

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