Rooter’s BBQ, Athens GA (CLOSED)

Last month, I was writing about how Brunswick stew in Georgia can contain any ingredient under the sun. We’ve found it at dozens of places around our state and tasted all sorts of recipes, but the diced sausage in the stew at Rooter’s was a very pleasant surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever had sausage in stew before! Technically speaking, however, this isn’t Brunswick stew, but rather “Bundrick stew.” That’s the family name of one of the owners of Rooter’s BBQ on Whitehall Road in Athens, and their lovely old recipe. It was delicious sausage, and really changed the flavor of the stew from what I was expecting. Isn’t it nice to find new things?

This is the third restaurant that we have known in this building. After many years of quiet neglect, a barbecue place and grocery store called Jot ’em Down opened here in the early 2000s. They had lots of fans, lots of hype, barbecued quail (!!!!), and often hosted live bluegrass. It was a terrific place, but they made the mistake of moving to a much larger building and couldn’t bring the crowds with them.

In early 2012, Sisters Creole Market moved in, and immediately began butting heads with the county. As I understand it, somebody finally noticed when Sisters wanted to open that the property, which was built in the 1890s, was not even remotely up to code. If the owners wanted to have seating, then they needed a handicapped-accessible restroom and a paved parking lot. After ten months of fighting City Hall, they closed.

The Bundrick family, perhaps unfortunately, gets around this problem by not having any dine-in seating. This is a take-out place only. Prepare to eat in your car, but definitely prepare to eat. This is very good barbecue.

The meats are smoked in a screened-in porch outside over hickory and oak, and they serve pulled pork, chickens, and ribs, along with other things on occasional specials. The week before Christmas isn’t a good time to expect any; business is slow everywhere in Athens this time of year. The pork is very smoky and flavorful, and they have four sauces available: a mustard sauce, a sweet brown tomato-based sauce, and two escalating varieties of a hot vinegar-based sauce. They mark them XX and XXX, and they’re not kidding.

A damp December is no time for a picnic here, but if you live in Athens, take some home, and once it warms up a little, travelers should bring some lawn chairs and plan to stay a while. Enjoy some sweet tea or a variety of small market bottled sodas just like Jot ’em Down used to offer. Maybe bring a banjo and it’ll be like popping back in time ten years. Now, if we can just get them to serve some of that quail…

Are you planning a barbecue road trip? You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 310 !) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts!


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