Name: Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall
Address: 684 John Wesley Dobbs Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312
Order: Pulled pork tray with ribs and chicken wings, BBQ chips, chilled street corn, “BBQ fries”, and fried okra (link to menu)
Speedy: Our most loyal readers will recall that I spent a year living in Atlanta. While there, I graced Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall with my presence 5 or 6 times, but I never knew they had barbecue. In fact, I never ate anything there at all. So imagine my surprise when on a return trip, there was ‘cue on the menu. And I had the entire Monk clan in tow to boot!
Monk: I’m assuming there was a change in the menu since you left Atlanta to become our Senior Tennessee Correspondent because on the day we visited (in town for the wedding of friend of the blog and Yelper HOFer TDB) the smell of smoke was evident as soon as we got out of our car and also wafted throughout the gravel patio set up with biergarten-style tables and firepits.
Food and drinks are ordered cafeteria-style in the mode of a Texas joint, and the line moves pretty quickly. Unfortunately, at dinner on a Thursday night they were out of brisket so we made do with the available meats that Speedy could tolerate.
Speedy: Easily the star of the show was the St. Louis style ribs. Meaty, tender, and well-seasoned, they had good flavor and texture, but lacked any extra “oomph” that I’m generally looking for that could come from an extra kick; the perfect application of smoke or a sweet glaze. So while perfectly enjoyable, and something I’d order again, I don’t think they will be winning any Memphis in May awards any time soon.
Monk: We always order pork when its available, but as soon as I brought the tray to the table I knew this pork wasn’t going to cut it for us North Carolinians. It came pre-sauced and if there was any smoke to be found, it was certainly masked by the thick, overly-sweet sauce.
Speedy: The wings, like the ribs, were solid if unspectacular. Smoked then fried, these wings were tender and had good flavor, but I didn’t feel compelled to write home about them. Called “Nashville Wings” on the menu, I didn’t taste traditional hot chicken seasoning (I have become an expert), so I’m not sure what that’s about. Still, worth ordering a round for sharing.
Monk: With our group we opted mostly for the “shareable” sides and on the whole they about as successful as the meats. Which is to say, a mixed bag. The pre-sauced pork made much more sense on the “BBQ fries,” the okra was fried nicely, the chilled street corn had good flavor, and the BBQ chips were inoffensive.
Speedy: The best part about Ladybird is definitely the huge outdoor space right on the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, which is perfect for people watching. In fact, Ladybird will show up on many “best of Atlanta” lists when discussing where to have a drink on a nice day. Unfortunately, it probably won’t repeat its spot on any best of barbecue lists. While the barbecue at Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall is good enough to get by, true ‘cue lovers are best served looking elsewhere.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 2 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Chicken Wings – 3 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs