Walls and Loveless Cafe were both great by any standard, and even though they tied, they were totally different. Walls had an authentic BBQ atmosphere, and the BBQ was great but it had a very distinct flavor, almost as if the BBQ sauce were tomato-sauce-based. Loveless Cafe was a nice restaurant with fantastic pork because they have their own smokehouse on the premises, but they put the BBQ sauce on top instead of mixing it into the sandwich, which drives me a little crazy.
Finally, the food at the more humble Fat Matt's and the sit-down restaurant Rendezvous were both amazing BBQ-of-your-life places. Rendezvous had dry-rub BBQ, which is a different style, but it was every bit as delicious as the saucy kind. If we had to pick a winner though, it would be Fat Matt's because along with a BBQ you feel the need to pilgrimage to, everyone there was so nice to us that we left walking on a cloud. They were especially nice to James. In contrast, Rendezvous's servers had a more of a soup-nazi attitude that we get enough of in New York.
Me and James at Fat Matt's in Atlanta, GA
James and Kevin at Rendezvous
One final note: there is no "A" on our list, so we thought about what place that we know of would be an "A." Buzz and Ned's in Richmond, Virginia is a good example of an "A," and is probably the standard we were using to judge the other places.
Our Ranking- Restaurant- Location - Grade- Description- Order We Ate It In
(1st ) Fat Matt's, Atlanta, GA: A+ (sweet, BQ flavor, perfect balance and size)
(1/2) Charles Vergos' Rendezvous, Memphis, TN : A+ (7)
(3) Walls, Savannah, GA: A- (tomato sauce and mustard sauce, more meaty) (4)
(3) Loveless Cafe, Nashville, TN: A- (BBQ-flavored sauce on top, big) (6)
(5) Hominey Grill, Charleston, SC: B+ (chicken, big sandwich)(5)
(6) Mojo 41, Jacksonville, FL: B+ (4 seperate sauce choices, Mojo sauce was very good, pork was good) (3)
(7) Mac's Speed Shop, Charlotte, NC: B (vinegar sauce, separate)(1)
Now, we weren't on a grits roadtrip, so I didn't seek out the best grits in each city and town we went to, so this list is pretty random. I love grits, so I couldn't resist having them when I saw them on the menu, and Hominey Grill is actually known for it's grits so we did go there for the grits instead of the BBQ. The standard I was judging these by were the two best grits I've had in my life: (1) Gouda grits with shrimp that I had at Taste of the South in 2005 from a restaurant in Florida, and (2) Katy's homemade cheese grits made with salty tap water in 2008. Loveless Cafe makes a decent runner-up to Katy's grits. Caviar and Bananas was pretty good too, but I was disappointed that Hominey, the place best known for it's grits, got last place on my list.
Loveless Cafe, Nashville, TN: A (classic cheese grits, yum)
Caviar & Bananas, Charleston, SC: A- (jalapeno cheese grits, not bad)
Hominey Grill, Charleston, SC: B+ (shrimp and grits, fancy and tasty, but not up to the hype)
The three of us at Loveless Cafe in Nashville
Finally, we drank a lot of coffee on the trip so these are our quick rankings of the best places. Kevin and I disagree about the Sentient Bean coffee. It had a strange licorice flavor which I thought was very good and Kevin didn't like at all. I probably would have ranked it first, and Kevin would have possibly ranked it last, so I split the difference, but it's probably just a love-it-or-hate-it flavor.
Dose, Nashville, TN (very good)
City Lights Coffee, Charleston, SC (very good)
Sentient Bean, Savannah, GA (Licorice-flavor)
Roasted, Macon, GA (fine)
Cool Beans, Columbia, SC (bad)
Yum, now I wish I were eating BBQ and grits and washing it down with coffee. At least I can have coffee tomorrow. And tomorrow... Kevin's post!