As a Georgian…and a fan of BBQ… I’ve had a real difficult time finding a home-base in my home-state. A lot of that has to do with the urbanization of Atlanta and the metro area. Simply put, there is very little focus on “pure” BBQ. Sure, you can get your fill on boutique BBQ from gastropubs, farm-to-table diners, and Hipster joints… but the BBQ is almost an afterthought here.
Maybe it’s the fact that the restaurant market is over-saturated… Maybe its because Atlanta is full transplant citizens who cannot agree on a flavor profile…or maybe its because we simply do not care for BBQ in the “City in the Forest”. No matter the reason, there is no “Atlanta” style BBQ here.
Sure…we do have one or two EXCELLENT BBQ spots in town (which I will review later)… but each have a style borrowed from another state. At one time, there was not a single spot in the Peach State that I could recommend to a traveller looking for down-home Georgia style BBQ… until now.
A Hidden Treasure…
In late 2007, my parents purchased a home in Savannah, GA. It was a place that my family was not familiar with…so we were eager to explore the town. Over a couple of days, we explored the city in search of shops, boutiques, and restaurants that would become our favorite spots to visit (Vinnie Van Go-Go’s, Bonna Bella Yacht Club, Pearl’s, and the Olde Pink House to name a few). It was during this first trip that I received a text from my brother-in-law that said we needed to try this place called SandFly Bar-B-Q.
With a full agenda for the trip (and SandFly being slightly off-the-beaten path)… we didn’t make it to SandFly. The suggestion actually fell out of mind for over a year…
It was the following year that my girlfriend (now wife) and I needed to make a quick stop to Piggly Wiggly (now a Bi-Lo) to grab some groceries. We passed an unassuming strip mall and she pointed out the marquee, “SandFly Bar-B-Q? Isn’t that the place Steve wanted us to try?”
We were feeling exploratory, so we thought we’d give it a try. It’s nearly 7 years later, and we still make a point to return to Sandfly every time we return to Savannah. So how is it, you ask? Well… here we go…
SandFly Bar-B-Q is the right mix of down-home comfort food, and out-of-the-park smokey goodness.
Let there be no mistake. This is the type of place that you want to grab a quick bite…or get an order to go…and I don’t fault SandFly for that. What this restaurant lacks in seating and space… they make up for with Southern charm and homey decor. When you first walk in the door, you are greeted by friendly counter staff standing next to a giant chalkboard wall. Menu/Pricing is etched in neat writing amongst doodles and nicknacks that make you feel like you’re at a friend’s grandma’s house for lunch. The indoor tables are covered with checkered table cloth, table caddies, and paper towels… while the covered patio offers ideal picnic seating for a warm summer day. All-in-all, there isn’t much more that you’d want from a Southern BBQ joint.
So why do I rank the ambiance a 7 out of 10? Well my only gripe is the footprint. Simply put, the walkway between the counter and seating can get a little tight during peak hours. If you choose to sit inside, you only have to pass the crowd twice (on your way in, and on your way out). If you choose to sit outside, you have to pass the counter 3-4 times (on your way to the drink fountain, back out the front door to get outside, back in for a refill, back out to leave). When seated, however, there is absolutely nothing to complain about in regard to the experience.
…so that’s the only negative…and honestly…they totally make up for it with their service.
Perhaps the most important aspect of any restaurant… SandFly really nails customer service. As mentioned above, the queue can be stressful for any customer during peak hours. However, that claustrophobic feeling is quickly numbed by the kind smiles and hospitable service of the counter staff. The cashiers are knowledgeable of the menu, and make comfortable conversation beyond your average small talk. Once you complete your payment, you are instructed to grab a table. Within 2-3 minutes, staff will bring you your fresh food straight to the table and ask if there is anything else they can help you with. We’ve been going here for 7 years…and have never had an incorrect order.
At first glance, the menu prices may look a little high…however, a little digging and you’ll find that you can leave with a full stomach for under $7. I know you may assume that the Junior sandwich is for kids… but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, the Junior would be the regular at any other Restaurant… and the Regular has a serving of pork fit for a lumberjack. With the Junior starting at $4.50 and most sides at $2.25.. you should be quite full at $6.75. I usually go with the Regular…and I never leave hungry!
As far as menu diversity, the staple proteins are Smoked Sausage, Burgers, Pork, Brisket, Pulled Chicken, and Chicken Salad. There are also plenty of options for children with Corn Dogs, Chicken Tenders, and Grilled Cheese. Additionally, a plethora of sides are available starting at $2.25 for smalls and $4.50 for a large order. Finally, SandFly offers family take-out by the pound. We usually grab it to-go for a day on the boat or at the pool…and it ALWAYS satisfies the crowd.
For the entire menu, check it out here: http://sandflybbq.com/Menu.php
Overall, the food is excellent. Whereas a lot of BBQ Restaurants lean on the sauce to carry the meal… you can tell that SandFly Bar-B-Q really concentrates on the preparation of their meat. The pork has a strong smoke flavor thanks to a super vibrant smoke ring. The pork is always hot and always freshly prepared. My only warning is to get there early rather than later, because I have been there when they’ve run out.
As for the other proteins, I’ve had an opportunity to try the beef brisket… which I must say is an absolute delight. Whereas brisket is a cut that usually has a large fat presence… SandFly ensures that their brisket errors on the side of quality (in a high non-fat ratio) over quantity (in a mostly fat ratio). Their pulled chicken is also good… but the smoked sausage is an absolute gem. I definitely recommend the sausage if you want to depart a little from your “normal” BBQ.
If there is one area that I could have a complaint, it is the sauces. Now let me be clear… I personally love all three sauces that SandFly offers: Mustard-Based, Sweet, and Spicy Vinegar. However, I have to represent my readers that may not have a stomach (or the taste buds) for spice. All three sauces have a strong heat, which is disappointing for someone that is a fan of the KC-inspired BBQs. If there is one area that SandFly could concentrate on… it would be the introduction of a 4th sauce option with less heat (note that I did not suggest the removal of any of the three existing sauces ).
Overall Score: 88
So here’s the skinny. Overall… service is perfect, food is outstanding, and the menu/price won’t give you buyer’s remorse. The ONLY thing I would change is the layout of the Restaurant. But let’s be honest here… theres an aspect of that layout…and the shuffling through the customers…that kind of gives it that extra charm. Let’s just say, I’ll be back… for the next 7 years or more. Total: 44/50
For more information about SandFly Bar-B-Q… visit their website here: http://www.sandflybbq.com.Tweet