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Never Ending Soul Food Tour - Fatt Matt's Rib Shack, Atlanta, GA

James Calemine’s “Never Ending Soul Food Tour” includes documented visits to barbecue joints, catfish dens, chicken shacks and any establishment serving memorable vittles. All photos by James Calemine.

Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack
1811 Piedmont Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30324

Located on historic Piedmont Road, Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack ranks as, arguably, the best barbecue ribs in Atlanta. Upon walking in the door, patrons hear a constant soundtrack of blues musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Classic photographs of old blues men and women cover the walls of this veritable establishment.

Every evening blues bands perform where a dilapidated piano (that once belonged to the legendary Peacock Lounge) and old Fender amplifier now rest on the small stage. The black and white checkerboard floor adds an element of old-time soul beneath these humble diner tables.

Besides the interesting atmosphere, the main attraction of Fatt Matt’s remains the barbecue. Fatt Matt’s originated in 1990. Next door, Matt opened the Chicken Shack in 1994 that serves mighty fine chicken and fish dinners. Each place attracts a diverse clientele from beautiful women dressed in corporate clothes to the common carpenter.

For $11 one can experience an unforgettable barbecue meal at the Rib Shack. A half slab of ribs costs $8.50 accompanied by Matt’s legendary rum-soaked beans ($.75), fresh coleslaw ($.75), alongside two thick slices of white bread, and a lemonade completes your lunch. The tender meat cooked slow slides off each rib.

Matt’s barbecue sauce also commands respect - the thick reddish sauce does not distract from the tender meat, but still provides a subtle kick. When I asked Matt about his special sauce and beans he told me, “The sauce is a concoction that me and one of the girls, Juanita Lewis, who has passed away - she died about ten years ago - originated. Before we’d open up she and I would be working on that sauce. I send that sauce all over the country. The beans were another recipe Juanita and I worked on.”

Fatt Matt’s also includes a variety of domestic and imported beers. This barbecue shack shows no signs of mediocrity. It’s worth a trip to Hotlanta just to taste these ribs. Fatt Matt’s reveals a pastoral reverence for blues and barbecue, and you’re sure to go away with sauce under your fingernails…

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