GRAY -- I’ve wanted to try Old Clinton Bar-B-Q ever since I first drove by it on my way to Athens several years ago. But as the saying goes, it was always out of sight and out of mind until I made the trek up U.S. 129 again.
The character of the building is what first caught my attention. From the 1950s-style sign featuring a pig to the proclamation that the barbecue is the “Best in Georgia,” I was intrigued.
So on a recent Saturday night, five friends and I hopped in the car and drove up to Gray to sample as much as our money would buy. And at prices ranging from just $2.65 for a pulled pork sandwich to $9.71 for a rib plate, we got a lot of barbecue.
The restaurant’s character that first caught my attention outside continued inside. We sat at a picnic table surrounded by Coca-Cola and Southern memorabilia, as well as newspaper clippings about the restaurant. The Discovery Channel’s TV show “Dirty Jobs” filmed there in 2008.
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Of the meats we tried, the pulled pork stood out the most to me. It was moist and covered in sauce, which was ladled on when I ordered. The red sauce was thin and tangy, with a bite from the vinegar.
The ribs and chicken, however, you had to sauce up yourself. The ribs had a rich smoky flavor, and while some in my party noted they were a little dry, “they came off the bone real nice,” a friend said. The chicken also was infused with the smoky taste, though it was not as strong. We did not try the turkey.
The pulled pork plate comes with Brunswick stew, coleslaw, white bread and sliced pickles. The Brunswick stew was hearty, but while I could visually see the corn, onion and tomato, I couldn’t give a positive ID to pork in the dish. The coleslaw was light on mayonnaise and heavy on relish, though perfectly ordinary at the end of the day.
The chicken and rib plates came with barbecue beans instead of the Brunswick stew. The beans were sweet and tangy, with a bit of hamburger meat mixed in.
Other items on the menu we ordered included corn nuggets, fried okra and jalapeño poppers. Of those, the corn nuggets -- bits of fried creamed corn -- were the best of the bunch. The cheese in the poppers was somewhat gritty. The okra was fine, but the okra-eaters at our table supposed it originally was frozen. The only dessert we sampled was pecan pie, which was fine and not overly sweet. All the food came out fast. Bulk items are available as well.
Overall, the barbecue was better than average, though not the best around. But the atmosphere can’t be beat.
Old Clinton Bar-B-Q
Address: 4214 Gray Highway, Gray
Phone: (478) 986-3225
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays
Payment: Cash, credit
Kids’ menu: No
Noise level: Low
Health rating: 99
Price range: $2.65-$9.71 (excludes bulk items)