Beef brisket injected with miso? Pork ribs marinated in Korean chili paste? Korean kimchi piled atop of a barbeque sandwich? What might sound like a culinary culture clash actually has come to yield some of the most dynamic flavors on either side of the Pacific Ocean- and it’s right here in our own backyard. Welcome to Atlanta Eats Hidden Gem, Heirloom Market BBQ.
Packed into a tight corner of a tiny building on Akers Mill near the Chattahoochee River (the other 75% belongs to the shabby Akers Mill Food convenience store), Heirloom is the amazing lovechild to two brilliant chefs, Cody Taylor, BBQ pit master and Ritz Carlton Buckhead chef, and Jiyeon Lee, a Cordon Bleu-trained Korean chef who has cooked at Restaurant Eugene and the Atlanta St. Regis. Together this duo has melded classic southern BBQ and Korean cooking into certified traffic jam-causing eating. And oh yeah, Taylor and Lee are also husband and wife.
Head down to the “little BBQ shack by the river” and experience flavors you must taste to believe. All of the meats (with the exception of the brisket and turkey) are marinated in gochujang, a fermented Korean chili paste. The result: tender, sweet and spicy meats that explode with flavor. As previously mentioned, the brisket experiences an injection of miso before hitting the smoker, which not only delivers a deliciously complex salty flavor to the meat but also tenderizes it to the point it literally melts in your mouth. Even the traditional side dishes are Korean-inspired, from the cucumber radish salad/green tomato kimchi, to the addition of miso in the collards, kimchi in the coleslaw, Korean red pepper flakes in the mac and cheese and sesame seeds on the Asian style sweet potatoes.
Probably my favorite meal in the whole city is as follows: Start with “The Kordova,” a sandwich that piles a heap of gochujang-marinated pulled pork onto a potato bun, then tops off with roasted garlic/jalapeño ssam sauce (a traditional miso based sauce) pickled daikon and finally kimchi kale. Each bite yields utter rapture; the softness of the sweet pork, the crunchiness of the pickled radish, the spicy bite of the kimchi—this sandwich brings the entire flavor spectrum into one glorious place.
My favorite side: the green tomato kimchi made with pickled, hyper-crisp green tomatoes, red radishes and jalapeños, marinated with a sweet and spicy vinegar. Crunchy, sweet, spicy and oddly refreshing. It’s almost too much to absorb in one meal. And for dessert? A good old fashioned homemade southern All-American banana pudding.
Now you got your bib and you’re ready to eat…just don’t get any ideas about a cushy dining experience. Part of the charm of Heirloom is arriving early and laying claim to one of the few coveted parking spaces in the crammed Akers Mill Food Store parking lot. Should you obtain one, get ready for the queue that often snakes around the corner. The line moves quickly, ushering you into the kinetic small room where the food is prepared and then given to you to go. Some very limited covered outdoor hi-top tables are available just off the side of the building—standing room only—and the infectious communal feeling of the on-site diners centers around the shared bliss of the food.
One recommendation to avoid the fray: order ahead by phone or on the website and then sweep in and take it to go. But then again, who would want to stay out of this glorious fray? After all, the chaos is just part of being an Atlanta Eats Hidden Gem.
For more behind-the-scenes knowledge of Heirloom Market BBQ, check out their Atlanta Eats segment here. And be sure to watch Atlanta Eats every Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on Peachtree TV for more of your favorite Atlanta restaurants!