Fresh Air Barbecue

Worth driving from anywhere!

Barbecue, which always has been of the people, by the people, and for the people, got hip in the last few years. Any American city with trend-conscious foodies likely has a popular new barbecue restaurant. More than likely, it’s so popular that you have to wait (sometimes hours!) to get in and eat the precious brisket or pork and mac ‘n’ cheese and cornbread and such. Some of this food is yummy, and many of the restaurants do a good job of aping the humble mien of authentic barbecue parlors with such accoutrements as metal trays and tin cups, butcher-paper serving doilies, and blues music on the sound system. I am happy that barbecue has been recognized as a significant cultural phenomenon, although I do wonder if, like so many trends, it will fade from the spotlight and go back to simply being food that ordinary people eat and enjoy without the hoopla.

…  all of which is a long-winded introduction to a barbecue parlor that is as basic, fundamental, and unfancy as a restaurant can be: Fresh Air Barbecue of Jackson, Georgia, since 1929. Dining facilities are log-cabin simple, reminiscent of mess hall in summer camp. To give you an idea of just how anti-fashionable this place is, here is the full menu: pork, Brunswick stew, cole slaw. You can get the pork on a plate or in a sandwich and the sandwich can be made on a bun or on slices from a white loaf. There is extra sauce, and it’s nice and tangy; but honestly, this high-on-the-hog ham, infused with hours of hickory-and-oak smoke and hacked to smithereens, is so right as-is with just a twist of vinegar that dressing it up any more than that is lipstick on a pig.

Brunswick stew, dating back to a family recipe from the 19th century, has been part of the menu from the beginning. It is a soupy, brightly seasoned affair thick with ground roast beef and just a few corn kernels — nice when you crumble a few saltines on top. Cole slaw, which was added to the menu a few decades into Fresh Air’s existence, is unique and wonderful. It is finely chopped yet fairly creamy, not the least bit sugared, its flavor a beguiling veggie duet of cabbage and sweet Georgia onions.

One of the unique things about this original Fresh Air Barbecue is that it never really closes up, as the pit operates 24/7/365. The restaurant opens to the public at 8am. Yes, indeed: smoke-cooked pork makes a grand breakfast.

There is a second location of Fresh Air, in Macon, GA, at 3076 Riverside Dr. (478-477-7229). It does not open until 11am and it has a much broader menu.

What to Eat
Fresh Air Barbecue, BBQ Loaf Sandwich
BBQ Loaf Sandwich
This is a BBQ "loaf," meaning it's made on bread sliced from a loaf rather than on a bun.
Fresh Air Barbecue, Cole Slaw
Cole Slaw
Curiously creamy/crisp cole slaw is sweet, but not sugar sweet. It's more about the duet of cabbage and onions.
Fresh Air Barbecue, Brunswick Stew
Brunswick Stew
Beefy Brunswick stew contains only a few little bits of vegetable.
Directions and Hours
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
21 stops | 1088 MILES | 17 hr 58 min

The 24th Annual HOT ROD Power Tour

This is a seven-day, seven-city journey expected to bring together more than 6,000 vehicles and 100,000-plus spectators making it the largest traveling car-show in the world! Starting in Bowling Green, KY, the route winds through Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, eventually ending in Concord, NC, a region so rich…

Open Year Round
Meals Served
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Alcohol Served
Outdoor Seating

Other Nearby Restaurants

  • Bon Ton

    Atlanta, Georgia

    New Orleans meets Vietnam at Atlanta’s Bon Ton, where everything is different, from spicy boiled peanuts to 5-spice shrimp with buttered bread.

  • West Egg Café

    Atlanta, Georgia

    From roasted corn and fried chicken hash to fluffy biscuits with hot pepper jelly, excellent and large breakfast dishes abound all day at Atlanta’s West Egg Café.

  • Victory Sandwich Bar

    Atlanta, Georgia

    Don’t call the $4 sandwiches at Victory sliders. They’re so much more, served in a gorgeous open-air spot with magical popcorn & ramen, fresh salads & spiked soda.

  • Spud Dog

    Macon, Georgia

    Creativity rules at Macon’s Spud Dog: excellent wieners and sausages with outlandish toppings and big baked potatoes stuffed with meats & veggies.

  • Hunter’s Cafe

    Jackson, Georgia

    Jackson, Georgia’s cafeteria-style soul food town cafe offers meat-and-3 lunch and spectacular sausages, ham, & sausage gravy at breakfast. Open 7 days a week.

  • Fincher’s Barbecue

    Macon, Georgia

    A Macon, Georgia, favorite since 1935, Fincher’s features pulled & chopped smoke-cooked pork with Brunswick stew etc. Breakfast, too, Tuesday thru Saturday.