Swallow At The Hollow: ‘Cue Me In
There it is,” my copilot sang out as we drove down Roswell’s narrow Green Street. “Where?” I said, looking for a sign. “Right there. Don’t you see the stacks of firewood?” Ah. Of course. How could I miss that first important clue – along with the thin plume of blue smoke – to real barbecue?
I’d heard so much about Roswell’s famed barbecue shrine, the Swallow at the Hollow, that I came late, still half-expecting a big line. But we sailed in at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday night between the holidays, after the dinner rush and before the music crowd. (Swallow at the Hollow attracts some big names to perform in this rough-hewn rectangle, from Trisha Yearwood and Big and Rich to Wes Montgomery – along with popular local regulars like husband-and-wife team Tom and Julie. Cover prices range from mid-week free nights up to $75 for really special events. Music usually starts after 10 p.m. on weekends, after the kitchen closes.)
If I have any complaints about Swallow at the Hollow, it’s that on the night we visited, the lights over the wooden picnic tables were awfully bright. That and … well, actually, that’s all. Owner Paul Doster says that in the Swallow’s nearly eight years of existence, practically everything on the menu is made in-house, from the fluffy white loaf bread on the sandwiches, the butter-grilled biscuits, the sweet bread-and-butter pickles, and the sauces on the table (including mustardy South Carolina sauce, hot-and-sweet North Carolina sauce, and sweet Kansas City-style sauce).
Until recently, even the mayonnaise in the poppy-seed dotted coleslaw was homemade, Doster says. The pork barbecue is from 8- to 10-pound bone-in butts, which spend around five hours over the oak and hickory we saw outside, until they’re ready for slicing. Then, Doster says, the meat spends another three-to-five hours over the coals, until it’s “chopping ready – you grab it by the bone and shake, and the pork just falls away.”
Like the tender pork sandwiches, the ribs are smoky and moist, slathered with Kansas City sauce (ask for some extra warmed sauce on the side, and it arrives in a little metal pitcher fit for tea at the Ritz). The baked beans are dense and brown-sugared; the fries are crisp, but they’re not the standouts here.
Swallow at the Hollow serves my favorite kind of Brunswick stew: thick and meaty, with three different kinds of beans, thickened with cornbread. I couldn’t pinpoint the meats, so Doster happily explains: Swallow typically uses chicken and some turkey, he says, but when neighboring restaurant Greenwood’s has extra duck, they often use that as well.
And since you’ve had such a light and slimming meal up until now, you’ll surely want some dessert, like the homemade banana pudding with chocolate chips. (One serving is practically spa cuisine – if you’re ordering for eight.)
Note: If, like me, you’re not good at waiting for food, call or check Swallow at the Hollow’s web site to strategize your visit. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations for groups less than 10, but it will allow “accommodations” on music nights within a certain timeframe.
Krista Reese is Georgia Trend’s restaurant critic. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Swallow at the Hollow
1072 Green St.
Hours: Lunch and dinner Wed.-Sun.
Credit cards: All major.
Parking: Free in attached lot.
Dress code: Don’t wear a tie, unless you’re ready to sling it over your shoulder.