Fresh Air Barbecue became iconically known as “the barbecue place” since its opening in 1929. Revered for their slow-cooking methods and consistent quality, this hidden gem is modestly tucked away in Jackson, Georgia. Folks come from all over to get a taste of real, pit-smoked barbecue.
Fresh Air is the oldest pit barbecue joint in Georgia, that is still in its original location. Pork hams are smoked through every hour of every day over hickory and oak wood, in the same brick construction that’s been used since the 1940’s. It’s one of the few barbecue meats that could be enjoyed without a drop of sauce; it’s perfectly smoky and chopped into fine shreds that are great for sandwiches.
Brunswick stew is an essential barbecue side; it takes time and patience to make the elaborate dish. Fresh Air serves some of the best, as they only use 100% eye of round roast beef. The tender meat is blended with a spiced, thick soup, complete with crisp corn and other fresh veggies.
Slaw was added a little later, and remains one of the few additions to the simple menu. This isn’t the slaw you’ll find at chain restaurants, which typically consists of long cabbage strands, a lot of mayo and too much sugar. Finely ground with minimal dressing and only a touch of sweetness, this is exactly what southern slaw should be. Don’t judge slaw until you’ve tried it here. Some even love to top their barbecue sandwiches with it!
The sauce is a subject of controversy amongst Fresh Air regulars; some love it and some would like it to be sweeter. The tangy vinegar sauce is unexpected in a land where there’s always a choice between sweet, spicy or tangy sauces. Although there’s not a sweet sauce at Fresh Air, the one they’ve got is refreshing and deliciously tart. At least as of now, an addition of a sweet sauce seems to be out of the question. But their simplicity is working. You can get that desired sweetness by adding the slaw on top.
Only a few snacks like pickles and chips accompany the rest of the menu; meat, slaw and stew are the core items that have served as the key combination to success of Georgia’s favorite barbecue restaurant. Of course, you can get it all in many combinations; deluxe plates, sandwich platters, party packs and bulk orders. Who wouldn’t want a quart of stew to get through chilly winter days?
Pecan, lemon and Reese’s pies, as well as brownies, fill the dessert slot. But seriously, that’s it. Fresh Air is your authentic Georgia stop without the frills; you can just soak in the incredible pit smell while munching on real barbecue in the original, wooden structure from the beginning days. One more location is based in Macon, but the original just has the magic.
Fresh Air Barbecue:
Address: 1164 Highway 42 S.
Jackson, Ga 30233