Sitting in Atlanta traffic I was getting hungry. My prospects for sliding past Spaghetti Junction any time soon seem dimmed so I used the time to find someplace to eat. I figured I would be in Macon, Georgia by suppertime and was in the mood for some bbq. Two places caught my eye, and after running them by someone I know who lives in Macon, I decided to set course for JL’s Open Pit Bar-B-Que. I punched the address into my phone’s GPS program and listened to the electronic voice tell me how much further I had to creep before I could merge onto I-675.
Eventually I made it through the parking lot known as rush hour in Atlanta, and I was on a collision course with a pork sandwich. JL’s is located off of Exit 3 on I-475 in a large open parking lot surrounded by a ring of tall lights. A large sign marks its location, and the orange-ish pink neon letters decorate the exterior of the low slung beige sided structure. I pulled the door open and was greeted by a small contingent of folks waiting for their pickup orders. I surveyed the menu and decided to get a chopped pork sandwich, with a side of fries. For good measure I ordered a large sweet tea because there’s nothing better than bounding through Central Georgia on a pork fueled sugar high.
While waiting for my meal to be prepared I walked through the second set of doors and into the restaurant’s interior. I am not sure when JL’s opened, but I was instantly transported back to 1983. Four fours of light colored wooded tables lined the space. Red vinyl benches sat on each side while various condiments and a napkin dispenser made their home on the table top. The dining room was lit by a series of chandeliers that pumped out a blinding amount of light. A salad bar occupied one end with the bathrooms behind it to the left. The eating area was well kept and clean, but the men’s room was another story. It was filthy. Not in an old but we try and keep thing tidy kind of way, but rather in a sandblast the walls and power wash the stalls one. Yuck.
Undaunted by the dungeon-like bathroom facilities I returned to the counter and chatted with another customer. He was a native of Macon and had been eating at JL’s since they opened. He told me there was a second location in a strip mall off of Exit 9 on I-275, but that he thought the food was better at this location. A few moments later I was handed a brown paper bag containing my dinner by the smiling girl behind the counter. She must have heard me say I was from out of town, and as I left she wished me safe travels back to Tallahassee .
I decided eating a chopped pork sandwich dripping with sauce while traveling 75 mph was not the best idea and ate while stationary. Inside the sack was a container that held the chopped pork sandwich and a pickle. A small wax paper bag held some piping hot crinkle cut fries. They were nothing out of the ordinary, but I was happy they were hot instead of stone cold.
I assessed the pork sandwich before taking a bite. Large chunks of pork sat on a toasted hamburger bun. The meat was covered in a thin tomato based sauce. I took a bite and was impressed. The meat had a nice smoked flavor and there was a good mixture of tender pork bits and crunchy bark from the outside of the butt. Most importantly, the sauce did not overpower the meat, and its subtle sweetness complimented the flavors.
JL’s may may not win any awards for decor, or spotless facilities. However, they do make a good chopped pork sandwich and serve it with a smile. That alone makes it worth a stop the next time you’re traveling on I-475 through Macon, Georgia.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating:
There is something uncanny and wrong about the number of restaurants around Macon that have unsanitary restrooms. Bibb County should do something about that.
I have not been to many restaurants in Macon, Georgia, and will take your word for it. If I was running a restaurant clean bathrooms would be high on my list of priorities.
Hands down not just the worst BBQ I’ve ever had, but also the worst food I’ve ever eaten. The ribs were at least a week old and looked like shoe leather. There was no rub on the ribs and they were cooked in an oven. The BBQ sauce is ketchup with a bit of vinegar. The Mac and cheese had no cheese and was swimming in butter. For a gag we bought some sauce just so people in St Louis, where were from, would beleive us. There were 3 groups of people all from different states in the parking lot discussing our odds of getting food poison. At least we made some new friends in Florida as we bonded over how bad this place was. What an embarrassment to Georgia and barbecue.
Thank you for the comment Brian! I am sorry you had such a horrible experience. I eat a lot of BBQ while traveling around the South, and I thought this was good. The sauce was not as you described on my sandwich. I did not have the ribs, so I cannot comment on the dryness issue. Where is your favorite place for good bbq?