For as long as I can remember my family has been making the drive to Fresh Air Bar-B-Que for their pork and Brunswick stew. The restaurant was a welcomed stop on the trip between Macon and Atlanta that we made every holiday visiting family. It was that location along the highway that connected the two cities before I-75 was built that helped Fresh Air get its start, but it is their slow cooking process and quality that has kept the restaurant thriving for over eighty years.
Open continuously since 1929, Fresh Air maintains the same cooking methods and atmosphere that the restaurant has had since its humble beginnings (any possibly even the same sod on the floor!). Fresh Air was started in the mid-1940’s by Dr. Joel Watkins, a Jackson veterinarian, and was bought by George W. “Toots” Caston in 1952. Today the restaurant is run by Toots’ two grandsons, David and George Barber.
The menu is small, but the chopped barbecue, slowly cooked over a combination of oak and hickory wood and served with a sweet-tangy sauce of tomato and vinegar is the only thing you need. For fans of the Kansas City option of ordering the “burnt ends,” this is the not the place; the ‘cue is chopped fine and so tender that no chewing is needed (which makes me glad that I’ll be able to enjoy it even when I’m old and don’t have any teeth left). The Brunswick stew, still made according to Toots’ original recipe, is thick and meaty and achieves the same satisfying balance of sweet and tangy as does the sauce. So whether it’s the plate (comes with ‘cue, stew, and bread), or the deluxe plate (also has coleslaw and a pickle), you’ll probably be going back for a sack of sandwiches for the trip back.