Saturday, February 14, 2015

Barrelhouse BBQ - Lynchburg, TN.

Barrelhouse BBQ - Lynchburg, TN. 
The little town of Lynchburg exists largely in part to the presence of the Jack Daniels Distillery.  People from all over the world flock to this little rural, out of the way, town to tour what I guess is one of the world's largest distilleries.  Whether you drink Tennessee sippin whiskey or not, a tour of the distillery and a stroll through town is worth the effort if you are in south central Tennessee.  There are at least 3 little diners in town who proclaim they are bbq joints.  Each of the little joints appear to have their own little sense of character.  Barrelhouse has its own uniqueness.  This is a small little joint sitting down the hill from the main part of this one square town.  Even though it was a Saturday afternoon, it was somewhat disappointing that there was no obvious "meat smoking" going on while we were there.  The place had a good crowd in it and the waitress was very polite and helpful.  She took our order while we sat on the authentic Jack Daniels bar stools.  While waiting for our food, we sampled the sauces.  The mild was certainly the best, but it still had a little bit of bite.  The other two sauces were a bit more on the hot side including the hottest being one that contained ghost chili peppers. 
The Barrelhouse doesn't offer stew, so Debbie and I both had the slaw as a side.  The slaw was actually pretty good.  The sandwich was well portioned with sort of stringy pulled pork.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I can only give this pork a 3 on this given day.  The experience was fine as we found another little bbq joint gem in the south.  Oh, yeah, I should add that all of the sauces allegedly have a Jack base to them which gives them a bit of a unique taste, and one that really is worth experiencing.

Central BBQ - Memphis

Central BBQ - Memphis. 

Memphis, as we well know, is famous for BBQ.  We had never been to Memphis, so on this Valentines Weekend 2015, Debbie and I struck out for a nearly 500 mile ride to check out Memphis' bbq, blues, and attractions.  A few Google searches suggested that Central may be the best bbq joint in town.  So after sort of sifting through the options, Central was the choice.  Oh my...quickly to the point!  Best ribs ever!!!  We ordered a 3 meat plate that included pulled pork, brisket, and ribs.  The two sides we got were beans and slaw. 
Central BBQ is a quaint joint with several dining rooms.  It is located south of the main part of Memphis right across from the National Civil Rights Museum.  Just as had been the case at the previous day's bbq joint, you place your order at the counter as you walk in.  If you are not early, plan on standing in line.  Many from the area as well as tourists will stop in Central on any given day.  You can check the plate of food out in the picture, but oh my, quantity was awesome.  Now beans and slaw were good, but not of the "best ever" category.  The brisket was very, very good.  The sauces going with the meat range from a "warm" mild, to a very spicy mustard, a fairly "hot" hot, and a vinegar based sauce that would make North Carolinians proud.  Now I try to shoot straight on my blogs without being critical, so I'll basically say that the pulled pork was good and in fact above average.  The winner, and I mean by far, was the ribs.  We got an order that was half dry and half wet.  Oh my.  Seriously, these were  exceptional.  The meat was "fall off the bone."  While I think I do a pretty good job on ribs, these were perhaps the best I've ever had. 
So, when you go to Memphis, be sure you check out the ducks at The Peabody, you catch a little blues down on Beale Street, and by all means, find time to dine at Central BBQ which certainly gets my vote for one of the best and most unique joints ever.

Saw's BBQ - Birmingham

Saw's BBQ.  Birmingham, AL.  February 12, 2015.   Hidden in the southern suburb of Birmingham known as Homewood, Saw's BBQ is truly one of the best little joint's I've ever eat at! 
Debbie and I were on our way to Memphis, and Birmingham was a perfect spot to stop off for lunch.  The place is somewhat off of the beaten path, but many beat the path to get lunch their daily.  We got there before 11:30 (weird Alabama time) just before the crowd.  Before we finished our lunch, the crowd was out the door with many opting to go elsewhere.  This little joint features "walk up to the counter" type of service.  We placed our order of the typical first joint visit of a sandwich and stew.  Debbie, of course, opted for slaw as her side.  The place is well adorned with lots of University of Alabama memorabilia including pictures of Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, and every coach in between.  Our lunch was out fairly quickly.  It didn't take Debbie long to proclaim that "this is the best bbq I've ever had".  I was trying out the Brunswick stew while she was savoring the bbq.  The stew was pretty good, but I wouldn't rank it the best I've ever had.  It was a good looking stew with good color and consistency.  The taste was very good as well.  We got a side of Alabama white sauce with our bbq mainly because we seldom get that option in Georgia.  The bbq, as Debbie had said, was exceptional.  I would have bbq in two more well known joints over the next two days, and frankly, as good as they were elsewhere, to date, Saw's is surely one of the best I've ever had.  It's no wonder that the Birmingham area has voted Saw's best in the area!

Friday, July 19, 2013

12 Bones BBQ, Asheville, NC

photo.JPG12 Bones, Asheville.  Asheville, NC has long been one of my favorite cities.  While I found it beautiful during the summer of 1977 when I spent the summer there, in recent years it has undergone somewhat of a rejuvenation in the area of the arts and dining.  With mountains on every side, the amazing Biltmore House, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can find dozens of things to do in Asheville.  Of course, you know if I go there, we are going to check out BBQ!  We had done the usual Google search for Asheville's best BBQ, and after reviewing the reviews and menus, it was decided that we would put 12 Bones on top of our to do list.  Upon arriving in the River Arts District, our GPS took us right to the place.  Frankly, I was a little taken aback in that the joint is just that, a rather old building in the old warehouse district near the river.  What was present, though, were a number of cars in the parking lot with a line all the way from the order counter to the door.

photo.JPG  Once in the place, we scoped out the order counter where a rather young and energetic crowd manned both the counter but the kitchen as well.  I placed my order of a bbq sandwich, baked beans, and collard greens.  To my delight, 12 Bones serves up Cheerwine soda (unique largely to NC), so we fixed our soft drinks and awaited our order.  The old joint was bustling with folks.  The food that the wait staff was bringing by insured us that we had made the right decision to try 12 Bones.  Within just a few minutes, our food arrived.  Oh my, as you can tell from Debbie's salad in the back ground and my plate in the foreground, the food proportions were large.  Debbie's salad came with pork, onion ring strings, and cornbread...and some of the best I've eaten in a while!
To get the salad out of the way, the only complaint Debbie had was that the salad dressing was rather spicy.  No doubt, though, there was more than enough food for one person on this salad plate.  The bbq was, well, just about the best I've had in a long time.  The meat was clean with just enough smoke taste.  The moisture content was perfect in that it was moist and not dry while being relatively lean and not fatty.  On a scale of 1 to 5, a 4.5 rating seems to be about right.  Truly among the best.  The beans, too, were fantastic.  With just enough chopped pork in the beans, they were flavorful with a hint of mustard in the base.  I can only rank the collards about average.  The appearance of them was fine.  They had a healthy (or maybe unhealthy that is) amount of pork in them, but somehow they didn't rank up there with the best that I had ever had.  12 Bones sticks true to a bbq joint menu.  You won't find catfish, hamburgers, or that kind of add on type of food.  You just find real bbq meats to include pulled pork, ribs, brisket, chicken, and smoked turkey.

12 Bones in the Press.  12 Bones has served up some very famous folks.  On at least two occasions, President Obama has dined at 12 Bones.  They have been featured in a number of magazine and newspaper articles for among other things some pretty impressive awards among the Asheville dining scene. As shown in the photo above, they've even been awarded the "Good Morning America's Best Bite Challenge" award.

In case you forget to pick up a bottle of 12 Bones BBQ Sauce while you are at the story, don't can find it in just about every little gift shop and other stores in Asheville.  The folks at 12 Bones have got to be making a killing on their (slightly pricey) sauce.  In regards to their sauces, their mainstay is a slightly sweet tomato based sauce that is thicker than you typically find in NC.  Their vinegar based sauce is about as thin as you'll find.  If my memory serves me correctly, their mustard based sauce really was top notch in both consistency, spiciness, and overall taste.

All in all, if you are going to Asheville, this is a "must do" stop.  At the river store, they are only open during the middle of the day on Monday through Friday.  Why not on Saturday and Sunday?  They flat don't have to be!!!  The business during the 5 or so hours a day they are open each day is clearly brisk enough to make the business a success.  I know there are a couple of other highly regarding bbq joints in Asheville, and I'll catch them next time, but there's no regrets for having chosen 12 Bones on this late June trip in 2013!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dave Poe's BBQ, Marietta, GA.

Dave Poe's BBQ.  "Poe's is so redneck...ghetto."   For some reason or the other, I never think of Marietta, GA as being a place where you can find good bbq.  Truth is, that isn't the truth.  There are at least 3 allegedly outstanding bbq joints in the Marietta area including Williamson Brothers which is truly a winner.  In early June 2013, Debbie and I found another one:  Dave Poe's BBQ.  Deb had wanted a reason to ride over to Marietta to walk the downtown area.  I am always on a bbq mission, so I never protest checking out new bbq options.  The "Atlanta Magazine" recently did an article on the best q joints in the metro area and Dave Poe's made the list.

I've had to shrug my bias against bbq joints located in strip malls some years back.  I still sort of eschew that type of setting, but hey, not everyone can build or find a quaint structure (like Swallow at the Hollow) sufficient to house a bbq joint and make a go of it.  Location is highly important in the food industry.  We walk into Poe's shortly after 1 on a Saturday afternoon.  We stand in line behind approximately 10 customers who each place their order at the county.  The order taker clips the order to a "zipline" and sends it back to the food prep area.  Working the counter and greeting guests, even on a Saturday afternoon, is the founder of the joint, Dave Poe.  Poe works the diner pretty well stopping to see if the customers are happy and then from time to time delivering something needed by the diners.

We work through the line pretty quickly.  We are given our cups for our drinks and then wait for our number to be called out and then return to the counter to retrieve our food.  It is a low level of service, but the bbq clearly makes up for the difference.  Furthermore, the price of the food is reflected in the level of the "waitressing"!  Deb and I both ordered sandwiches.  My side items was Brunswick stew.  The sandwich came with a couple of dill pickles which is always a good thing.  Before I could even get into eating my meal, Debbie was telling me about the quality of hers.  Good coloring.  Smoky flavor.  After a couple of minutes of picture taking, I finally was into mine.  I took a couple of bites of the stew for starters.  Wow, it was really good.  Clearly it ranked a 4 (or better) out of 5.  It was smokey flavored, attractive in color, great taste, and with a nice residual taste.

Next came the BBQ.  The bbq was attractive in presentation with a good mix of light charring, darker smoke ring meat, along with some lighter inner portions.  It had a great smokey flavor and was about perfect in moisture content.  We both went on about the great flavoring of both the bbq and our sides.  Based on the number and type of customers in the joint on this Saturday afternoon, you could tell that Poe's is a popular place located about a mile outside of downtown Marietta.  The fact that Dave Poe gives it his personal attention and "works the crowd" really adds character to the place that would otherwise get lost as another place to eat in an old strip mall.

You can check out the menu for Dave Poe's BBQ at  Poe's apparently does a robust catering business, and I would understand why.  Poe's has been featured in several metro area and Georgia related magazines reflecting Dave's serious reputation as a bbq cook.  They've received some pretty high level reviews.  While it isn't necessarily either "that redneck" (like Fresh Air), that "ghetto" like Daddy Dz's), or your "ultimate dining experience", it is worth a stop if you are in the Marietta area.  I'm betting Poe opens up another place or two in due time as well as finds perhaps a more attractive facility than the strip mall.  Meanwhile, be sure to explore Poe's rendition of "Redneck Lasagna".  It looks more than awesome!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cabin Creek BBQ, Nicholson, GA

Cabin Creek BBQ, Nicholson, GA.  "Nice Butts....Great Racks".  You have to love a BBQ joint that boasts such a little slogan on the cover of their menu.  The truth is, you will love Cabin Creek.  Cabin Creek had been recommended to Debbie and I some months back, but frankly, though being on a major 4 lane in North GA, this was a road and community that we had no reason to visit except for the fact that it was supposed to have some good bbq.  On this beautiful late winter day, Debbie and I decided to take off toward Nicholson and find out if Cabin Creek would live up to its recommendation. I had figured that doing a little shopping in Jefferson and Commerce areas would warrant me getting a bbq slip from Debbie.  After enjoying the charming little town of Jefferson and some of its really neat "small town" shopping venues, we headed over toward Nicholson.  We promptly found Cabin Creek.  I sort of new it would be a hit when in the parking lot were a dozen vehicles from autos, pickup trucks, and the local septic tank pumping company's service vehicle.  Located just about 15 minutes north of Athens toward Commerce, Cabin Creek is easily found and worth going a few miles out of the way to try it out.

We found Cabin Creek to be exceptionally clean.  The two waitresses were working hard, but we were waited on pretty quickly.  The menu was simple of enough.  After I got past enjoying the cover found above, my choices were quickly made.  I picked the bbq sandwich, slaw, and Brunswick stew while Debbie did almost the same except substituting baked beans for the stew.  There were only 3 sauce options:  Hot, Mild, and Vinegar.  I settled in on both the Hot and Mild.

Our meals came out pretty quickly and we could not wait to taste our food.  Everything pretty well passed the "appearance" test.  The bbq had a really nice appearance while the stew and beans were just average in appearance.  Make no mistake though, both the beans and stew were exceptional in taste.  They were both surprisingly outstanding.  It was obvious that the beans had been juiced up with brown sugar, and they were clearly some of the best baked beans I've had.  I'd clearly give the stew a 4.5 out of 5.  What it lacked in appearance, it made up for in taste.  The stew was so wonderful I chatted with our waitress about it to get some details of the recipe.  I think the key to their Brunswick stew was that first, it contained ground beef, pork and chicken as wel as the fact that the base was "stock" from all three.  As indicated, the appearance was just average, but this is some seriously good stew.

Debbie and I differed a little on the bbq.  She'd have liked to have seen a little less fat and a little more charring.  To me, it was about perfect.  The bbq had a great smoky taste.  It was moist and pulled in nice sections that fit well on the bun.  There was no "chopping to smitherines" but just nice sections of perfectly pulled pork.  While it wasn't necessary to go heavy on the sauce, I did try both the Hot and Mild sauce varieties.  My rating of the bbq will sit at 4.5 out of 5.  Portion size could have been a little better, but other than that, this place is a hit.  Though we passed on desserts, Cabin Creek offers home made offerings of their dishes to include banana pudding.

Cabin Creek BBQ does a few things that are particularly interesting, nice, or different.  First of all, there is one entree' that as a South Georgia native, I was not familiar with, and that is Chicken Mull.  Chicken Mull is offered by Cabin Creek during the winter months only.  The "mull" is a chicken soup type of dish that is apparently common mostly to the Northeast Georgia Mountain area.  I've attached the following link for those who want to know more about Chicken Mull!  Additionally, Cabin Creek does serve beef brisket, so for those who will drive for miles hunting good brisket, Cabin Creek offers this great bbq offering.  Finally, from time to time (to include for the remainder of March), Cabin Creek will offer "all you can eat" bbq meals on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Cabin Creek offers catering as well as to go purchases in various sizes of their menu items.  Owned by  Randy and Teresa Kesler, this business is a local hit.  If you are planning your UGA game day tailgate, placing an order with Cabin Creek would surely make your event a big hit.  Whether or not we make it back over to Cabin Creek anytime in the near future is not certain, but I am glad that I found this gem of a northeast Georgia bbq joint.  I offer the strong recommendation to check out the menus, and entree's, at Cabin Creek BBQ in Nicholson, GA.

Monday, February 11, 2013

J's Southern Smoke BBQ, Cumming, GA.


J's Southern Smoke BBQ.  Cumming, GA

From Scoutmob:  It takes a little more than a pair of tongs, a snarky apron and singed eyebrows to become a tried-and-true southern barbecuer. Micah, the master-'que behind J's Southern Smokehouse, was naturally gifted with impeccable smoker skills of the highest order.

During the past (almost) 6 years that we have lived in Cumming, there have been some good bbq restaraunts come and go.  Notably those coming and being successful have been Jim 'n Nick's, Cue, Smokejack, and even a new Dickie's.  The current longest continuous operating bbq joint is Slopes.  Now there is a new little joint which certainly qualifies as a mom and pop little place.  J's, by nature of the competition mentioned above, has its work cut out for it; however, based on my own experience and some outstanding reviews on such sites as urbanspoon they may just be able to find a niche in the competitive food service business.

Some weeks back, my and Chris Grimes decided to check out J's.  I had heard some good comments from a couple of my co-workers, so the day came for us to give it a try.  J's is located in what was once an old bank.  (I'm glad we can recycle banks into bbq joints!  What better use!)  Though small on the inside, the place was very clean, well decorated, and qualified as a "quaint little joint."  At J's, you order at the counter, fix your drink, find a seat, and then they bring you your meal.  A pretty common routine for a joint of this nature.  Chris and I ordered our meals, and they came out pretty quickly which is always a good way to start.  As is my typical order for a first time visit, I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and the Brunswick stew.  Here's for your viewing pleasure!

This is what pulled pork is meant to be!  The meat was moist but clean.  It was moderately smokey with light charring (which works for me).  As you can tell in the picture, there is an ample quantity on the large piece of toasted bread.  J's gives you enough sauce choice for things to be interesting including a South Carolina style mustard based sauce.  The stew was excellent.  Again, the picture shows really great coloring with a taste that matches.  It is not too hot but spicy enough.  It has a great blend between the meat and vegetable mix. 

For a small q joint, J's has a good menu mix.  Yes, he's got brisket, pork, ribs, chicken, and a reasonable mix of sides.  Some have complained that the price point may be a touch on the high side, but I certainly think it is competitive compared to some of the larger competitors. 

All in all, we'll give J's at least a 4 out of 5 star ranking until it either earns an bump either way.  The food business is tough.  Having a good business plan (like Jim 'n Nick's) is critical.  Being in the right location is essential.  J's has good food.  Time will tell if the other ingredients to success are there.  Certainly, the BBQ is worth checking out.  I have every plan to head back to see them in the near future.