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. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cash's Smoke House BBQ, Franklin, NC

Cash's Smoke House BBQ, Franklin, NC.  "Where the Locals Go!"  Franklin is a beautiful small town in the southern part of the North Carolina.  It is only about 15 minutes or so north of the Georgia border, and it really has something of the feel of "older" North Carolina.  Franklin really got added to my "go to" list a couple of years ago when one of my old Cochran friends, Ben Dykes, shared that he and Sammy Haupt frequently drove up there searching for bargains.  Knowing Ben and Sammy, there had to be good bargains there to get their endorsement!!!  With a couple of really good antique malls and a few good antique stores, we've found some good deals over the past several years.  Franklin is certainly less "touristy" than Highlands and some other towns, and while it has its share of franchise type dining establishments, it has at least one bbq joint worth checking out.  On the south side of Franklin is the Whistle Stop Antique Mall.  Right behind the mall you'll find Cash's. 

This is truly a mom and pop operation.  On this particular Saturday, we found Michael and Amy Cash running the joint.  Ms. Cash was taking orders at the window while Michael was tending to fixing the plates and keeping his eye on the bbq that was in the small, commercial type smoker.  Debbie had been wanting a bbq sandwich with slaw on it for some reason, and that is an entree that is available at Cash's.  I ordered the bbq sandwich and Brunswick stew which most of my readers will know is my typical first visit order.  The food was up and out to us in a quick minute.  There's no real dining in available at Cash's, but there is an "enclosed" room that you can sit in if you want.  This particular January day, though, the weather permitted us to eat outside at one of their tables.

Both Debbie and I loved our sandwiches.  The meat was tender, moist, and sufficient in quantity.  The Brunswick stew was also better than average stew.  The color of the stew was attractive, its taste was rich with sufficient pork in the stew, and it consistency was excellent.  There was just enough meat in the stew to add both flavor and texture.  We tried out Cash's various sauces..only three if my memory serves me correctly.  The "hot and sweet" sauce ended up being our favorite.  Though I'll always try the typical NC vinegar sauce, it still isn't one of my favorites.

All in all, this place is winner.  Friendly service by two seemingly very nice people.  The food is excellent, and the prices are fair.  While I might could go higher, this little joint certainly gets at least a 4 and the 5 point scale.  We'll do Cash's again, but meanwhile, if you know of any other bbq joints we have to hit in NC, drop me a line!!!  So, if you are on the Georgia side of the border, Oinkers in Clayton is a recommended stop.  If you miss that stop and really want barbecue, ride on up through Dillard and into Franklin, NC.  There are a couple of potential options for barbecue in Franklin that will keep you satisfied while the misses has you walking row after row of antique booths!!!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Smok' n Pig, Macon, GA

The Smok' n Pig, Macon, GA. "Peace, Love, and the Smok' n Pig! OK, this blog may well "shuck a few things down to the cob". Being a Macon native, I guess I feel a bit like I can just say it like I see it. I grew up in Macon through some of the most tumultuous times in its history. We had the Allman Brothers Band, Machine Gun Ronnie Thompson as Mayor, the smell of the paper mill, educational desegregation, local governmental corruption, and the completion of the Macon Mall in the mid 1970's. As I see it, it was the survival of the fittest. Macon was not really a great place to live based on my experience and though my mother and sister continue to live there, I have never felt inclined to return to this beautiful and historical city. Honestly, Macon and Bibb County has never emerged to be the true jewel that it could be in my opinion. I continue to believe that the best thing that Warner Robins and Houston County have going for them is that they are right beside Macon. One thing that Macon has, though, that sets them apart from pretty much the rest of the state is some of the dang best barbecue joints you can find anywhere. The Q joints in Macon run gamut too! You've got the historic and phenomenal Finchers, Satterfields, JL's, Fresh Air, Georgia Bob's, and now.... OMG, The Smok' n Pig!!! Oh my! The Smok' n Pig's first location was in Valdosta. When our daughter Laura was a student at VSU I had my first taste of the Pig. The owners, as I understand it, had been in the food business for a number of years with their "Ole Times Country Buffet" business in south Georgia. I was blown away with the Valdosta location when we first ate there perhaps four years ago. The Valdosta location of the Pig had me saying that it was the best bbq joint in true south Georgia. I still feel that way. In fact, Smok'n Pig has been voted in the the top 10 bbq joints in the country, and you won't get any disagreement from me! When I got word that they had recently opened a location in Macon, I was like major thrilled!!! I began the machinations of "how can I get by there as quickly as I can and not make it appear that the only reason that I am going to Macon from north Georgia is to eat bbq?" Of course, I agreed to drive Debbie down to Macon to visit with our great friend Evelyn Ann Turner, and then I would go get my mother and take her out to eat bbq of course. It worked like a charm!!! So, daughter Laura and I dropped Debbie off to visit with the girls, and we drove over to pick up my mother. We wasted no time helping her into the car and drove over to the old Macon Mall where the Pig is located. I really didn't know what to expect as I didn't know if it was in the mall or a stand alone or what. The old Macon Mall has seen its better days, and a number of the stores have shut down. Believe me, though, the Pig is going to help reverse that trend. They've taken what must have been at least 7 of the smaller store areas and opened them up into what is honestly the largest bbq joint I've ever been in. I"m guessing you could seat 300 folks in this place easily. The good thing is they've done it up nicely on both the outside and and inside. The outside, as you can tell by the picture, is done up in faux log decor with some bbq markings. The inside is even done better. The place is clean, and I mean really clean. I was really surprised and impressed. The owners of this place know the food business and they know customer service. We were seated quickly, we had a nice friendly waitress named Morgan who attended to our ever need except for wiping our faces with the roll of paper towels on the table. We ordered our food and it was, just like Morgan told us it would be, out in just a few minutes. All of us pigged out on the pork sandwich. Laura got hers with slaw on it along with fried (knock your socks off) okra and baked beans. Gigy got the sandwich, slaw, and sweet potato stuff! (I still can't spell souffle!) I had to get the sandwich along with an order of Brunswick stew and okra. Oh my....what a moment. The portion sizes, except for the stew, were above average. The appearance of the food (I think they call that "presentation") was excellent right there on that red and white checkered piece of paper lining the basket! I am serious, this was good all the way around!!! Let me start with the okra. Now I like doing fried okra just about as much as I do eating bbq. I've had good and I've had bad. The okra was pretty awesome. I don't quite give it a 5 on the 5 point scale, but it isn't far from it. The stew, though the portion size was a bit small, is a really good stew with a nice mix of pork, whole kernel corn, English peas, tomatoes, onions and whatever else they have in it. As with the okra, I can't say it was the absolute best I've ever had, but it would suffice for my last meal on earth if it came down to it. Now, the bbq was divine. If you've read a few of my blogs you know I usually try to be generous but if it is bad, I'll shoot straight with you. If it is good, I'll ring the bell!!! Folks, Smok'n Pig is a bell ringer for sure. Portion sized was awesome. The bbq was clean. The meat was pulled compared to being chopped to smitherines like a few places do it, and the sauce was on the side. Thank you Pig!!! OK, on the 5 point scale.....5. All the way around, this is good bbq. No pun intended, but me, mom, and Laura pigged out. It was truly "pig-a-licious"!!! We finished our meals and I paid up and got out of there without feeling like I'd been held up or robbed despite the fact that I was at the Macon Mall!!!! For those who don't know, the Macon Mall is not necessarily a low crime area, but it sure beats "the Peach Orchard" part of town! My Macon friends recognize that the old mall is really a suburb of "bird city", but I'll leave that to you to figure out. I was so thrilled with our experience, as I left I purchased 6 bottles of their sauce including some of their Southern Mustard, Hot'n Spicy, as well as Original flavors. Their sauces are among the best I've ever had. Chances are if you are one of bbq buddies you'll probably end up with one of these bottles as a gift in the near future! I was even in such a happy mood that I shelled out 12 bucks for a tie died t shirt that proclaimed "Peace, Love, and The Smok'n Pig" and gave it to Laura. I loved the shirt but figured the tie died format probably didn't do much for my masculinity! I've got to wrap this blog up, the Smok'n Pig is for real. This joint, though it really doesn't qualify as a joint, is going to put someone in the food business out of business. There were way too many old folks and people in uniform that were at this place on this day, and Pig folks have a really proven business model. The bottom line is the Smok'n Pig gets a 5 out of 5. The worst thing about it is if you are not in the Macon Mall area you've just got to face the task of getting to that part of town. Otherwise, you are fully blessed being in Macon because you can get good barbecue whatever side of Macon you are on with what I will proclaim as "Macon, the BBQ Capitol of Georgia!!!"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fresh Air BBQ, Bogart, GA. After having been disappointed this past weekend with a bad bbq experience, the opportunity to rectify that came just 3 days later while in Athens, GA. I'd known for some time that there were actually a couple of Fresh Air locations in the Athens area, but it had been several years since I had been to the location on Hull Road. Today's trip to Athens worked out perfectly for a trip to Fresh Air. I'd gotten down to the UGA offices at Rivers Crossing nearly 90 minutes before when I needed to be there completely by accident! :-) Running into 3 colleagues affiliated with the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders right before lunch could not have been any more fortuitous. Hal, Dusty, and Jack agreed to indulge my bbq fetish, and honestly, three of us thought that we were going to another place that I'd never been called "The Butt Hut". Rather than driving us to the closer location, Jack actually drove us over to the Bogart location of Fresh Air. The Bogart location is not really that convenient to the UGA campus, but the Hull Road location may actually be a little closer. Since I've done reviews on the Jackson and Macon Fresh Air locations, I am not really going to go into a great deal of detail regarding the meal other than to say that the stew and bbq were up to Fresh Air's long history (since 1929) tradition. The bottom line is simply the fact that there are a number of good eating establishments in Athens. From a BBQ standpoint, there may be a couple. Fresh Air exceeds expectations on either side of town!!!