Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blue Creek BBQ, Cleveland, GA

Blue Creek BBQ, Cleveland, GA. What a wonderful surprise. After about 90 miles on North Georgia's most curvy mountain roads, Blue Creek was a fantastic respite from the cool North Georgia mountain air. I almost didn't stop here, but after passing by and seeing the sign ".99 cent 32 ounce iced tea", I figured it had to be a new addition to our collection. Deb and I gladly dismounted the Harley and went in to a join a combination of locals, tourists, and bikers looking for a good Q lunch. We were not disappointed. After ordering two drinks, a sandwich, stew, and a pork salad, I was only a little over 12 bucks lighter. The bbq sandwich was awesome both in size and taste. Blue Creek has but one sauce, and it is a fairly mid-range sauce that is pretty good in consistency and taste. The Brunswick Stew is really a pretty good stew. It isn't too thick nor is it too thin, but after a cool mountain ride, it sure hits the spot. The folks who work at Blue Creek are really hospitable, and unlike One Star BBQ in Alpharetta, you can fill your tea or coke glass up all you want for $.99...and yes, that makes a difference!!! So if you are headed to Helen or the Cleveland area, Blue Creek will not be a disappointment.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mickey Pigg's, Alto, GA

Mickey Pigg's BBQ, Alto, GA. When we started out this morning, I didn't have a clue which bbq joint I'd hit today, but I had it on my radar. We were headed up toward Mt. Airy, GA to pick up a new trailer to haul the Harley on, and I had Googled my projected route as well as searched my memory banks for possible joints. A q joint in Alto wasn't even on the radar. The only thing I knew about Alto was that there was a State Prison there, and that is one place I'd prefer to avoid!!!

After stopping and getting some apples at Jaemor, we headed on up GA Highway 365 toward Mt. Airy. We saw this joint on the right hand side of the road, and it had great curb appeal. After getting the trailer business taken care of, I asked the fellow who sold me the trailer if he could recommend a good bbq joint in the area. Mickey's was one of two he suggested.

MP's has been in business since around 1994. The Smith family, originally from New York, moved to Florida and then back up to the Helen area later on. That makes them "halfbacks" any way you look at it, but they recognized that being in GA, you gotta be a bbq lover.

When we got back down to Mickey Pigg's we headed up to the joint. They were doing some outside smoking probably for the luring effect, but the aroma was inviting. The ambiance of MP's is really cute. It isn't real big, but it has a good feel. It isn't anything like an old sawdust floor joint, but it does have a homey feel. Deb and I started off with some home fried potato chips, and they were very good. When our order came, and it came fairly quickly, Debbie's pork salad was very generous in portion size as was my bbq sandwich and cup of Brunswick stew.

The bbq was clean and somewhere between pulled and chipped, so it worked fine as far as consistency was concerned. The Brunswick stew was an interesting mix. It was a pork base which was not as tomato based as some stews which actually made it very good. They have two basic sauces: original and hot. The original is very much a good, smokey flavored sauce with good texture, taste, and consistency. The hot was very good as well.

One of the most impressive things about Mickey Pigg's is that they also have a thriving bakery. Their cakes are really beautifully decorated, and rumor has it that their cheesecake is about as good as you will ever have. While I can't put Mickey Pigg's into the "legendary" category yet, they are well on their way. If you are heading up toward Clayton, Dillard, or southern NC, don't be afraid to give MP's a try!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Killer Brunswick Stew

Killer Brunswick Stew!!!
My ventures to Georgia's greatest bbq joints has me often sampling Brunswick stew along with the bbq. Some folks get it right, and some folks simply have something more akin to a vegetable stew claiming to be Brunswick stew. It is said that the origin of Brunswick stew is debated between Brunswick, Virginia and Brunswick, GA. Despite the fact that I am a Georgian by birth and residence, I find more credibility in the Brunswick, VA origin. Sampling the stews from all of these joints along with the regular smoking on my Green Egg has put me in the position of being not only a serious barbecuer but also one that has now learned to fix up a Brunswick stew that can rival the work of any of the 'q joints that I've hit. Just this evening, I've fixed up a bit pot of stew using the following recipe.

I start the Brunswick Stew process with a 12 quart pot which is large enough to handle all of whatever I decide to throw into the mix.
  • Begin the stew with one chopped onion in the pot cooking it down for about 15 minutes.
  • Next, pour in two cans of diced tomatoes. If you grow and can your own tomatoes, that is even better, but two cans from the store work just as well.
  • Add one cup of Heinz catsup.
  • Add one green pepper or you can use red peppers if you wish.
  • Add your Boston Butt, turkey, ground beef, venison, or whatever meat base you wish to use. My grandmothers would have probably thrown in a squirrel or two into the mix, but I think I'll pass on that addition. I typically prefer the Boston Butt for the meat base as it gives it the perfect fat consistency to really bring the best flavor to the stew. Tonight's stew has me using a good portion of turkey breast that I had smoked on the Green Egg. Cook these ingredients for about 30 minutes.
  • The balance of the ingredients is what makes preparing Brunswick stew fun. Frankly, I'll add some staples, but I'll also search both the pantry and refrigerator for any ingredients that I think will add to the mix. You can empty any partial bottles of bbq sauce, wing sauce, a little Dale's, or whatever.
  • One teaspoon vinegar.
  • One teaspoon sugar.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • One can of cut okra.
  • One can of lima (butterbeans) beans.
  • One can of corn.
  • Stir the ingredients for a while and then cook for another 30 minutes.
You may need to add a little salt and black pepper if you prefer, but after a little cooling down, you've got meals for the next few days. This stew is realistically as good as you'll find in any of the bbq joints' I've found. Once again, the fun thing about this is that you can literally add most any ingredient to your liking to this mix.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pig-N-Chik on Windward Pkwy, Alpharetta

Pig-N-Chik. I had been wanting to do a Pig-N-Chik location for months. The 3 joint chain kept popping up on my radar, but for various reasons, I'd hit some more traditional, if you will, joints before finally getting to Pig-N-Chik's location on Windward Parkway. Now Windward Parkway ain't exactly the strip that you expect to find a good bbq joint on, but don't be fooled. The GA 400/Highway 9 corridors are home to some of Georgia's finest bbq joints. The Windward Parkway location is a bit tough to find, but if you happen to be shopping or working in this area, Pig-N-Chik is a good option for barbecue. Of course, there are the other fast food joints like Moe's, Mellow Mushroom, etc., in this area, but if barbecue is one your mind, there's no need to fight traffic getting over to the Alpharetta proper area to fill the urge. When Debbie and I got out of the car, we could immediately smell smoked pork in progress. That is always a good sign (don't matter who you are). Since this was our first trip to a Chik joint, we had to study the menu just a minute to see what the options are. Though we'd come for bbq, the fact is, you could choose other options like wings, ribs, and salmon. Too the cue.....

Our food came out quick even though we were the first patrons of the day :-). The pulled pork was just that.....not chipped to smitherines, not smothered in sauce to hide something the pitmaster was ashamed of, but good old pulled pork. The barbecue was clean as you'll ever find. A little burned ends along with some nice, almost fat free strips of barbecue. You have a choice of three sauces at Pig-N-Chik: Gold Label is mustard based; Red Label is hot, vinegary NC style, and the Blue Label is a mild, sweet sauce. Their Brunswick stew is certainly adequate and has a good mix of pork for the meat base with butterbeans and corn as two of the distinguishable vegetables other than the tomato base. Their french fries are crinkle cut and most likely from a frozen bag, but Debbie made hers disappear without a complaint. Of course, the Chik gets it right as they have a big roll of paper towels right there on the table for you.

We are going to give the Pig-N-Chick a 4 out of 5 ranking for the first visit, but I am planning to hit the original Roswell location before going any further. The bottom line, if you are on the East side of 400 around the Alpharetta area, you've got a few choices. If you don't want to drive over toward Highway 9, give the Chik a chance.