Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bar-b-Que Wagon, Bryson City, NC

Bar-b-Que Wagon, Bryson City, NC. By far most of my posts come from barbecue joints in the Peach State of Georgia. Snow had fallen earlier in the week throughout North Georgia and the mountains of North Carolina, so on this end of the year excursion through the Smoky Mountains, I was in search of good BBQ from the Tar heel state. Let me go ahead and say that Debbie and I were not disappointed. I had "googled" several joints around Murphy, Bryson City, and Dillsboro, so we would let the timing of the day and our location at that time stack up against the reviews we had read to determine which joint we'd hit today. Since we were heading east from Murphy over toward Cherokee (yes, to check out Harrah's) we decided on the Bar-b-Que Wagon in Bryson City.

First of all, this place isn't going to win any awards for five star service. It is located on the banks of the beautiful Tuckasegee River with even a couple of dining tables located where you can overlook the river. On this beautiful, snow covered winter's day, the little joint was even more picturesque. This is a "place your order at the counter and then have a seat" kind of joint, so don't expect to be waited on hand and foot, but the counter waitresses are true down to earth salt of the earth people. Appearance wise you can't help but but notice the wooden walls, ceilings, and floors as well as all of the "Elvis" memorabilia on the walls. It has charm and character that ranks up there with any of the joints we've hit.

We picked up bottles of each of the 5 sauces available and had a great time tasting each and trying to figure out which we'd like best. The 6 sauces they have available include: Vinegar, Hot and Spicey, Sweet, Honey, Gold, and Hot. Deb liked the Gold best which was really a semi-sweet honey mustard sauce. My favorite was the "Hot and Spicy".

You have to give the Wagon extra points for portion sized. I ordered a small sandwich which was more than adequate. Deb ordered a side of slaw and I ordered the Brunswick stew. The sides of stew and slaw were three times the sizes you get in many places including my previous day's stop at Georgia Bob's in Macon, GA. The stew actually was among the best I'd had in months though it's appearance didn't get the highest ranking. It's taste was superb with visible ingredients including butter beans, corn, and small cubes of potatoes. What we didn't try were the hush puppies which have received acclaim from several other reviewers.

The barbecue was finely chopped which typically doesn't suit my highest preference, but overall, this was some very good barbecue. It had good color, was clean, and wow, did I mention the portion size was more than adequate. Deb and I were both pushing the Wagon up into the higher ranking levels as we were halfway into the visit.

The Bar-b-Que Wagon get's at least a 4 out of 5 on our rating scale. I haven't any idea when or if I'll ever return to Bryson City, but if I do, the Wagon will be my dining preference! The menu at this joint offers many additional options that need to be reviewed including their ribs and hush puppies, so I guess that in the coming months we'll have to head north into the Smokies for another round with what I will rate as "some of North Carolina's best Q."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Georgia Bob's BBQ, Macon

Georgia Bob's BBQ with locations in Warner Robins, Byron, and Macon.

Mid-twentieth century journalist Jonathan Daniels said it best….”Barbecue is the dish which binds together the taste of both the people of the big house and the poorest occupants of the back end of the broken-down barn" To barbecue is to truly “Cook American”!

A few of my friends and readers have been asking if I had every tried Georgia Bob's BBQ. I had tried Bob's original location in Warner Robins several years ago right after he progressed from a part time cooker at a convenience store to an inside dining room on the side of the store. I've kept up somewhat with Georgia Bob's as I've followed BBQ joints in Georgia, but I'd not been back to any of the locations until today. I had noticed that Bob had opened up a joint right across the road from the new North Macon Mall on North Riverside Drive. I'd asked my son who works within a couple of miles about it, and for whatever reason, he'd been there and wasn't impressed with the BBQ, but he'd later reported that he'd been back and had a cheeseburger that was good enough to rank in the "Scotts BBQ Cheeseburger Comparison" category....and for Jed Evans, that is up there. Interestingly, in 2007, held a barbecue voting contest over several weeks to try to identify the "Best of the Best" among middle Georgia barbecue joints. Some of the notables such as Fincher's, Fresh Air, Georgia Bob's, and Scott's were among the finalists with Scott's and Bob's making it to the final two joints. Bob's won out to the chagrin of the fans of the Cochran based Scott's fans. The point in going here, though, is that the Macon area has some of the best bbq joints imaginable within a 50 mile radius where you can get good barbecue on a budget.

A little bit of history about Georgia Bob's perhaps is in order. Georgia Bob's history dates back to at least the 1920's. Bob's grandfather, Robert Cherry Evans, apparently could fix up some pretty fine bbq. Following in his grandfather's tradition, Bob struck out on this entrepreneurial adventure several years ago. As indicated earlier, Bob started out about as small as you can get smoking bbq on the side of a Warner Robins convenience store to now having three locations.

I was thrilled today to be joining up with son Jed, his co-worker Brandon Ashley, and my long-time friend and former co-worker Jonathan Fordham who was meeting up the the Farm Bureau crowd in Macon. Jon was boning up on a national competition being held the next weekend after taking the state title in the Policy Discussions competition put on recently at Farm Bureau's state convention. I arrived early so this gave me a little time to "size the joint up". While I waited, I observed several good signs for a bbq joint. Patrons dressed in everything from service uniforms to business suits and everywhere in between were making their path to Georgia Bob's. Now it wasn't a big stand in your line crowd, but folks in North Macon have apparently found the joint and you can tell they are coming back for more.

I placed my order of a barbecue sandwich and Brunswick stew and the others got either barbecue or cheeseburgers. We found our table at the little quaint joint that is well decorated for a strip mall joint. While waiting for the food I checked out the 3 sauces available: Mild, Spicy, and Sweet. I tried out all 3 of them and found my favorite to be the sweet sauce. While Bob's doesn't get extra points for such things as crushed ice, I can tell you the food is clearly worth stopping by for. The pork sandwich was sufficient in size, and the meat was clean and did a good job scratching the barbecue itch. Bob's Brunswick stew is as good as you'll find. The consistency is something of a finer has rather than large, chunky pieces. Jed and Brandon gave the cheeseburgers a thumbs up, and with my suitable rating on the bbq, they'll be headed out to collect on a bet of some nature likely related to a college football game to again try out the Bob's Barbecue.

Overall, until I find a reason to rate downward, I'm giving Georgia Bob's a 4 out of 5 with the promise of going back for another sampling in the future. Now, I'm headed back to Cumming where I have a pocket full of gift cards from Jim 'n Nick's where my friend Brian Lyman is getting it right with quality and service that sets a new standard for BBQ!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Holcomb's in Greensboro, GA.

Holcomb's Bar-b-Que, Greensboro. Debbie and I were enjoying a 32nd wedding anniversary weekend at Lake Oconee when I just "happened upon" Holcomb's. I did a u-turn in the funeral home next door and wheeled into the joint. A couple of folks had recommended Holcomb's, so I had it somewhere on the radar screen, so when I just happened upon the joint around lunch time I figured we needed to check it out despite just the previous day we had gone overboard at the fabulous Fox Brothers in Atlanta.

Holcomb's is not a high volume joint, but it is one of those places worth visiting at least once. Holcomb's is located in a converted gas station just west of quaint downtown Greensboro. You can order up two ways at Holcomb's. You can place your order at the walk up window or you can go inside and dine in what is the dining room converted from the auto repair bays that once saw oil changes and tune ups being the order.

Holcomb's menus is rather light, but the bbq is quite good and priced well below the metro area bbq joints. I ate a rather light lunch this day due to the previous day's pigging out at Fox Brothers, but I had to do a bbq sandwich. The sandwich was a pretty typical chopped bbq on a bun with the sauce on the side. There is only one sauce at Holcomb's, and it is a thin, vinegar based sauce typical of a North Carolina style. The dining area, was lightly decorated with some Bulldog and Georgia Tech memorabilia. When you dine there, you are most likely going to be joined by a few locals and deer hunter's dressed in camo if it is during the fall months.

Debbie really enjoyed the extra sweet pickles on the table while I sampled the really good barbecue that was clean and adequate in portion size. While I really can't give Holcomb's much more than a 3 on the 5 point scale, it is a good stop for a cheap lunch that will scratch the bbq itch. You can go down towards Lake Oconee and spend 10 times more on whatever you want to eat, but Holcomb's is the latest on the list of Georgia bbq joints that needs to be on everyone's "at least once" stops!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rib Country, Blairsville, GA

"So Good It'll Make You Squeal" is their slogan, and parts of this claim are true even if I had received at least one comment that was not particularly endearing for this location. This entry sort of has a funny story to it, so hang in there. Rib Country has four locations. Two in Georgia (Cleveland and Blairsville) and two in North Carolina (Murphy and Haynesville). I'd eaten a couple of times at the one in Cleveland, but on today's drive through the North Georgia mountains Blairsville was the stop. The place was buzzing on this beautiful October afternoon with leaf lookers from all over Georgia crawling through the mountains. Few counties in Georgia can match Union for its beauty in October. After a very short wait, Debbie and I were seated in this very well done little joint. Rib Country has their interior done just about right. They've got lots of folk art and relics of the past on the walls and throughout the joint. They've got paper towels on the table, and the placemats are paper grocery sacs like they used to have years ago!

Debbie ordered up the bbq sandwich, a side of fries, and a diet coke. I ordered the pork sandwich and cold slaw. The slaw was really good even if it was rather small in portion size. We both thought the bbq was good in both consistency, cleanness, and taste. We tried out two of their sauces. The sweet was good but highly akin to something that would come our of a Kraft bottle. Their "tangy mustard" (Lord forgive me) was actually pretty good.

This bbq joint does have a couple of downsides from our critical point of view, and it really has more to do with menu options as opposed to quality. Debbie claims the fries are mediocre in that its pretty sure they came out of a frozen bag. Secondly, their ice is cubed and not crushed. You always get extra points for crushed ice! While the menu is actually pretty good and sufficiently varied even for those who don't do pork, there are a few options that would make it better. First, they don't offer Brunswick stew...not good. Second, they don't offer turnips or other forms of "greens". That's such an easy one to fix as well as a great way to recycle pork and chicken trimmings.

As an overall comparison, Rib Country is probably the Blairsville area's best joint, it rates below some other options back down Highway 515 (Poole's). Now for the funny conclusion. As we were leaving, they were actually trying to decide to close the place for the afternoon. If you remember the Andy Griffith episode where Goober had bought the gas station along with Andy and Floyd, you'll remember that Goober ran out of gas on the opening day because he forgot to place the order for more. Ha ha!!! Same thing happened today at the Blairsville Rib Country. They ran out of gas and were telling customers they could not serve either french fries or ribs!!! That pretty well tells you that they don't cook over straight wood, and while most high volume joints do either I would guess, I'd say it is a pretty bad goof up to run out of gas in your bbq joint on an October afternoon in North Georgia!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bill Miller Barbecue, San Antonio, TX

Bill Miller Barbecue Joints in southern Texas are seemingly everywhere, but contrary to my typical "generous" blogs, this one doesn't get much of a rating. I'd actually been told that joints like Rudy's and County Line were pretty good picks, my location put me nearest a Bill Miller joint. They've got something like 60 joints in southern Texas. I'm really not going to waste my or your time on a complete review, but the joint fit more in line with a Waffle House for BBQ than anything else. The ribs were yesterday's leftovers, and if I couldn't do brisket any better, I would not bother. Oh well. Next time I'm in southern Texas, I'm doing Rudy's at whatever the cab fare.

Monday, October 18, 2010

'Cue Barbecue, Cumming, GA

'Cue, Cumming.
Several weeks ago we were "thrilled" to learn that Cumming was getting its own 'Cue BBQ joint. The original location of 'Cue in Milton had already been critiqued, and my couple of visits to that location had been good visits. Having its original influence from "Swallow at the Hollow", 'Cue's fixings are some of the overall best you'll find. Everything you have at this joint, whether its the sauces, bread, or desserts are all homemade with their own recipes. Even the buns (more like big pieces of bread) are homemade right at the location, and you can tell it!!!

Today's visit was especially nice as I was getting to enjoy it with co-workers Joey and Valery. Sharing the BBQ joint experience with both family and friends far beats the solo experience, even though I won't turn that down if I get the chance.

On today's visit, I was suffering from a weekend full of doing my own bbq and attending a church homecoming at Big Creek Baptist Church in Coolidge, GA, so I was having to watch the intake. My order deviated from the normal as I ordered a pulled chicken bbq sandwich and a cup of their awesome Brunswick stew. Joey and Valery ordered pork sandwiches. Their reports of the bbq were great as you would expect 'Cue to be. This was my first bbq chicken from 'Cue and my first experience at the new Cumming location. Located on Highway 20 south of Cumming, 'Cue is easily accessible for a lunchtime break.

To the meal. The bbq chicken was really fantastic. The fairly good sized pulled chunks of pulled chicken made for a really good portion size. When piled on the thick sections of 'Cue's homemade bread, it was really out of this world. The meat comes seasoned with their awesome Kansas City styled sweet sauce. I had to try their outstanding South Carolina mustard bbq sauce, and they've really got it down. 'Cue also has as an option their thin, vinegar based North Carolina sauce. The Brunswick stew that 'Cue fixes up is quite good. The consistency is just about right. The visible vegetables include tomatoes, whole kernel corn, and a few butterbeans. The meat appears to be a mix of both pork and chicken which is alright by me.

All in all, 'Cue's got great food, and I am thrilled that they now have a Cumming location. They are located in an area that, though is very busy, has struggled to support a couple of other dining establishments. I do highly recommend this place and overall, it get's a 4+ on our 5 point scale. Special thanks to Valery and Joey for the treat!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

JR's Loghouse, Norcross, GA

JR's Loghouse, Norcross. JR's had been somewhere on the fringes of my bbq radar screen for a few weeks. I can't say that I was even familiar with JR's until a few weeks ago when they had catered a Johnny Isakson fundraiser that I attended. I thought the bbq and Brunswick stew I had were pretty good at the fundraiser, so Debbie and I thought we'd try it out on this beautiful late summer Saturday. JR's is really a quaint log building tucked in among some of the Northeast Atlanta area streets just off of I-285 on Peachtree Parkway. The inside of this place is quaint. You quickly figure out that in addition to bbq, they've got a reputation for great country style breakfasts. A little history on the joint is picked up from both their menu and off of their website

JR's Loghouse first started serving great barbeque and breakfast in May 1983. However, JR's history goes back more than 55 years to when "JR," Jerry Romano, started cooking and serving "real pit cooked barbeque" as a young teenager with his family's restaurant. The recipes we serve today have been handed down from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Many of them were originally part of The Old Hickory House Restaurants, which were an Atlanta institution for more than 50 years. Along with our great barbeque, we serve many different vegetables daily, all cooked fresh. We serve breakfast 7 days a week with the biggest biscuits and pancakes you've ever seen. Today, you can still see some of the same employees here who helped us open our doors in 1983.

We found the place not to busy when we went in, but a good sign was that there were several "service" type trucks in the parking lot giving indication that local service workers found this a good spot. We perused the menu that was adequate, and I ordered up my typical first visit order of a bbq sandwich and Brunswick stew. Debbie ordered her usual bbq pork salad. The order came out fast, but I was hit with a little bit of a "red flag" when my sandwich came wrapped in a foil wrapper. I've got to figure that one out. Once I got it out of the foil wrapper, it looked pretty good with a good portion of bbq on the bun. The stew had good appearance, so I took a few bites of it first. The presence of tomatoes, onion, and corn among the stew gave it great taste and appearance. The stew got a decent ranking. The bbq was pretty good in its course chopped texture. Rather than having sauce on the tables, it was lightly pre-applied to the bbq. Points are deducted for that fact, but otherwise, the bbq was good despite lacking sufficient smoked flavor.

Debbie was not impressed with the salad and further disappointed with the lack of "crushed" ice. Her salad lacked a variety of toppings. The sauce was heavily ketchup based, and while it was ok, it didn't really do anything for us. Her first two bites of bbq found both bone and fat.

Though we left adequately filled, we both agreed that a ranking of 3 out of 5 was about as good as we could offer. Perhaps the best part of the visit was one of the waitresses. As she walked by, I quickly told Debbie that "she looks a lot like Laura (our daughter)". We then struck up a quick conversation with her and found that she was just as sweet seeming as our daughter. With that kind of encounter, we left with a sense of delight having enjoyed meeting a nice young lady that reminded us much of our girl.

JR's seems to have an active catering business, and if you need someone to do catering, you can't go wrong with their choice as your provider; however, there are lots of great caterers in the area including my friends at Jim 'n Nicks, Dreamland, and Fox Brothers!!!

Now, if Georgia can just pull off a win against Arkansas!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Poppies Rib Shack, Blairsville, GA.

Poppies Rib Shack, Blairsville. Union County is one of Georgia's true gems. It is home to Georgia's most beautiful mountains, a great lake, some fabulous parks, and the county seat of Blairsville is as quaint as can be found in the country. The antique stores and other wonderful shopping spots (like Alexanders) are worth at least a once a year visit if not more often. With all of this going for it, today seemed like a great day to head up and explore the bbq options. The blond chick pictured here and I cruised up through the mountains with one of a couple of options in mind. After a couple of sweeps through town, I couldn't find Rib Country. Poppies, though, is located just a block north of the town square, so we decided to give it a try as it had all of the promise of being one of those special bbq joints. The place has the appearance of a decent q joint. With lots of car tags on the wall and at least one framed printing of the "Ten Commandments", it has elements of being a place that ought to be a winner. The provision of a full roll of paper towels at each table helped confirm that when eating at Poppies, be prepared to do some damage. Deb and I sat in a booth giving me a view of the single flat screen tv so I could watch the Georgia game as the Dawgs were being kept in check by the Gamecocks. The menu is pretty expansive for a bbq joint. We could tell from the plates being delivered by the waitresses that food quantity wasn't going to be a question. The sandwiches were overrunning with chopped pork and the portion of home cut french fries on the sides assured us we would not leave hungry. We didn't.
Debbie ordered the chopped pork salad and I got the traditional first visit pork sandwich and Brunswick stew. The salad was a good one in size and makeup. Debbie nor I either one are overly thrilled when the bbq comes already sauced as this did. That's probably the biggest criticism. They actually have a pretty good house sauce which is relatively mild and sweet and does add flavor to the meat, but please let me do it myself. On the 1 to 5 scale, it ranked a 3. Pretty much the same could be said for the stew. It was edible with decent amounts of pork, corn, and a few lima beans visible. The bottom line is Poppies is a decent place, but it will probably not make anyone's list of top q joints. On the upside, you won't leave hungry. On the downside, the bbq and the stew is average. On the final upside, you can't leave Union County without saying, "wow, it was a great day."

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Whole Hog Pig Pickin'

The Whole Hog Pig Pickin'. Lots of us can do good Boston butts and make some pretty good bbq. Pretty much it is "start with a good rub, do it low and slow for 8 hours or so, get it to about 195 degrees on the inside" and you've got a good start. Fewer folks can do "the whole hog" to perfection. One fellow who can is my friend Doug Kitchens of Scott's BBQ in Cochran, GA. I had lined Doug up to do us a whole hog for Jed and Shanna's wedding rehearsal dinner. Shanna wasn't overly thrilled with Jed's idea, but somehow he won her over. Doug did the thing to perfection, and I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed this twist. Here's a couple of pics, and yes, a week later, I'm still eating bbq!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

JL's Barbecue, Macon, GA.

JL's Barbecue, Macon.
The barbecue itch had hit as it had been at least a couple of weeks since I'd last had any slow cooked pork. I had been wanting to try JL's in Macon for a couple of reasons. First, I am always looking for a barbecue place I haven't tried. Second, JL's is only a couple of miles away from where I grew up. Third, I'd driven by the place dozens of times over the past half a dozen years and had never eaten there.

JL's is located in what appears to be a converted Sonny's (not a plus in my book). It is conveniently located off of I-475 and Highway 80, and its customer base is a pretty representative noontime meal of blue collar workers, older couples who appear to be mostly travelers, and a few business types. The marquee on the outside does catch your eye. Located right next door to a Chick Fillet, their sign boasts something like "Save a Chicken, Eat Some Pork". Frankly, that may be the best thing about JL's. Another thing that JL's has going for it is it has three American flags out front. American flags and bbq joints are a good mix.

I joined a professional colleague on this HOT summer day. I got there a bit early, so I had time to thoroughly study the menu. The menus is another good thing going for JL's. While they don't try to serve everything, their variety of both meats and sides is impressive. With sides like Brunswick Stew, fried okra, slaw, bbq beans, mac and cheese, and fried sweet potatoes, they just about have everything except collard greens or turnips.

I ordered my typical first visit meal of a bbq sandwich and Brunswick stew. While the stew looked good, had a good aroma, and was of good portion size, the taste left something to be desired. It had all the right ingredients of potatoes, corn, green beens, and a generous and visible presence of pulled pork, but it really was not ranked somewhere around a 2 out of 5. The barbecue was better, but nothing to necessarily write home about. My friend and I ordered pulled pork. It had the appearance of having been "pre-sauced". The two sauces we tried were mild and honey. Both were actually pretty good sauces. The bun that came with the bbq sandwich also seemed rather stale.

Oh well. All in all I am glad that I tried JL's. My general recommendation would be that based on my visit here on this particular day, both Fresh Air and Pig In A Pit off of I-75 in the Riverside and Bass Road areas would be much better choices. Of course, if you want to visit Macon's seedier side, you can always try Fincher's...home of the First BBQ in outer space.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aunt Bea's BBQ, Mt. Airy, NC

Aunt Bea's BBQ, Mt. Airy, NC. Another bucket list experience. I always wanted to visit the hometown of Andy Griffith. I could not pass up Aunt Bea's BBQ. The place is more like a converted Dairy Queen, and they even serve ice cream! The BBQ tray consisted of some really fine bbq, bbq slaw, and the way they seem to do it in NC, with hush ... See Morepuppies. It wasn't that the bbq was really that awesome, but the moist meat topped with the vinegar based Aunt Bea's Hot and Spicy Sauce added joy to the trip. I don't know that Aunt Bea's is the best of Mt. Airy's 3 q joints, but it had to beat Goobers 52 Diner. Nonetheless, Mt. Airy is really a lot like you'd expect to find Mayberry some 50 years later. Tomorrow we'll do the Bluebird Diner.

Dreamland, Norcross, GA

Dreamland BBQ, Norcross, GA. One of my favorite places to occasionally shop (actually to wait on Debbie while she shops!) is The Forum on 141 in Norcross. With a Trader Joes, Ted's Montana Grill on the premises and a Dreamland across the road, even I can find some joy in the trip.This Dreamland is located in what was an old bank. The BBQ pit sits where the drive in window used to be.Like the Roswell Dreamland, this is seriously fine BBQ. On this visit I departed from the usual pulled pork and went for baby back ribs. Oh my, were they forever good. Of course one of the neatest things about Dreamland is the open pits visible from the dining area. Every time I've been to DL I've enjoyed admiring the racks full of Boston butts and ribs being slow cooked over real wood with smoke circulating over the tops of the meat. Debbie ordered up one of their pulled pork salads. We were still eating off of that salad for the next 3 meals.All in all, Dreamland remains one of my favorite Atlanta area q joints. With six joints i Alabama and 2 in the Atlanta area, Dreamland ranks as one of my top 5 any way you slice it, pull it, or chop it up. Of course, one of the best things you can do on the way out the door is to pick up a jar of their sauce. "Ain't none like 'em nowhere!"

Johnny Harris, Savannah, GA

Johnny Harris, Savannah, GA. Savannah has some of the best dining establishments in GA. With Johnny Harris now on the list I've got another one to recommend. JH is a little different place found on Victory Drive in Savannah. When Rick Gunn who grew up in Savannah was donning a "let's cook some butt" apron at the FCSS central office picnic a couple weeks ago it got it's first recommendation. Then Ray Jordan from Ashburn gave it a nod, I knew I had to hit it while in Savannah last week. Deb and I hit it on Friday on our way out of town. The place looks more like a cathedral or Shriners hall than a q joint. Once in you still sort of have a mix between one part that looks like a BBQ joint and the other side looking like a church auditorium.
Two thumbs up on the stew. It really was some of the best stew I've had. The appearance was good. It was thick with the only visible veggies being corn and tomatoes. The flavor was divine.
The BBQ sandwich is served on toasted white bread. Portion size was more than adequate. The bbq was very clean. Johnny Harris ia perhaps best known for it's sauces. I picked up a three pack of regular, mustard, and sweet and spicy.
Though seafood may be tops on my list while in Savannah, I'd suggest JH to anyone wanting bbq while in Savannah.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sprayberry's BBQ, Newnan, GA

Sprayberry's BBQ. This joint has been around since 1926, so that makes it something like 84 years, and it is one of the best in Georgia. It really isn't that the bbq is any better than some of the best bbq joints around, but this one's got charm, character, and nostalgia along with great food. Located in beautiful, historic Newnan, GA, the original location is a little harder to access from I-85 than the second location at exit 47, but you've got to go to the original joint at least once. The outside of the building is not much more than a shell of the orginal gas station that it once was many years ago. An old series of bbq pits sit out front, and when you walk in the door, you take a step back in time. You'll find yourself a seat at one of the red-topped formica tables that date clearly back to the 50's. It's a busy place with a number of tables. At those tables will be mix of folks dressed anywhere from blue jeans and work clothes to business suits.

I knew by reputation that Sprayberry's was supposed to have great sweet tea, so I ordered me one in a "to go" cup and was pleased to find that to cool, sweet tea was served over some of the finest crushed ice you can find. I looked over the menu since I had not been at this origiinal location before, and I passed up the Lewis Grizzard special (bbq sandwich, Brunswick stew, and onion rings) and stuck with the usual sandwich and stew. The order was on my table before I could fully take in the place, so I proceeded with the meal. The stew was noticeably thicker and clearly had the appearance of having been finely processed. While the ingredients were thus not clearly discernable, you could tell it contained the traditional kernel corn. The flavor was out of this world great.

The chopped barbecue sandwich was generous in size and served with a dab of sauce, so I asked for some more. It was brought in a small bowl all nice and warm. The sauce, and they only have one, is a thinner vinegar base that is just hot enough to make your head pop a sweat. The extra sauce was really needed as the chopped pork was a touch on the dry, flaky side, but the pork was as tasty as this style of barbecue gets The pickles served along with the sandwich, which is always a good thing, were a spicy sweet style rather than the run of the mill dill.

I picked up a couple of pints of barbecue sauce when I checked for me and one for a I look forward to further enjoying Sprayberry's taste the next time I smoke a Boston Butt. I noticed as I left the building I was walking with somewhat of a satisfied swagger. I grinned and thought, must be the Lewis Grizzard effect. Here I am two hours later and still enjoying my stop by historic and world famous Sprayberry's BBQ. Put it on your list to visit if you've not been there.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bub-Ba-Q, Jasper, GA.

Bub-Ba-Q, Jasper, GA. Pickens County and Jasper, GA are trying to hang on to it's quiet somewhat rural past like a desperate housewife despite the fact that Atlanta and the northern suburbs continue to creep northward. For years such well known places as Jasper Jeep and The Bargain Barn were destination points Jasper. There's another place that is worth jumping off the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway for, and that is Bub-Ba-Q. A couple of folks including Steve Testerman had recommended Bub-Ba-Q, so I'd had this on the bbq radar screen for several weeks. After a truly fantastic 50 mile motorcycle ride on this Good Friday, we pulled up into the parking lot on Highway 53 West of Jasper.

They say you can tell a lot about a place by who eats there. When you pull up into the parking lot at this joint, by and large the predominant vehicles may well be motorcycles and service trucks. When you enter the joint and look around, you are likely to see a good mix in the joint from white collars to those wearing work uniforms. This is a busy little joint at lunch. It isn't a whole lot to look at from the outside, and the inside isn't exactly much either, but the barbecue and sides are awesome. They don't wait your tables at this little dive, you place your order at the counter when you walk in. Don't go far after you order cause in just a few minutes you'll have your order and you can either sit inside at one of the 14 or so tables.

Debbie and I were ordered right behind 5 other "old" motorcyclists like me. I quickly asserted that my meal would consist of a barbecue sandwich and Brunswick stew while Debbie ordered her barbecue salad (using the various barbecue sauces as dressing). While we waited the few minutes on our order, we tasted the various sauces they had including Hot and Spicy, Sweet, Vinegar, and Mustard based. All were very good, but our favorite was the Sweet sauce followed interestingly enough by the South Caroline style Mustard. The stew was excellent as well. It was somewhat of a thick stew containing pork bbq, tomato base along with a little corn. Debbie was well pleased with the salad as well.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hickory Pig BBQ, Gainesville, GA

Hickory Pig BBQ, Gainesville, GA. This place is a "trip". This Saturday found Debbie and I really struggling on where to strike out to. We'd considered downtown Atlanta where we'd thought about hitting DBA Barbecue, but the Gainesville/Dawsonville area won out. We made our way up 400 and then through beautiful north Hall County where you pass by beautiful homes on horse farm acreage as well as rusty old mobile homes that have little life left in search of Hickory Pig. I'd heard some good reviews on Hickory Pig, but I really didn't know what to expect. Well, when we got there, it was nothing short of a fun experience.
First, this place "aint Jim 'N Nicks for sure. The hodgepodge of what looks like three small storage buildings stuck together is hardly big enough to seat 10 people at the three tables that look like they were salvaged from Goodwill. This is a joint or a dive in the true sense of the words. You can tell right out the car door that the barbecue is cooked the old fashioned way through indirect smoking with hickory wood. We sort of chuckled when we got into the place and found that you had to fix your own drink with ice out of an ice chest and cokes from the can. We were cordially greeted by Phil and his sidekick "Littlebit". It didn't take us long to figure out what we wanted. Deb was going to stay vegetarian, so she ordered slaw and collard greens. I ordered my typical first visit order of a sandwich and Brunswick stew. The orders were out in no time flat. Immediately, Debbie was raving about the greens, and she's not really typically a big "raver". They were absolutely melt in your mouth awesome. She detected that the slaw had some form of secret ingredient. We know what it is, but if you can guess the ingredient when you go there, you get your entry free!
On the stew and barbecue. Old Phil Beaubian will never win the contest for quantity, but this little low volume dive is unbeat for quality. I started with a great small serving of stew. It really was great, but I don't know that it would top the list of the over 60 something q joints I've hit over the past couple of years. His barbecue, though, was top notch. Simply good, long stranded pulled pork gently topped with his Murrayville Barbecue Sauce which is sort of a North Carolina vinegar sauce. No real variety here, but it scratches the bbq itch for sure. Phil and Littlebit are two friendly folks for sure, so we struck up fairly deep conversation that turned into being downright comical. I finally told Phil what I was up to, and Oh My Gosh...that's when the fun begin. Phil and I visited the little kitchen, food prep area, and smoking pit. Aint much to write about, but dang it puts out some good food. When we got to talking about my reviewing bbq joints, he quickly fixed me up with some beef friend forever. Phil had slow smoked this brisket to perfection. I love ribeye steak, but this brisket would top even a M&T Meats marinated ribeye!!!
If you haven't figured it out yet, Phil is quite a character. The next thing we had to do was to go to the shack outback where he opened up a cabinet and unveiled his kareoke machine. First we were serenaded by Littlebit as she did a Patsy Kline tune. Then Phil had to have his turn doing an Elvis tune.
Of all the bbq visits that I've ever done, this one was truly the most "interesting".
Despite the fact that I wouldn't recommend taking someone who you really wanted to impress to eat at this joint, Phil's Hickory Pig on Thompson Bridge Road north of Gainesville is a winner in our book.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Harry's Pig Shop, Athens, GA.

Harry's Pig Shop, Athens, GA. I'm still looking for the best barbecue joint in Athens. I've had a couple of suggestions, and today I visited one. While it was good, I'm going to shoot straight and say it's got some ways to go to rank with Georgia's best joints. The best thing about doing bbq joints is that you get to sometimes enjoy the experience with friends. Today's Harry's visit found me with 5 FCSS colleagues including Candy and Joey pictured out front.

Harry's Pig Shop, Athens, GA. I'm still looking for the best barbecue joint in Athens. I've had a couple of suggestions, and today I visited one. While it was good, I'm going to shoot straight and say it's got some ways to go to rank with Georgia's best joints. The best thing about doing bbq joints is that you get to sometimes enjoy the experience with friends. Today's Harry's visit found me with 5 FCSS colleagues including Candy and Joey pictured out front.

OK, the rundown on Harry's Pig Shop. First, it's a strip mall storefront located just off the Jefferson Road in the Homewood Shopping Center which doesn't earn it any points due to a lack of exterior charm or character. On the plus side, the interior is done nicely with a sort of retro decor with 50'ish looking tables and chairs. You also have to love the fact that there is a good amount of children's artwork with a framed poster saying "Artwork Compliments of Mr. Wilcox's Art Class South Jackson Elementary School. Now being a school person, you know I have to like that. Bonus points Harry.

The food at Harry's Pig Shop is actually pretty good or that was my experience on this day and confirmed by my friends. On the downside, when you walk in the door nor on the outside, do you get the overwhelming and intoxicating smell of hickory or oak smoked bbq. Harry's makes up for it though in other ways.

The bbq was a clean without excessive fat or bark. It was tasty, and in pieces that were almost a consistency between a chopped and pulled style. Harry's sauces earn the little joint some bonus points. We had as many as 5 different sauce options to include NC Vinegar, SC Mustard, Vidalia Onion Sweet, Hot, and then something named "Georgia Shack". Almost all of our party voted the SC Mustard (interestingly enough if you know my otherwise general preferences) the best overall sauce. Harry's understands the need for a dill pickle with bbq, so with the "Pig Sandwich" you get a pickle spear.

Members of our party had sides that included sweet potato fries, mac and cheese, house and memphis slaw among others. What's not on the menu is Brunswick stew bit, but my philosophy is that do what you do best and if it isn't stew, so what. Harry's does have some interesting things on the menu, and the most interesting to our party was "Brisket Spaghetti." To that I suggest that you should never waste good brisket!!!

A nice touch to Harry's dining experience was both the interior decor which they've broken up nicely for a strip mall joint and the Blues music playing in the background. I'll likely do Harry's Pig Shop again, but next time in Athens, I'll search out another joint to find the "best bbq joint in the Classic City."

PS. I am counting on the "dawg boys" to help me find Athens' best q joint!!!