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."