Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Smokin Gold BBQ, Dahlonega...New Location!

Smokin Gold BBQ, Dahlonega, GA... New Location!!! Debbie and I had found the original Smokin Gold location a couple of years ago on one of our motorcycle rides through the mountains, but when we ran across the new SG location in downtown Dahlonega, we knew that bbq would be on our agenda for the day trip to Dahlonega. On the weekend before Christmas 2011, we had ventured north for a final opportunity to Christmas shop in beautiful downtown Dahlonega. Of course, shopping can really build up an appetite, so as long as I knew bbq was on my the schedule, I could keep a pretty good frame of mind while we shopped.

As pictured, up and running out in front of the new location were Dan Dieterle's Big Green Eggs that were really being used to smoke the bbq. The location is absolutely perfect for Dahlonega, and with a slight southern wind, the streets of Dahlonega will smell a bit like bbq being smoked. On my previous trip to SG, Dan had told me all about his great burnt end brisket, so that had been in the back of my mind. When we walked in the door, on their specials board was the traditional pulled pork sandwich special along with a burnt end brisket sandwich special. While the waitresses will bring you your food, you have to place your order at the counter. Debbie decided to go for the pork sandwich and Brunswick stew while I opted for the burnt end sandwich. We had barely gotten our drinks fixed when the waitress brought our meals. So while SG doesn't get bonus points for crushed ice, they do for quick service time.

Both sandwiches were very generously adorned with meat. Debbie's pork sandwich, though already lightly sauced was a great looking sandwich. We really like their touch in having lightly toasted the buns. My burnt end sandwich was DIVINE!!! The large, tender chunks of brisket were moist, flavorful, and easily pulled apart with just a gentle pull. The smoke ring was just about perfect. It was really a larger sandwich than it had to be, and we were both happy with our selections. Debbie tried the brisket (for perhaps the first time in her life), and she actually liked it better than the pulled pork. I tried her pork, and honestly, it would be a hard decision to rank one over the other. SG's Brunswick stew is ok, and I'd give it a middle of the road ranking. It was a bit disappointing that the temperature of the served product was less than preferred. I'm not sure if they were rushing or if the temperature had just not reached a sufficient warm up temperature. Overall, the taste and appearance was just between average and slightly above.

I am pulling for SG to be one of North Georgia's hottest bbq joints in due time. The location, friendly folks, and great food put this as a must do while in Dahlonega.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Southern Soul BBQ, St. Simons Island, GA.

Southern Soul. "We're Smoking Supper." Never again do you have to feel like you have to do seafood when you go to St. Simons Island. Of course, some of the best seafood in GA can be found in Brunswick and St. Simons, but some of the best bbq can be found there as well. Southern Soul has only been in business about five years, but they have made their mark in both Georgia and on the national scene after being featured on "Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives." Southern Soul has been on my radar for a couple of years, but after about 3 years in business the joint burned. The owners opened back up in 2010, and everyone who had visited the joint had nothing but great things to say.

With my daughter having gotten married the previous weekend (Nov. 19), Debbie and I needed a get away. We slipped off to SSI with a couple of joints on our mind (Gnats Landing and Southern Soul). We got to Southern Soul a little after 1 pm on this day before Thanksgiving and the place was buzzing. Talking about a great location, and Southern Soul has it. Located just off the "roundabout" at Demere and Frederica Road, this is a truly great location. The place is done up in perfect bbq joint style with old car tags and car parts on the outside of the building. There are a few tables out front and a few seats at a bar along with a few (very few) tables to sit at on the inside. The menu at Southern Soul is perfectly bbq. Things like collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and fries to go along with pulled pork, ribs, and beef brisket, Southern Soul does it right. I ordered by typical first joint visit of a sandwich and stew. Debbie ordered the sandwich and collards. We sampled their four sauces being NC Vinegar, Sweet GA Soul, Hot and Spicy, and Low Country Soul Mustard. All of the sauces were truly excellent with the Sweet GA Soul being our favorite.

To the food.... The sandwiches were a heaping supply of attractive pulled pork. The bbq was clean with light barking and good moisture. The portion size even on the regular sandwich was quite generous. It's taste was "as good as it gets". Adding the sauce to it made for pure delight. The Brunswick stew was very appealing in appearance, smell, and taste. The ingredients appeared to include whole kernel corn, butterbeans, tomatoes, pork and chicken. Thankfully missing were chunks of potatoes. The stew was very good. I can't say it was the best I've ever had, but it was clearly quite good. Deb's collards were OMG good. Clearly apparent in the collards were the addition of sugar which made for some excellent tasting greens.

Southern Soul gets good ratings on its portion sizes of sweet tea! Though they don't use crushed ice, the glasses were large and the tea was sweet.

We left completely stuffed and totally impressed at this little joint that cooks it bbq out back on portable smokers on wheels. Overall, Southern Soul clearly gets a 4 plus on all entrees. I can't wait until my next trip to St. Simons for more outstanding bbq. Despite all of the great dining establishments on the island, Southern Soul and Gnats landing continue to rank among our two favorite joints as they are short on pretension and high on quality!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Buddy's bar-b-q. Athens, TN.

Buddy's Bar-b-q, Athens, TN. To begin with, let me go ahead and say this is a chain that is based in Knoxville. Buddy's has 12 locations in Tennessee, and straight up front that it really doesn't qualify as a joint, or at least the Athens location doesn't. This Buddy's is more of a fast food bbq diner, but when the bbq itch strikes, you'll do most anything to scratch it. My son, Jed and I, were headed from Cumming, GA to Knoxville for the GA/TN football game on this absolutely beautiful October 8, 2011 fall day. We had already sort of scheduled our agenda to include a stop along the way to check out a bbq joint. After we got on the road, we both agreed that we would wait until we got to Tennessee before stopping to both break up our trip as well as to check out a new bbq adventure. I was pretty sure that I wanted to avoid the Chattanooga area, so we exited I-75 in Cleveland, TN to find some joint call the BBQ Shack. After getting let down by my GPS, I was a bit annoyed and decided to head back to the interstate to do something else. We used both Google and the GPS to see if we could find another option, and within a few minutes we'd identified Buddy's as an option. Hey, with a name like Buddy's, Bubba's, or Buster's, you must be headed in the right direction.

We got off I-75 and headed east for about a mile to where we spotted Buddy's. I could immediately tell it was a bit more like stopping at Hardees than a real joint, but by this stage in our journey, I wasn't willing to do anymore scouting.... Upon walking in Buddy's I was again reminded that we were walking into a diner that was more akin to fast food than I liked, but we scouted the menu behind the walk up counter. We both immediately noticed that the menu was absent of Brunswick stew, but hey, this was Tennessee, what could you expect? I should have recognized that with the letter's colored "Gosh Aweful Orange" my expectations should not have been too high!

Jed ordered a sandwich and slaw while I ordered a sandwich and bbq beans. The food was placed on the tray right at the counter, and we proceeded for our bbq review. Actually, friends, what we experienced was some really surprisingly pleasing bbq! The sandwiches came out with a dab of the mild sauce already on them, but the portion size was excellent. I started my tasting with the bbq beans. They were actually very good, but if there were any bbq in them I couldn't detect it. I then tasted the sauces. The mild was good and slightly tangy and marginally on the sweet side. The hot sauce lived up to its name. I went easy on the hot variety. To the bbq...good stuff! Given the "appearances" of the diner, the bbq actually was very good. The meat was moist, clean, and very tasty. There was enough moisture that the bbq held together well. Jed had the same opinion, and for both this father and son to totally agree with little debate was a tribute to Buddy's. Overall, I'd give the Buddy's bbq a 4 out of 5, but if you are looking for a joint with a back in time feel, this one doesn't fit the bill.

The overall trip was awesome. 15 hours of time with a grown son, bbq, and a UGA win over TN....Priceless!!!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jomax BBQ, Metter, GA

Jomax BBQ, Metter, GA. Since the closing of Sweat's BBQ just off I-16 at the Soperton exit in the early 1990's, good Q joints between Macon and Savannah required that you get well off the interstate. Jomax in Metter solves that problem. Right up front, this is a stop that is worth scheduling your trip around. There's no need to try to hold your appetite at bay to make it all the way to Savannah. Jomax will put a smile on your face and leave you plenty of money in the pocket to spend on other things in Savannah.

Several friends had recommended Jomax, but I'd never been able to arrange a stop by this little joint until the last week of September 2011. My friend Jeff and I were on the way back from a meeting in Jekyll, and after a brief conversation, we easily decided to make it to Metter to try out Jomax. Jomax is less than a mile off I-16 immediately across the road from Waffle House. That is important as if you were not looking, you could drive right by.

The joint is quaintly decorated with somewhat of a southern theme. The menu is just right for a bbq joint. There's not a lot of "extra" offerings which is just what I like. We were quickly seated and promptly waited on by a couple of the nicest southern waitresses that you could ask for. My order was a sandwich and stew which it typically my order for a first trip stop. The food came out fairly quickly but nothing to get excited about. The sandwich was just about right in size with a sufficient helping of bbq. I'd already sampled the sauce and decided that both of the two offered sauces would be tried. One was sweet and the other was more typical, but both were of decent quality. The bbq itself was actually quite good. The texture was just about right with some bark and moist enough not to fall apart. Overall, the bbq ranked a fairly mediocre 3.5, but it did hit the spot. Regarding the stew, it actually had good flavor, but being how I strive for a low carb diet, I had to work around the diced potatoes in the stew.

I did notice that a number of the other plates of food that were being served were actually really awesome in appearance. Their "blooming onion" served to the patrons at the next table had my mouth watering. My partner in swine had more french fries than he could eat, and we left out leaving only $20 which included a double generous tip.

So, Jomax is worth the visit. You can kill a diet there if you wish, and based on the overall experience, I'd give it the best Q joint between Macon and Savannah that I have found that is less than a couple of miles of I-16.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Johnny's Barbecue, Gainesville, GA

Johnny's Barbecue, Gainesville, GA
. For quite some time I had been waiting to try out Johnny's. On at least two occasions they had been closed the day that I happened to be in Gainesville, so with Debbie and I having a Saturday outing just north of Gainesville, when lunch time got near, I plugged Johnny's into my GPS. Johnny's has a little bit of the "look" of a good bbq joint. It's nothing really fancy from the outside, has a gravel parking lot to the side, and the barbecue pit is located outback in a separate screened building. On the inside, Johnny's also has the appearance of a good little Q joint. There is sort of a mixture of formica and vinyl along with a section that is warm wood panelling. You order up at the counter and pick up your food there, so there's no real service as far as waitresses.

Debbie and I scoped out the menu which by my standards was clearly sufficient, but if you are looking for anything other than some form of barbecue pork, beef, or chicken, pass up on Johnny's. The prices at Johnny's are one of the two best things about the joint. We ordered up our typical sandwiches, stew, and fries and the whole bill was slightly over $12!!! Now that's my kind of meal tab!!! We hardly had time to turn around when our food was ready, so we found us a booth and began our eating and critiquing.

First, let me go ahead and report on the "second" best thing we found about Johnny's.....crushed ice! We both always find crushed ice, and I know that is such a little thing, a bonus! The sandwiches were well portioned, so you don't leave hungry. The quantity of (disappointingly previously frozen) french fries was borderline "heaping". I wanted to try the sauce before dressing my bbq, and it was a very good, sweet thick sauce that had just enough kick to it to make it interesting. There is only one sauce available, which must work for Johnny's but I'd have preferred to try another sauce or so with the bbq. The small cup of stew that I ordered with my sandwich was just decent. The color was a little on the dark side. The consistency was good, and the taste was alright. The stew gets little more than a 3 on the 5 point scale.

Pretty much the same ranking goes to Johnny's bbq. To their credit, again, portion size was good, and if you eat big, they also have a jumbo sandwich for just a little more. The barbecue was clean and relatively free of fat or bark. While my general preference is typically form my meet to be pulled and not finely chopped which is how Johnny's meat is prepared. On the negative side, it was actually a little on the dry side.

Overall, Johnny's just earned a 3 for the overall experience. There are at least 3 other bbq joints in Gainesville, so the chicken capital of world has good choices when it comes to bbq. At least on this visit, Johnny's doesn't get top billing.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bar-B-Q Shack, Toccoa, GA

Bar-B-Q Shack, Toccoa, GA
. Once again, my south Georgia compadres may consider me a traitor with this proclamation, but with the finding of today's joint, it confirms my previous claims that there are more "good" bbq joints above the gnat line than below it in Georgia. The Shack is one more of those! Located on Highway 17 just on the outskirts of Toccoa is this somewhat of a "throwback" of a joint. If you want to get in on the Q action here, you've only got 3 days each week to try it: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The Shack's tee claim that "Herman Knows BBQ", and I have to agree.

Debbie and I had wandered up toward Toccoa to visit Toccoa Falls on this hot late Spring day, and of course, I had heard tell of The Shack some time back, so I Googled it and had it on the radar for the day. After a visit at one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia and taking a minute to say a prayer in memory of those who died in the tragic dam breaking at Toccoa Falls College in 1977, we struck out for The Bar-B-Q Shack. Once finding it, it had all of the appearances of a potential winner! There were a couple of motorcycles mixed in with a few trucks and cars, and there was real wood smoke coming out of the pit area behind the dining area. Inside of the joint you do feel like you are stepping back into a joint that has been around for a while. It's warm wood finished interior and tables have the right things already on the table: paper towels, bbq sauce, and a huge pitcher of sweet tea. Debbie ordered her sandwich with cold slaw on it while I ordered the Pig Sandwich and a small bowl of Brunswick Stew. The very friendly waitress had our meal on our plates in no time flat even before I had sufficient time to taste the 3 sauces and study the patrons within the joint.

The sandwiches were piled high with good looking, clean barbecue chunks. I did get in a taste of the 3 sauces which were somewhat of a thin, vinegar based North Carolina style sauce. While one was marked "mild", we actually dubbed them hot, hotter, and hottest! The stew was of great portion sized and very good taste. The ingredients were finely ground and complimented the meal to a high level. Debbie remarked at how clean the barbecue was as it was free of both fat and heavy charring (despite the fact I can handle both without complaint).

This joint has a menu that is not cluttered with a lot of non-barbecue related food. You pretty much can choose between chopped bbq pork, chicken, and ribs. If you aren't into pretty standard bbq, you won't find a lot on the menu to serve as alternates.

I didn't get a lot of opportunity to get much history on The Bar-B-Q Shack, so I have a bit more work to do, but if you like barbecue and are in the Toccoa area on one of their 3 open days, I'd recommend choosing this place for dining. As far as bbq joints are concerned, it may be one of the best between Gainesville, GA and the North and South Carolina borders. As the shirt says, "Harold Know BBQ", and we could not agree more! The place gets a 5 on joint atmosphere and solid 4's on both the stew and bbq.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Satterfield's BBQ, Macon, GA

Satterfield's BBQ, Macon, GA. Yall won't some boiled peanuts??? That's what you'll get asked when the waitress greets you at your table. I've had dried ones before at a bbq joint, but never boiled ones. As much as I love boiled peanuts, I was there for their bbq and stew. One of them didn't disappoint me.

We pulled up to Satterfields on New Stree in Macon just off Riverside Drive and merely a stone's throw from the"original" Krystal in Macon. The parking lot was well packed, but inside the joint was a good mix of business types, families, service workers, and little old ladies. Once inside you are surrounded by almost everything "pig". To be right downtown Macon, you'd think you could be in any small Georgia town.

We were greeted quickly by our waitress. Debbie and I both ordered a sandwich, and I added my small order of Brunswick Stew. In addition to these items, the sandwich came with a nice service of potato chips and there were a few really good pickles rounded out a very nice looking meal. There were but two sauces from which to choose- regular and hot. Both were good, and the hot really didn't set your soul on fire, and it turned out to be my choice.

The stew: The stew is among the best I've eaten. It was somewhat of a hash with small, whole kernels of corn. The stew had good appearance, smell, and taste.

The bbq: The bbq, though having had a good review from my son earlier, wasn't bad but didn't really excite you. I'm not sure how it is cooked at Satterfields, but it is pretty clear that it isn't open pit.

All in all, I can't complain. We got to try out this neat joint that I hadn't eaten at in perhaps 10 years. Frankly, though, next Macon trip is back to Fresh Air!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Smokejack BBQ, Cumming, GA

Smokejack BBQ & Grill, Cumming, GA. My spring break would have not been complete without checking out a new BBQ joint, so my number 1 BBQ buddy (Debbie) and I decided to try out the Cumming location of Smokejack. We had tried out the Alpharetta location of Smokejack almost 2 years ago, and then sometime last year they opened their Forsyth County location located next to Midway Park.

The event started rather humorously when the hostess asked us when we walked in the door "are you going to dine with us today?" We sort of thought, "no, we've actually come to get our laundry done!" I actually had another thought but it will have to be left off this blog! We were seated in a booth in this neat and clean new joint. With ample seating and several large screen TV's, this is a great lunch or even evening entertainment spot. The menu at Smokejack has variety enough to suit even the non-Q lover. I ordered up my typical BBQ sandwich and Brunswick stew while Debbie opted for the sandwich and fries. The pricing of the menu is slightly on the high side, but hey, if they can't make a profit they can't stay in business.

The meals came out very quickly, so we give them high marks for that along with the fact that the tea and diet coke were both very good sized beverages. Both the sandwiches and the sides were very generous in portion sizes, so once again, things were on the positive side. Debbie's fries looked very good as they were nicely fried homemade steak fries. The BBQ sandwich is a very attractive looking pulled pork sandwich that has not been chopped to death. There are no sauces on the table. Rather your sandwich comes with a small container of sauce that highly resembles a South Carolina mustard based sauce. The stew was actually the highlight of my order. Though somewhat light on the meat base, the vegetables in the stew included potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans, and corn. Overall, they stew received a 4 out of 5.

The BBQ's best attribute was the appearance and texture. The pulled pork was clean with slight traces of bark. Perfect. The taste was somewhat disappointing as the one thing missing was the "smoke". Despite the name of the joint, the bbq lacked the desired "smokiness" of flavor. It is quite apparent that the cooking of the bbq is done in a commercial cooker that doesn't rely on wood as its primary source of heat. This type of bbq is typically consistent in quality, but its quality level will seldom reach the highest rating of 5.

We left full and content with the idea that I'd probably try the place again with guests. I sincerely wish Smokejack the best of success in Forsyth County. They do boast Saturday night live music of which I'll probably never dine late enough to experience, but given the expansive bar and big screen televisions, it could be a happening little place in this growth area of Forsyth County.

Monday, February 21, 2011

3 Lil' Pigs Bar-B-Q, Gainesville, GA

3 Lil' Pigs Bar-B-Q, Gainesville, GA. "Something to Pig Out About!" Sometimes bbq is in your destiny. I guess it is one of those "sovereign" things for me. I guess it is a good thing I am Southern Baptist. While in Gainesville visiting and having lunch with a couple of my superintendent friends from the NE GA area, we happened upon this dive on day 1 of its official opening. We were actually headed to Johnny's BBQ which is located right across the road, but they are closed on Mondays. Having the developed ability to smell out and pick out a bbq joint, before we'd even pulled out of the parking lot of Johnny's, I eyed 3 Lil' Pigs. Today, February 21, 2011 was the first official day of operation for this joint, so Iwas a little skeptical but certainly willing. Located in what had previously been a Hall County night club with somewhat of a Tex-Mex theme, this joint has occupied about 1/3 of that building in an effort to make it on the highly competitive bbq joint scene. Up front, I want to go ahead and speculate that despite a lot of things going in its favor, it is going to be an uphill battle for 3 Lil' Pigs. The menu is a great menu. The food is good. I am sure the service will get better. Being right across the road from Johnny's is going to be a challenge.

We entered into the joint through double steel doors like we were going either into an industrial warehouse or a night club that wanted to keep out peering eyes. The spacious and well decorated place, mostly remnants from its days as a night club, had us walking past the dance floor up to a little counter where we had to wait in line a bit longer than we should have behind 4 other patrons. We studied the menu on the wall while waiting to order. The menu is truly a good looking menu with sufficient variety but with a clear flair toward smoked meat preparation. The offerings included pulled pork, ribs, brisket, and chicken. The sides were just right in number. Not too many to make it complicated but enough to give options. Best of all, the prices were "right". $3.25 for the regular pork sandwich. $2.50 for the stew, and pork skins were waiting on the table as an appetizer to nibble on while waiting for the food at no extra cost! Now that is an appetizer option that I've not run into in a while.

Like I said, this was day 1 of their operating for the public, so I am going to be easy on the fact that service was slow. Once the plates arrived, we were all into "pigging out". Will's ribs looked great. They were dry rubbed and reportedly close to "fall off the bone" tender. My pork was surprisingly good. It was well portioned. I tried 3 of their sauces: mild, NC vinegar based, and sweet. They actually have the NC vinegar based sauce down to perfection with my least favorite being the mild. The stew had a typical but unique (if that is possible) appeareance and texture. The taste was perhaps the unique part. It was slightly different, but had every indication of having multiple meats in it which I think adds character.

The menu offered some interesting choices. The owner brought us some of his Chicken Mull (soup). I passed on it for dietary reasons, but Paul checked it out and gave it good marks. I've never knowingly had mull...maybe another day in place of the stew. Other interesting items on the menu included a Thick Grill Bologna Sandwich for a whopping $2. You can also have such items from the vegetarian menu as a tomato sandwich, Hawaiian burger, or he Tropic Sandwich Delight.

On the bbq I'm giving this joint a 3.5. On the stew a 4. If they are still around in a year from now, I am sure my ranking on the Q will have to rise. Gainesville is a good cited town, but the jury is out to see if they support as many bbq joints as they do Mexican joints. I sure wish them the best of luck. Meanwhile, this is truly a "joint", and a joint worth visiting. 3 Lil' Pigs also has a heavy focus on catering. Located north of downtown Gainesville on the Cleveland Highway, its the newest place to "pig out" in Gainesville, GA!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blind Pig BBQ, Jackson, GA

Blind Pig BBQ. "Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then!? Blind pig is an acorn worth searching for!!! There are signs all around Jackson, GA advertising the Blind Pig, but honestly, it can be a trick to find! Clearly, though, it is a joint worth searching for. If you are a with a lady, when you drive up to the Blind Pig, they'll probably say something like "so cute". It is a nice looking little joint that is very clean. The dozen or so cars there sported tags from all across Georgia, so it is a place that has been discovered across the state. It has even been rated in the top 5 in Georgia by Atlanta Magazine. I'm not going to be that generous by any stretch of the imagination, but it is worth trying as an alternative to Fresh Air. The Pig sits just a few miles away from Lake Jackson. As mentioned before, it is a clean little joint that gets extra consideration for that accomplishment. The interior decorations are rustic and accommodating including the big screen tv in the middle dining room that was featuring Adam Richman on Man vs. Food!!! Deb and I ordered up the bbq sandwich and I got a stew on the side. My total bill came to only $12.56 which ranks it among the best values in bbq dining in GA. While we waited for our food we took in the rather "cute" decorative atmosphere as well as enjoyed a few of the complimentary salted peanuts in the shell.

Our food came out rather quickly, and we had already lined up the sauces which were labeled rather crudely "regular", "hot", and "hurtin hot". I tried all three of the sauces but settled in on the "regular". The "hurtin" wasn't really that bad, so if you like the hot stuff, pour it on!!!

The bbq sandwiches were fairly portioned but nothing to write home about. The bbq was clean and very good, but once again, it wasn't a knock your socks off kind of experience. The stew was quite good with an adequate portion size, but it wasn't the best that I have ever had.

The Blind Pig is definitely worth a stop if you are in the Lake Jackson area. I still rank Flovillla's Fresh Air as the king of Butts County BBQ and perhaps the king of all joints from Monroe County up to South Atlanta, but for a pleasant bbq dining experience near the lake, The Blind Pig is worth a stop....if you can find it!!!