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!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mountain Man BBQ, Dillard, GA. I really hate to write a bad BBQ review. I really hate even more getting really bad BBQ. It may well have been a "bad day", but today's trip to Mountain Man BBQ was one of the biggest disappointments that Debbie and I have ever had in doing Q reviews. We decided late in the week, on like Friday to be exact, to take off and spend a couple of days and one night enjoying the Rabun County area thanks to the wonderful generosity of friends who own a home just outside of Dillard. We had enjoyed Oinkers the last time up in Clayton, GA, and on Saturday, Cinco de Mayo 2012, we had a wonderful time dining at a downtown Clayton joint called "The Universal Joint." While The Universal Joint isn't a bbq joint, it is a cute little old gas station turned into a bar and grill. Rumor has it, and you know how those go, that Alan Jackson frequents this place while staying at his Rabun County lake home. I do suggest you trying out "The Universal Joint" if you are in the area. Now, on to the Mountain Man. As always, we are looking for bbq joints we haven't visited. Mountain Man may well be Georgia's northernmost bbq joint. The place sits just a stone's throw away from the North Carolina State line. I got a little worried about what we may find with the Mountain Man experience when I looked at their menu online and found that it seemed that pizza was getting more attention than the bbq. The owners, I am told, are originally from Chicago, so as narrow minded as it might sound, I really wondered if Chicago deep dish was more the passion that slow smoked pork. Debbie and I got to the joint for an early lunch before we left town on Sunday. While secretly hoping for a really good bbq experience, I was anxious to place my typical order of a sandwich and stew. To Mountain Man's credit, the sandwich is fairly priced at less than $5 and comes with a little cup of slaw and home fried potato chips. The order came out quickly likely aided by the fact that we were only the second set of diners in the joint. While waiting on our meal to come, we sampled the two available sauces. Both the mild and the hot sauce were actually very good sauces. It is a shame that good sauce could not even make this barbecue very good. In one bite of the pork, Debbie is already giving a thumbs down. It wouldn't be long before I would join her in my opinion. Let me give the additional positives before throwing down on the bbq. The stew was actually a pretty good stew that was pretty much on the hash side. The color wasn't really that great, but the taste was some where around the 4 of 5 scale. The chips, while slightly off color like the stew, were pretty good. They were clean, warm, and not greasy. The slaw that came with the bbq was sufficient with good taste. Now, the bbq. As indicated above, Debbie had already tasted her sandwich and was throwing up red flags. My first thought, or maybe even hope, was that she was being overly critical. She wasn't. Upon first taste, I was wondering "what is wrong with this bbq?" I salted and sauced it, and no matter how much of the two that I added, you just couldn't make this work. As indicated, I really hate writing negative reviews, but when your main bbq partner leaves the joint swearing off bbq, that does not make me happy. As previously stated, I just hope this was a bad bbq day for Mountain Man. For the two of us, though, when back in Rabun County, we will either look for another bbq joint or hit downtown for a stop in The Universal Joint in hopes of running into Alan Jackson!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Community BBQ, Decatur, GA.

Community BBQ, Decatur, GA.

Often times you just choose to do bbq where you are at. What determines where you choose to eat is often based on word of mouth among us bbq junkies. Today's visit to Community BBQ in Decatur, GA was created by both of those circumstances. I seldom go into Decatur as frankly, I just don't have much reason to go there. Some time back, though, at least one of my bbq friends had suggested Community, so it has been on the radar for some time. Finding myself in Decatur following a good little educational meeting, me and my friend and Board Chairman Tom honed in Community BBQ. Finding the little joint, really wasn't that tough. We plugged it into the GPS, turned on Clairmont Rd., and within just a few minutes were there.

There were good signs in the parking lot quickly suggesting to me that early reports of that this was a good joint were true. First, the parking lot was packed. Secondly, there were folks eating at picnic tables in front of the building. Thirdly, the people that I could see eating out front and walking to and from the joint were of every size, shape, ethnicity, and dress code. Fourth, there was a completely restored 1957 Chevy parked in the first parking spot in front of the building. All of that really made up for the fact that the restaurant is located in a strip mall. Once inside, you don't recognize that fact either. In fact (see this pics of course), the inside has as good of a "joint" feeling as most any q spot I've been to.

This is another one of those low maintenance kinda joints where you line up to place your order at the counter. It is a really efficient set up. While in line, you can peruse the t-shirts they have for sale. The shirts have such things written on them as Smokin' (in big letters followed by little letters) Whole Hog and NICE RACK (in big letters followed again in little letters by) Of Ribs. Me and Forrest really didn't know what they meant by all of that. I was sufficiently entertained to the point that I did't even seem to remember waiting in line. The big menu board at the beside the order station had pretty much told me what I needed to know in that yep, they had pulled pork sandwiches, Brunswick stew, and collards....easy pick. I definitely give Community points for having a good q joint menu. There was no pizza or other things to appease the types who somehow think they are too sophisticated to eat bbq in a joint.

Tom and I decided that we'd eat at the "big" table. This was sort of like a community type bar table that offered us a full view of the restaurant and the people in there. As indicated earlier, which is always a good sign, there were those of us in there in suits seated next to two members of a SWAT team and most everything else as far as occupational backgrounds. Our food came out fairly quickly and the waiter (as such) brought us our food (of course after calling out TOM...BUSTER!).

Now I can joke around from time to time, but when it comes to evaluating the final product, I like to be as serious as I can be, but that may not be saying a whole lot. This bbq sandwich friends was one to fight over. I'm talking about a nice mound of pulled pork resting atop a big ole piece of Texas toast with the other piece of toast flipped to the side. Oh my, now this was a pretty picture (yea, the one of up top). The Brunswick stew was just about the perfect size. I've had smaller and I've had bigger, but to compliment this BBQ, it was just right. The bbq was really, really good. It was a consistent cook, it was clean, it had just a bit of bark, and it was free of excess fat. I couldn't wait, but I had to do the stew first.

The Brunswick stew was among the best I've had anywhere. The consistency was perfect.. The detectable vegetables included whole kernel corn, an occasional English pea, and tomatoes. There was none of this quarter sized filler of potatoes, just some really fine stew. The coloring was right on target. The taste was perfect with just a hint of "heat". Without really thinking about it much, I'm giving them a 4+ (out of 5) on the stew.

Now, back to the pulled pork. Before digging into the pork, I had to sample the sauces. Community has only two sauces: sweet and NC vinegar. Honestly, both sauces were exceptional for their variety. Not only was the bbq clean and of really ample quantity, it was awesome!!! The moist, flavorful bbq was tender and tasty. It was truly one of the best examples of naked pulled pork that I've stumbled across in months.

There's little doubt that if I am in the Decatur area again sometime, I'll try Community BBQ again. You can check out their menu at

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Brisket House, Houston, TX.

The Brisket House. Houston, TX.

One of the things on our to do list while in Houston was to once again experience some good Texas BBQ. Much is boasted about who has the best Bbq, and our previous trips to Texas have always had good BBQ but clearly there has not yet been anything that would lead me to claim that Texas BBQ is better than that available in the southeast. Yes, perhaps the brisket may be more readily available in Texas, but it is often hard to find pulled pork!

Debbie and I ordered ourselves the 3 meat plate at Houston's The Brisket House. After navigating two airports and a 20 mile taxi ride we were ready for some good BBQ. A little about this joint The Brisket House breaks a couple of desired rules as first of all it is in a strip mall despite that, it is cute, clean, and a good little joint to sit down in for q.

Our 3 meat selection included brisket, sausage, and pork ribs. The sides we ordered were cold slaw and mashed sweet potatoes. While the sides and the selection of them left something to be desired, the meats were awesome. The sausage was hot, spicy, and exceptional. The brisket may honestly be the best I've ever had. Debbie kept saying "it just falls apart". A combination of succulent meat with some burnt ends and I was in brisket heaven. The ribs were actually very good as well. The meat, what there was on them, pulled nice and cleanly from the bone. The sauce was actually a good vinegar and tomatoe based, but you had but one choice.

Overall, this was a good experience, but on the next trip, there are plenty of other BBQ joints to try out in Texas.