Hot Thomas BBQ. Watkinsville, GA.
My best friends know I love barbecue and the sport of trying out places that I've never been before. Today I was introduced to a true gem of a southern bbq joint. I can't believe I hadn't found this place before. Though it is off the beaten path, it is worth a drive to find and experience great barbecue, some of the nicest folks you'll ever meet, and be in the county that has what I consider one of the top school systems in Georgia. Long time friend, Superintendent Dr. Jason Branch and I enjoyed some time of business both before, during, and after the bbq experience. We headed out to Oconee County Commissioner Mark Thomas' farm and bbq joint with the promise that I would not be disappointed, especially if I sampled the chocolate pie. As we parked in the gravel parking lot outside of this building that I'd guess is at least 50 years old, I noticed the "outdoor entry" to the bathroom. I felt that was a great sign as to what I'd find inside! We walked in and I was greeted with décor that reached back into generations in the Thomas family. Old pictures, antiques, old soft drink bottles, and other nostalgic items were on all of the walls. This is a walk up to the counter, place your order, and then they bring it to you kind of place. Nothing fancy here except the food and the folks.
I ordered a bbq sandwich, Brunswick stew, and OMG, chicken mull. It had been a few years since I'd had chicken mull but had remembered that it was especially good, so I had to add that to my order as a side. Jason and I chatted with the owner and his daughter who are just really fantastic examples of hard working, successful members of the Oconee County community. Our food came out quickly enough, and the delight continued. The stew is not the most visually appealing stew I've ever seen, but its taste was awesome. It is more of a hash type of stew with awesome flavor. Even before getting to the bbq, I had to sample the chicken mull. Hot Thomas is known throughout the area for their mull. For the uninitiated, chicken mull is a chicken type of stew made from boiled chicken, broth, milk, saltine crackers, and salt and pepper. It is truly a great type of "stew".
Now to the barbecue. Hot Thomas' bbq is probably the cleanest, most fat free bbq I've ever eaten. You won't find an abundance of fat and bark in your bbq there, or at least that was what I experienced. It was clean, flavorful, and sufficient quantity on the bun. I especially liked their hot, ketchup based sweet sauce that was hot enough to feel but only complimented the flavor.
For dessert, and yes, I did have dessert as my old childhood friend Zoe had suggested the chocolate pie. Oh my!!! It was a divine meal unparalleled in quite some time!
Following the meal was another wonderful treat as Mark Thomas gave us a tour of the old cotton seed house, cotton gin, and parts of the Thomas farm property. The place is used for special events such as weddings, political gatherings, and community events. It's really much like stepping back in time some 40 years or so, and for a nostalgic old guy like me, it was a joy.
Prompting this posting was not just my experience at the place today, but also that when I got home this evening, I ran across a web based posting of Georgia's top bbq joints. Hot Thomas came in at number 9 among an all star list of places. Most impressive and well deserved!