Tuesday, April 25, 2017

DAS Barbecue
"Atlanta's Hottest New Joint"!

In September 2016, I began working on the north side of downtown Atlanta.  Somewhere along the way, I had probably said "I'd never work in downtown Atlanta".  After a 7 year stint working in the Atlanta suburbs and getting to know "the lay of the land", working inside of "the perimeter, while never being desirable" became "acceptable" considering the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director of the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia.  I had figured that aside from leading one of the country's largest pension fund systems, there had to be some additional advantages that I had not discovered yet.  Today was one of those days where I found another reason to make working in Atlanta work despite a daily commute of 78 miles one way...DAS BBQ.

DAS is one of Atltanta's hottest new resturants.  Located on Collier Road which is just off Howell Mill Road, DAS has only been open a few months as of this post.  I'd first heard of DAS from a tweet or some other social media post by author Charles Martin who is a long time friend of owner Stephen Franklin.  I'd received another report or two that DAS was really good from colleagues who'd visited the place.  After reconnecting with long time friend and former Forsyth County Schools Human Resources Director, Candy Norton, and knowing of my incessant desire to experience good barbecue, Candy and I agreed to try it for lunch one day.  Of course, Candy had beaten me to the punch and had already visited DAS with friends.  She knew what she was getting me into!    

Dr. Norton picked me up at 2 Northside 75 in her high tech Tesla SUV, and Tessie, with her 5 gallon bucket sized display screen led us to the Collier Road address of DAS.  We arrived early, so we had no problem finding a good parking place.  I emphasize "arrived early".  If you wait until 12 to get there, you'll struggle to find parking plus you'll stand in line a bit.  We got out and since Candy had already visited joint on another occasion, she knew where to look around the side of the building in order to introduce me to "Poncho and Lefty."  Pictured below are the two, genuine 500 gallon wood fired smokers who have been named such.  Yes, genuine, no propane, etc. wood fired smokers that burn off of a mixture of 50% hickory and 50% pecan wood.  The elder Franklin would later explain why that mix is the one that works for DAS.

Candy introduced me to one of the most enthusiastic, extroverted BBQ pitmasters I've ever met.  Stephen Franklin grew up in the Atlanta area of Vinings.  His dad, among other things, was a professor at Emory and long time barbecue lover and judge.  When we met Steve, he was attending to the duties around the pit while getting ready for the lunch rush.  I told Stephen that I'd first heard about DAS through a tweet from Charles Martin.  He really liked that, and then told me "you've got to come inside and meet "Pops".  Pops, in addition to being Stephen's Dad (Steve) was somewhat of a mentor to Charles Martin who has written a number of books that include settings in the southeastern US.  The entire Evans clan has read ALL of the Martin books!  Stephen nor Pop's have ever met a stranger or so it seems, so we jumped into a conversation that lasted for at least an hour.  We talked barbecue, south Georgia, Texas and its barbecue, the success of the new venture as well as how this business came to be.  

We arrived early enough to get a seat with Pops, place our order, and then begin to watch the line begin to form.  By the time we had gotten our meal, the line was backed up to the entry of the door....a good sign for a barbecue joint.  DAS is one of those places where you walk up to the counter, place your order, have a seat, and then they'll call out your name and you come up and get your order.  While that service format may cut down on the presence of waitors and waitresses, there is something most gratifying about picking up your food from the counter and savoring it all the way back to the table.  This is what ours looked like.

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WOW!!!  We ordered the 3 meat plate that included ribs, sliced brisket, and pulled pork. The sides I ordered were Brunswick stew and collards.  I had already sampled the two types of sauces offered by DAS:  A sort of mild tomato based sauce that was infused with expresso (coffee) and their mustard based sauce that is about as much peach sauce as it is mustard. Both were wonderful on all 3 of the meats.

I really didn't know where to start on the meats.  All 3 had great appearance from the visible smoke rings, attractive coloring, and light bark.  I chose to start with the pulled pork.  Simply put, the best I've had in months.  They have their own secrets and strategies, but suffice it to say that the bbq is fresh, moist, and well taken care of from purchase, through the smoking, and to the table.  The brisket was tender, juicy, and full of that great, beefy flavor.  The ribs were totally to die for!!!  They were tender enough to be "fall off the bone", but they didn't! The taste on all 3 of these distinctive meat options were exceptional.  On the scale of 1 to 5, we are pushing the 5 limits on these.  

Normally I write about the Brunswick stew first simply to get it out of the way.  I suppose I was so excited about the meats I held back on the stew, but DAS's stew and other sides compliment their menu nicely.  The stew was meaty.  There was no effort to go light on the meat based stew.  There's a bit more corn in the stew along with the tomatoes, but it is light on the potatoes, and that's good for us low carb dieters.  The stew had great coloring and appearance.  It's taste was clean and flavorful.  In all reality, the stew could have been my meal for the day.  

Usually after a meal like this, I would not even think about dessert.  I had noticed that the desert option included a banana pudding and also a peanut butter/chocolate pudding. Steve Franklin said he really liked the banana pudding.  We opted for the Peanut Butter/Chocolate.  While I'm sure that either choice would have been great, there's something about this chocolate peanut butter dish that just makes you smile.

Atlanta continues to be home to some of the south's greatest barbecue joints.  I've been to about all of them.  DAS happens to be one of the hottest restaurants in Atlanta right now according to Atlanta Eater  http://atlanta.eater.com/maps/best-new-atlanta-restaurants-heatmap.  I can't wait for a return trip to this northwest Atlanta hotspot that's making working in Atlanta just a bit more exciting.  


Papa Buck's BBQ.  Metter, GA.


Anyone who has driven the stretch of I-16 between Macon and Savannah very much knows that there are only a couple of even halfway decent exits to stop and eat along that stretch.  If you leave Macon heading toward Savannah, you really don't want to stop in Dublin as you have barely been on the road for less than an hour.  By the time you get to Metter, you are thinking, "my gosh, I didn't think I'd ever find a place to take a break!"  Well, the good news is that Metter has several good options for taking a break, including getting barbecue.  Years ago, I had discovered Jomax BBQ, and it was very good as best as I remember.  It did not, however, leave me with the feeling that "I've got to make it a priority to go back anytime really soon."  

Let me digress just a moment regarding Metter.  My first real appreciation for the town of Metter came back around 1992 which would be about 25 years ago.  At that time in my life, I was into road cycling.  Three other friends of mine from Eastman (Wayne Smith, Joe Taylor, and Rae Taylor), where we lived at the time, decided to do the second half of one of Georgia's great cycling events, Bike Ride Across Georgia.  We had joined up with BRAG in Eastman on a Thursday with the goal to end up in Savannah on Saturday of that week.  Day 1 of the ride was filled with enthusiasm and great adrenalin flow.  We spent the night in Vidalia, and then Day 2 would have us riding from Vidalia to Statesboro.  There are some things that you learn in taking up new adventures, and one of the things you learn in long distance cycling is effectives uses of things like Vaseline and baby powder.  Without getting highly descriptive, we were so glad to get to Metter about mid-day of that trip to find a drug store in order to find some much needed Vaseline!  

They've said for a long time "things are better in Metter!"  While I can't say it is a place that I have a desire to live, I can say it's work a stop along I-16 to grab a barbecue meal.  On this day, I was traveling alone to Savannah.  I had heard of Papa Buck's www.papabucks.com, and I had wanted to eat there at some point.  I made it a priority to time my trip accordingly.  I got to the joint, and it certainly qualifies as a "joint", before the lunch crowd really began gathering (and they eventually did about the time I was leaving), I easily found a seat and within an acceptable period of time was waited on by one of  the several waitresses who all wore tight pants with a Papa Buck's T-shirt for the top.  Knowing the young, south Georgia redneck population the way that I think I do, I'm guessing that some of these guys were showing up partly for the barbecue and partly because of the friendly waitress staff!

The barbecue offerings at Papa Buck's are exceptional.  The menus is relatively extensive with offierings including bbq chicken, pulled pork, pork loin,  ribs, brisket, turkey, hamburgers, and chicken fingers.

Home of the PIGZILLA. 

Advertized proudly, both inside and outside of the building, is something about "Pigzilla". The Pigzilla is 3 pounds of pulled pork covered in bbq sauce and served on a 1 pound Hawaiian sweet bread roll.  The challenger has 45 minutes to consume the entire meal.  Allegedly folks will drive from long distances to take on this challenge.

I skipped the Pigzilla and went for my typical first visit meal.  I ordered a barbecue pork sandwich and a small Brunswick stew.  The order came out quite promptly, and as evidenced in the picture, it had a very good appeal.  First, the stew.  The stew was a good mix of meat, sauces, and vegetables.  The color was appealing and the flavor was quite good.  There was a good mix of corn, tomatoes, potatoes, but some of my favorites such as okra or small butterbeans were scarce to non-existent.  Overall, though, I'd give the stew a good 3+ on a scale of 1 to 5.

The barbecue sandwich was ample in size.  The appearance was good, however, the meat was pre-sauced and the option of sauce on the side with several sauce options apparently doesn't exist.  There was sauce on the table for adding more to the meat, and I did that mainly to explore their sauce.  It was a good "middle of the road" sauce that wasn't too sweet nor too hot.  The barbecue as well gets a 3+, but frankly, it was really good.  

By the time that I was wrapping up my meal, the place had begun to fill.  You could tell this was a local favorite.  A couple of law enforcement groups showed up, loggers, farmers, old-timers, and even couples enjoing a mid-day barbecue adventure all showed up.  I paid my very inexpensive tab, and then continued my journey to Savannah.  

Given the variety on the menu, there are several more reasons why I'll stop in Metter again one day.  I can't wait to try a brisket order as well as their ribs.  In conclusion, though they are nothing much to look at from the outside, both Papa Buck's and Jomax come highly rated as a place to dine along the I-16 route to the Georgia coast.