Archive for the 'BBQ' Category

BBQ Thursday- Smoakies Bar-B-Que, Crisp County, GA

Smoakies Bar-B-Que

I have traveled down Hwy. 257 south a thousand times in my life, passing Smoakies Bar-B-Que each time as I travel into Cordele on my way to I-75. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I have never stopped. Maybe it’s because I always stopped at AB’s in Hawkinsville, Scott’s in Cochran, or waited until Tifton or Valdosta to eat ‘cue. My wife has been on me to try this “cute little place outside of Cordele” for quite some time. It just so worked out that she and I could meet there earlier this week, and I will not make the mistake of waiting so long to dine there again.

Smoakies Bar-B-Que, referred to simply as Smoakies from here on out, is a small block building in the middle of nowhere outside of Cordele, GA on Hwy. 257. On the outside of this block building is a mural of a tree with a bear in it. There’s a rough parking lot with a billboard outside announcing you’ve arrived. If you’re not a native, it’s probably an easy place to cruise on past. That’s probably the main reason I’ve never stopped before. The smokehouse is out back and you’re greeted by two palm trees in big pots as you enter. There’s also a Pepsi machine outside, though I’m not really sure why. As I sat in the parking lot, or whatever you call it, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of folks pulling in and out. I thought to myself that we must be in for a treat.

The service at Smoakies was absolutely top notch. As soon as we walked in, a man, presumably the son of the original owner, greeted my wife and I and told us to have a seat. What stuck out to me was that this gentleman was wearing a starched white shirt and a tie, along with his blue jeans. He was a very gracious host, very kind and eager to serve. We had tea on our table instantly. He also mentioned that his mom makes a fresh batch of banana pudding every morning. I told him to go ahead and plan on bringing us out a large portion after we had the ‘cue. It seems that this is a multi-generational business, completely family run. I don’t know this to be fact, but that was the assumption I made.

After glancing at the menu, we ordered. I had the usual- sandwich, stew and slaw, while my wife opted for a plate of pulled pork, onion rings and stew. Lucky for me, I got to eat most of hers after I finished mine.

So…on to the meal. The food was brought out really quickly. The tea was just good ol’ South Georgia sweet tea. It wasn’t overly sweet, but just right. They offered a wide variety of sauces- a mild vinegar based, a mild mustard based, rib sauce and chicken sauce, both a little hotter. I had to try them all and decided that I liked the mild vinegar based the best. Purely personal preference; my wife liked the mustard based a lot.

The sandwich was very good. They did not have any sauce on their meat, which I like. Don’t mess with the meat, let the patrons do that. It was moist, tender, and very good. The sandwich was plenty for me, and I didn’t even order the large. I topped it off with a touch of the vinegar based bbq sauce and couldn’t put it down. While it wasn’t the absolute best bbq I’ve ever had, it definitely ranks up near the top. The meat was very fresh and seemed like it had just been pulled. Again, I reiterate that it was very tender. On my personal scale of 1-5, I give it a 4.5. Simply put, it was good.

The stew was almost as good as I’ve had. My wife raved on and on about it. I told her she could rank it, and she began by giving it a 5! I talked her down a little, because it’s hard to beat Mrs. Gayle’s stew, which is the only perfect 5 I’ve ever had, so she conceded and gave it a 4.5. I probably would have given it a 4.25, but that’s being picky. It was a stewy stew, mixed well and very consistent. I could have eaten more, given the chance.

I was also very impressed with the slaw. Slaw, when done right, can really compliment a bbq meal. This slaw was done well. It wasn’t runny, nor was it too thick. I’ll judge their slaw on a comparative basis- though it wasn’t as good as their ‘que nor their stew, it was as good as any slaw I can remember at a bbq joint. That said, I’ll gladly give their stew a 4.75, a really strong rating! It was the perfect complement to a sandwich, stew and tea.

After demolishing my plate and cleaning up my wife’s, our gracious host brought out the banana pudding. I am here to tell you, that was possibly the best banana pudding I have ever had (sorry, grandma.) You could tell that this gentlemen’s mother puts a little extra love and care into her desserts. It was simply  outstanding. I rarely give out a perfect rating for anything, but this fine lady deserves a 5 of 5 for her banana pudding. If you are ever in the area, even if you’re not hungry, do yourself a favor and stop in for a bowl of her banana pudding. You’ll thank me later. I could go on and on about how good her pudding was, but you get the point.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable visit to a quaint little barbecue joint in rural South Georgia. The atmosphere was excellent, exactly what you envision when thinking about a small ‘cue joint in rural Georgia. Small block building, family run business, a dozen tables inside, it was ideal. Smoakies gets my overwhelming approval, and I strongly encourage you to make a stop by if you’re ever outside of Cordele. It’s not 2 miles away from I-75, Exit 102, so you don’t have to travel too far off the beaten path. However, it seems as if you’re in the middle of nowhere when you arrive. The service was perfect, and you could tell without a doubt that you were in the South. I can’t wait for my next chance to stop at Smoakies Bar-B-Que. Do yourself the favor and drop in when you can.


BBQ is not a Verb

I’d like to draw your attention to a new blog that has entered the blogosphere: BBQ is not a Verb. Though in its infant stage, I expect great things. Or at least another venue to read about something we all as southerners know a little something about.

Enjoy yourself some ‘cue from your favorite local joint while you watch the Weekend Rounds of the Masters!


BBQ Thursday: Blue Ridge Mountain BBQ

Had to go to Blue Ridge last week, where I got to tour a trout farm, so it was quite a haul up there.  But the sun was shining, there was a Jimmy Buffett concert replay on XM 55, and I made my mind up early in the morning I was going to eat some ‘cue for lunch.  Life was good.

I decided to try Blue Ridge Mountain BBQ, right off downtown Blue Ridge (note:  if you are ever indowntown Blue Ridge, there is a used bookstore that has some neat books.  I was there last winter and bought Elvis is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself for under $20.  They had a bunch of other Lewis Grizzard books.) 

The building seemed to be a relatively newer place, and like every other tourist town in North Georgia, the place was a log cabin.  The inside was decorated with old signs, but not authentic old signs; the old signs you buy at the Cracker Barrel.

Just a side note for any travelers:  they are closed Mondays.  There was a good lunch crowd, and the menu had a lot of different choices.

I ordered a BBQ Sandwich combo with a side of Brunswick Stew and a sweet tea.

Very large portion.   It was priced pretty good…all that for around $7.  I had to scrape some of the meat off the sandwich and just eat it out the basket.  That was the only way I could negotiate such a large sandwich. 

The tea was good.  Not too sweet, but just right.

First, the stew.  It had a very strong tomato taste.  Very strong.  Not that it was a bad thing.  The stew was good, just a little different.  Not the best, but I didn’t think it was all that bad.   

Now the big boy sandwich.  Must say, I was disappointed.  The sandwich was quite hard to eat.  The meat had very nice smoky flavor.  Flavor was excellent, but I found the meat to be a little dry.  Seemed like yesterday’s meat. 

Some folks will tell you that real BBQ doesn’t need any sauce.  Well, that is true in some cases, but I do enjoy sauce.  Blue Ridge Mountain BBQ had lots of different sauces to choose from:

Hot (red bottle), Sweet (yellow bottle), Vinegar and Mild (clear bottle).  Like I said, I like sauce, especially when the meat left some to be desired.  Well, the sauce here was not that impressive.  There was no discernible difference between the sweet and hot sauces.  The Vinegar sauce was almost like putting water on the meat.

Perhaps I caught them on a bad day.  Not a totally bad place.  Not as bad Georgia Bob’s.  But it just wasn’t all that good.  On the way home, I passed a sign for a place called the Pink Pig just south of Blue Ridge.  I wish I had eaten there.


BBQ Thursday- Old but Sad News

For this edition of BBQ Thursday, I feel it appropriate to pay proper respects to a joint that had become one of my local favorites- Pig in a Pit. Due to unfortunate financial happenings, Pig in a Pit has been closed down. This is quite a shame for many reasons, but most importantly because I frequented this joint on average twice a week.

On February 20, 2011, I was browsing the 13WMAZ website based out of Macon when this article caught my attention. I had literally eaten Pig in a Pit the day before, so this caught like a surprise attack.

Pig in a Pit was not my all-time favorite bbq joint, but because of its location to my office and my constant need for ‘cue, I had grown to love it. I would frequently stop in, read my paper, and eat a sandwich and slaw. Some will argue that it was an upper-tier bbq joint. I won’t put it there, but it was good enough to be right behind the big boys.

I had always said I’d get around to doing a true review of this little joint, but for whatever reason kept putting it off. Today, I’ll give a posthumous review of a joint that I ate as often as anyone in Georgia.

Pig in a Pit- Macon, GA off Bass Road (another location in Milledgevile, GA)

Pig in a Pit was a unique bbq joint. The Macon restaurant is located very near the Bass Pro Shops, in a strip alongside a sub shop, meat place, and dry cleaners turned liquor store. The clientele was always an interesting mix.

These guys really did put out a good product. The meat was always tender, and though I added sauce to my sandwich, it was good pork. They had a good bbq wrap that I often enjoyed, as well as ribs, chicken, and many other menu options. I try to avoid French fries as often as I can, but this place made them with the best. It’s all a distant memory now, but I’ll do my best to give an honest review of my regular.

The sandwich. I really enjoyed a bbq sandwich from Pig in a Pit. The meat was sometimes a tiny bit dry, but a little sauce had you in business. They never skimped on the meat; I always had some leftover to finish my meal. It was a traditional pulled pork, stacked high between two buns. It was good enough for me to skip driving a few miles down the road to Fresh Air several times a month. I often debated what I would rate their pork, and I feel that a 4 out of 5 rating is very fair. They had a few sauces to choose from to add- if memory serves me correct it was mild, hot and vinegar. I always just went with the mild sauce, which was as good a sauce as you could find. Though I’m not sure where they cooked, it seemed as if it was always fresh. I already miss their pulled pork.

The slaw. Pig in a Pit did a great job with their slaw. It was thick and moist, and ranks up there with some of the best I’ve had. It wasn’t a finely chopped slaw like Fresh Air, but was somewhat chunky. It had a really good taste to it and really complimented the sandwich. I give the slaw a 5 of 5.

Other. Instead of rating the stew, I thought I’d rate a few other items that were some of my favorites. One of the things they did very well, which I mentioned, were their French fries. Some folks find a way to mess fries up, and others make a fried potato that really sticks out. These guys did fries right. I can’t put my finger on what it was, exactly, but they were great. I also had their baked beans from time to time, and they were always good. One of my favorites was their bbq wrap. It’s the only wrap I’ve ever had, so I can’t compare it to anything. However, I feel safe in saying that it’s as good a wrap as you could find. They always had a nice mix of desserts, and though I can fight off my sweet tooth, others I’ve dined there with couldn’t. The time or two that I tasted one of their pies I was impressed. The sweet tea was very sweet. No complaints there. I had the ribs once, and they were good. Same goes for the chicken. The service was always outstanding. For as long as I can remember, the same girl always brought the food out. They typically had ESPN or CMT on the televisions and country music on the radio. The atmosphere was not traditional, but it was good. As I mentioned earlier, you had everything from suits to tattered shirts dining in there. Very much a mixing pot of guests, and it was always fun to sit alone and just watch. It’s hard to really describe the overall atmosphere, but it is one that I won’t forget.

Bottom line is this: Pig in a Pit was a very good place to go get some ‘cue. It was good enough for me, a pretty tough critic, to frequent. I hate that they had to shut down; it has really thrown a kink into my plans. Corbin and I would go together at least twice a month to discuss business (or football, fantasy baseball, golf, etc.) I wish all the best to the folks who operated this joint; it was truly a sad day for bbq junkies when they closed down. I just hate that I never gave a proper review while they were still open. If there is a bright side, it means I’m eating more Fresh Air. But that’s not the way I would have had it. Thanks for the great meals and memories Pig in a Pit.


BBQ Thursday- Blind Pig, near Jackson

Blind Pig  BBQ- middle of nowhere, Butts County, GA

The family outside Blind Pig BBQ

Last weekend my family gathered at Jackson Lake to do some early season fishing and spend some quality time together. We could not have been more blessed with the weather or the company in my opinion. On Saturday, after fishing that morning, dad wanted to take me to Blind Pig (he’s a bigger bbq fan than me…check out his blog here). So we loaded up and went. The atmosphere at Blind Pig bbq was really good for a ‘cue joint. It has the look and the feel, which is somewhat rare. I was eager going inside.

Once in, you order at the front counter. They had a good menu selection and are not too bad on price. As always, I got the sandwich, stew and slaw. It did seem to take a little longer than I am used to waiting, but I was informed that it normally takes no time at all to get the food out, so I’ll chalk that up as an exception. They have peanuts on the table here, which I assume would please most folks.

First things first, the sweet tea was very good. Just sweet enough, I couldn’t find a flaw in it. I needed a second glass before I even got started due to their hurting hot bbq sauce. If you like hot you’ll like this. It was HOT! Their traditional hot sauce had heat as well. I liked the regular sauce (I’m a wimp I guess). It was a little sweet, but pretty good.

So, on to the bbq.

The sandwich, in my humble opinion, was good, but not great. Honestly it was just a little on the dry side. Adding some sauce to it made it better. There simply wasn’t anything overwhelming about it though, so it gets a 3.5 out of 5 on my personal point scale. I was expecting a little more from it.

The stew is a different story and was the best part of the meal. It was similar to other stews, but had a very nice consistency and taste. I proudly stand behind my 4.5 rating here.

The slaw was pretty good, but again, wasn’t really special. Like the ‘cue, it gets a 3.5.

I didn’t give much detail on the review here, because basically there wasn’t much to talk about for the normal review. The meal was good, but not great. I had higher expectations, but I wasn’t dissatisfied. I don’t want to sound negative, that’s no my intent at all. It just didn’t rank up there with the top class of bbq joints.

There are a few other items I’d like to highlight. As I mentioned, it was a family affair, so there were multiple portions ordered. Pictured below are the ribs that dad had (he has already had the traditional sandwich, stew and slaw.) According to him, the ribs get a 4 out of 5, ranking only slightly above the sandwich.

My wife is also quite the bbq fan. She actually liked the ‘cue a little more than I, which I can respect. However, she really liked their ‘taters. They were round, just like our friend MADIII cooks them. She eagerly gave them a 5!

This really was a great family outing. The company was great- any time you can get the whole family around a table is a blessing. Make it around some bbq and it’s even better! The service was fine, the food was good, and the atmosphere was outstanding.

Here’s the bottom line: I would go back to Blind Pig with a friend who has never been, but given the choice I’ll travel a few miles down the road and eat Fresh Air.


BBQ Thursday Map

Here at the Grit Tree we hope everyone one enjoys the site and BBQ Thursday.  To try to make it a little easier and more organized we’ve created a map with all the locations we’ve reviewed over the past year, which can be found at the tabs at the top of the site.  On the map you can zoom into all the locations and will find each restaurant’s contact information and address.   The first link will take you to our BBQ review and the second will take you to their website if they have one.  Hope you enjoy and please keep giving us ideas on new places to try.

BBQ Thursday – Hollis Famous Ribs

All All day Friday I had been thinking about eating BBQ and decided that it was about time I tried out that little rib shack on Broad just off of downtown Athens. For almost ten years now I’ve been driving by that little white building just down the road from the Varsity and wondered how it was. I’ve always seen the men standing around smoking grills on the side of the building and said “that place has to be good” but just keep driving by. Well I tried it out Saturday and let me be the first to say, Sonny’s Real Pit is four miles down the road.

Everything started out great. I came in the little shop and it had the feel of an old dinner or carry out stand. The girl waiting on me was friendly and the owner was sitting on a bar stool watching football. Since I knew there wasn’t much room to sit inside I got a half pound of pork and half rack of ribs to-go and as I was checking out, couldn’t resist the bag of fresh pork skins on the counter. $20 for more than two people can eat plus skins, this was starting out well. On the way home I dove into the skins and they were unseasoned but crispy fresh and almost buttery fatty. So far so good. Then I got home.

The bbq was dried out, had no sauce (which normally is fine), and the homemade sauce was a mix of ketchup, a little vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Way too sweet and just not good. The ribs were no better. They were drowned in the same ketchup sauce and weren’t even as good as the pulled pork. Now giving credit were credit is due, once you got through the dried burnt meat which reeked of smoke, cartilage, and fat there was some pretty good meat that the ketchup couldn’t reach near the bone. It was just a train wreck of poor quality meat that sat too long on a hot grill.

Sorry for being so critical but I just want to save anyone from making the same mistake I did. I have been told that when this joint was JB’s it was great but that it changed hands in ’09.  Now if you are a Hollis regular and love the place, feel free to rip me in the comments.




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