It was another tough week herding Trailheads, but not their dogs. Elvis and Fio accompanied Brad, Guy, and Patrick as they trekked through another Civil War site.
George took a pass due to a conference call with some French filmmakers about a project he's developed. No, his project is not porn. Yet.
Roy took a powder due to preparations he was making for out-of-town guests. And Steve was a last-minute cancellation because he ate some bad sushi the night before. Some of us don't believe there is such a thing as bad sushi, and Patrick thinks sushi would be much better deep fried. But Steve said he had some bad sushi. We doubt him.
Excuses, excuses, excuses.
Trail Master Guy picked a doozy of a hike with Burnt Hickory Trail, one of the many fabulous hiking routes in the Kennesaw Mountain neighborhood. The weather was Hallmark Calendar-perfect, the trees showing off their Autumn glory as the deep blue sky vied for attention.
Elvis exited Brad's car as excited as a greedy kid on Christmas morning. The big black hound hadn't been on a hike in a long time, and he was ready to go. Fio looked on with an expression of concern––now she had three humans and one rambunctious dog to corral and keep on the straight and narrow.
Naturally, it falls on the one woman in the group to make things work.
Nature had provided a wall-to-wall carpet of fallen leaves as the Trailheads Trio marched along, keeping a watchful eye for stones hiding beneath leaf cover. Sneaky stones.
Guy felt nature calling. He must be very popular since he gets these calls every 186 steps (big bladder Patrick can last 239 steps).
While Guy went to relieve himself, Brad and Patrick talked about felling some trees and building a rustic Port-A-John. They gave up when they realized the project would require work. Guy soon returned refreshed and ready to hike another 185 steps. He liked our rustic restroom idea but said it had to have wheels. We're not good at carving round objects, so he'll have to keep attacking trees.
Burnt Hickory Trail starts flat, then throws some elevation at you. But being rugged naturalists, we didn't cry. No, we mustered our courage and crossed the Nose's Creek bridge.
The surroundings were beautiful woods where one could imagine the cat-and-mouse maneuvering of Union forces against the embedded Confederate Army positions in the summer of 1864. The Rebs could not hold back Sherman's Army as they advanced and eventually took 75 South into Atlanta and began a fire sale on real estate. 75 was under construction even then, so they were a little late.
The dogs enjoyed dips in Nose Creek as we discussed important matters like Guy's proposal for a Trailheads bylaw banning all Pickleball conversations on our hikes. Brad and Patrick nodded in agreement and said we'd only talk Pickleball when Guy went to relieve himself. That would give us plenty of time. "Dink," we learned, is Guy's trigger word. We made sure to work it into every conversation.
We passed people on horseback––either that or they were riding giant dogs wearing saddles. Brad is looking into an ornate Western saddle now for Elvis. Fio says she's a bareback girl or nothing.
On the march back to the parking lot, we descended the hill and dodged tree roots creeping from leaf cover. No one tripped and died, so when we returned to the cars, we decided to celebrate and head for a repeat visit to Herb's Rib Shack in Marietta. Read about our first sampling of Herb's here.
There are a bunch of black smokers out front dispensing irresistible aromas to the passing traffic on Windy Hill Road. For more seduction, Herb has a banner proclaiming FREE SAMPLES.
The free sample today was a rib tip. Sold!
We kept going in and out the door to see if they would give us freebies each time. They're no dummies and told us one sample per person. We ordered and took our bags behind Herb's, sitting at the one plastic table that looked like it's been there since the troops came through.
Herb's ribs are the stars of the show. They are meaty spareribs, leaner than most, and imbued with a smoky flavor that'll have your tastebuds swooning in ecstasy. There's a plastic container of sauces to dress your barbecue; all of them are flavorful and what the well-dressed meats are wearing this year. All three of us went for the rib platters with two sides. On our last visit, we learned these ribs were fine without sauce.
The sides are limited: mac 'n cheese, baked beans, tater salad, corn, and green beans. Herb must not have a fryer, and we suspect our cardiologists wish he would get one.
One bite into a rib will enlist you into Herb's fan club. There is a nice tang and a peppery kick, and that smoky meat is the real deal.
Trailheads don't like when barbecue joints have smokers but no smoky flavor in their fare. Take it from us; these are the best spareribs you'll find in the metro area. We suspect the Union troops stopped for some racks on their march to Atlanta. We know those guys liked fire and smoke.
The mac 'n cheese is creamy goodness––100% comfort food in every forkful. The corn is okay. Corny through and through. Just like us.
The green beans come mixed with smoked pork. That's an excellent addition to an otherwise healthy dish. The baked beans were delicious, tasting just like baked beans. They also have some smoked meat added for good measure and flavor enhancement.
We shared a peach cobbler for dessert. There's no smoked meat in it. The kitchen is serious about its sweet treats for clean plate club members. It was the peach cobbler of the gods. Delicious and wholly satisfying. The perfect capper for a hearty meal.
We called it a day with our bellies busting, waved goodbye to our talented cooks, and dreamt of an afternoon nap. We had earned it.
Hit Herb's soon. Trail or no trail.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Herb's Rib Shack
186 Windy Hill Rd
Marietta GA 30060
*About Our Barbecue Rating System
Trailheads do not claim to be food experts, epicureans, or sophisticated palettes. We are hungry hikers who attack a selected barbecue venue and ravage our way through whatever smoked fare and fixings they're dishing.
Our reviews feature what we believe are the highlights of the menu we sampled. So our intent is not to trash talk the saintly folks who tend to smoldering smokers on hot, humid summer days. They are sacrificing themselves in the noble art of smoking meats and feeding the drooling masses. Many are independent entrepreneurs who are the backbone of this humming American economy.
Now that you know our standards, you may wonder why every barbecue place gets a four ribs rating. The answer is easy: our group has acclaimed designers, and they think the ribs graphic looks cool.
Who are we to argue? Enjoy.