This week's adventure had a skeletal crew (Guy, Steve, and Patrick), the dedicated true Trailheads who are champions of Mother Nature and all woodland creatures.
Our other members excused themselves. Brad said he had a bad cold he thinks he contracted from a guy who borrowed his pickleball paddle––and you guessed it, the player was sick. It's our first known case of a pickleball paddle-transmitted infection. We have reported it to the CDC, the AMA, and the FDIC.
Roy was home nursing his sick cat Boo, and George declined hiking because he was doing something called "work." It is not in our vocabulary. We looked the word up in the dictionary, and it means the opposite of play. Did he prefer that to our hike? Weird.
But the plot thickens like gravy. All six Trailheads are pledging a Dry January––no booze for 31 days, something we did last year and then spent eleven months celebrating our incredible willpower. But on January 2, 2023, Brad, George, and Roy commented that they'd like a drink. Were these three missing because they were on barstools in some gin joint? Were they more attracted to demon rum than Mother Nature? Far be it from us to start rumors, but it does cause one to contemplate as he sips a fine bourbon––strike that. It's Dry January, remember?
With three men down, the workhorse dry-as-toast-in-The-Sahara-Trailheads assembled at McDaniel's Farm Park Trail in Duluth. It is 134 acres of idyllic greenery located about a mile from the ghostly remains of Gwinnett Place Mall.
The tract of land was sold in the 1820 land lottery and was originally a cotton farm. The McDaniel family lived on it from 1859 to 1999, producing everything they needed––including timber for building a farmhouse, barn, blacksmith shed, restored tenant cabin and outhouse (without Charmin or XLERATOR Hand Dryer), well house, and chicken coop. There are also vegetable and flower gardens.
Back in the day, the farmers would slaughter hogs in the fall. They quartered the hogs and cured them for weeks in salt barrels. Then they rinsed the pork and hung it in the smokehouse. They gave it extra flavor by kindling fires on the floor below the meat. Could this be a precursor to barbecue? Could we be at the epicenter of smoked meat creation? Be still our hearts before we have our barbecue and clog them.
McDaniel's Farm Park Trail has over two miles of paved walkways throughout rolling hills. Everything is well-maintained and pristine, and there are also natural paths to muddy your boots and make you feel legit. We hiked both. Aren't we something?!
A light crowd enjoyed the beautiful morning in the cool, crisp air. A deep blue sky anchored the sun's spectacular light show with few clouds in sight. We hiked along the paved path in deep discussion, either solving world problems or giggling about Patrick posing for a picture in the outhouse (we love rustic potty humor) when a man approached with his daughter and dog. The curious fellow asked us about our matching Trailheads logo hats and hoodies. (He, fortunately, didn't ask about the slightly disturbing outhouse photo session.)
We gave him our spiel, and he amazingly stayed awake. The nice guy was from Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic or Slovakia. We're not sure. Or perhaps he was from Bohemia - the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech Republic. Let's just say he wasn't from these parts. Anyway, he moved years ago to Chicago, where Czech-Polish neighborhoods have a population second to Prague. He felt at home. Although he was a cook back then, he got into the home remodeling trade and eventually moved to Atlanta. The man was friendly, as were all the people we encountered on the trails.
We passed folks of all ages and ethnicities, and since no one punched us, we thought they were kind. Hiking is a social sport. You meet the nicest people on the trails.
After logging a couple of hours of vigorous hiking, we wanted our barbecue reward. We deserved it since the other three Trailheads were probably eating a healthy serving of kale and tofu at home, washing it down with exotic cocktails. As we three faced the beginnings of dry Friday, our selection was Tipsy Pig in Lilburn.
We loved the joint's name––was that because we were in Dry January and wanted to be around drunken swine? Maybe, but let's leave that be. We plugged Tipsy Pig's address into our Apple Maps and headed out. When our satellite-powered coordinates said we had arrived, we were in a Kroger parking lot. There was no restaurant in sight––a first in our travels. Was phantom barbecue a thing?
We asked a local man walking outside the Kroger where Tipsy Pig was. He said it was in a gas station between Dunkin' Donuts and the car wash. He waved his hand, indicating, "it's over yonder," so off we went. Sure enough, on the other side of the Kroger plaza, there was a Dunkin' next to a large Exxon station, and inside its convenience store was Tipsy Pig, hidden by the propane tanks display out front. This excursion was like a treasure hunt. Would we be rewarded?
Tipsy Pig has an impressive history. Terry and Dale Lee started it after Dale retired from the Dekalb County School System. What's the origin of the unique name?
"You know when you're hanging out, drinking with your buddies, and you get an idea?" Terry said. "That's kind of where it came from." Yep, Terry, we know that moment. We've had far too many brilliant, can't-fail ideas that we haven't acted on.
Opening a smoked meat place was no whim for Terry Lee. He had been perfecting his smoking chops for 35 years working through the Atlanta barbecue scene. This pit master pulls the pork by hand for each order ensuring the meat is always moist and delicious. With a backstory like that and the slogan "The Best Butts In Town," we had high expectations.
The operation resides behind the Exxon store's soft drink and wine displays and tall video games. There are a couple of tables and a handful of seats in the restaurant. The back wall displays "Best of Gwinnett" Award certificates, proving that the Pig has dominated the county barbecue scene since 2014.
There's even an autographed picture of Bobby Flay with glowing words about the food. Trailheads were impressed. We want to beat Bobby. Bring it on, Bobby. What's wrong? Are you scared? Brad can make a better rack of baby backs than you. Putting our competitive nature aside, we bellied up to the counter and ordered.
The menu includes pork, spareribs, beef brisket, chicken, and seven sides. The Tipsy Pig even has a breakfast menu. Since it was our first visit, we decided to test Tipsy Pig's famous pulled pork. Guy and Steve ordered Memphis Style Sandwiches (with a mound of slaw topping the pulled pork), and Patrick got the basic Pulled Pork Sandwich. We got our receipts and sat at a table, waiting for the preparation of our food.
We talked with a man waiting for his two Red Neck Cuban Sandwiches, which he declared was the best item on the menu. His son tried one of these suckers for the first time recently and fell in love, so the father was getting their lunch to go.
He asked about our group, and we told him we were on a mission from God––on the path to truth and barbecue. The man asked what some of our favorite places were, and we mentioned we were crazy about the brisket at Socks Love Barbecue in Cumming (read that review here). Guess what? This fellow was good friends with Socks. How's that for your small barbecue world? The smoke was strong in this one.
Our orders were up, and they looked good. The sandwiches have toasted buns––critical to any barbecue since the bread needs to hold its own under the weight of juicy meat and sauce. There were mounds of pulled pork and slaw on the Memphis versions. We sampled all four sauces: mild, hot, sweet heat, and North Carolina Gold.
The pulled pork was incredible. Tender, moist as all get out, with a sweet smokey flavor that seduces the tastebuds and entices another bite. Steve said, "The Memphis Sandwich was excellent. It's a huge portion of tender pulled pork with tasty coleslaw. The sweet, tangy North Carolina Gold sauce was a perfect topping." However, we did question the provenance of the sauce. "Gold," we thought, indicated South Carolina. Since we're in Georgia, we didn't want to get into the South Carolina/North Carolina thing. Why can't there be one Carolina? What is it with the Carolinas and their naming architecture? And isn't Memphis in Tennessee? (And let's not get into the whole "why two Dakotas?" Dakota alone is such a cool name.)
Trail Master Guy said, "The Memphis Sandwich with coleslaw on pork was the best I've had." That's some high praise.
Patrick loved his pulled pork sandwich. "I've never had pork that tender," he said. "And all the sauces were terrific."
All three Trailheads agreed that Tipsy Pig's claim of having "The Best Butts In Town" is no overstatement.
Let's talk sides. Guy raved about his baked beans. "They were delicious. The right amount of sweet and pork. I loved them." He scarfed down his beans as Steve looked on with fearful apprehension––he would be riding back home in the same car with Bean Boy.
Steve and Patrick ordered Brunswick Stews, and the recipe was unlike any we've tried. It was a tomato broth loaded with chunks of pork and chicken, sweet corn, and tomatoes. The stew was hearty with a savory flavor that was good to the last spoonful. Steve said the recipe tasted like it wasn't an afterthought, which many Brunswick Stews do––containing whatever's leftover before it goes bad--chucked into a pot, simmered, and served.
We were impressed with Tipsy Pig and its friendly staff, vowing to return with our entire crew and explore the menu deeper. It was worth the effort to find this jewel hidden in Lilburn. We'd like to drink to the glory of the Pig... but it's Dry January. Dammit.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Tipsy Pig BBQ
3020 Five Forks Trickum Rd. SW
Lilburn, GA 30047
*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.