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Partial Trailheads Get A Full Helping Of The Frazier Forest And Sweet Auburn.

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

Cat herders have it easy. All they do is wrangle a group of independently-minded animals meowing and being distracted by every little shiny thing. That’s a piece of cake. (Trailheads still love this great Fallon TV spot for EDS that brought cat herding to life.)

But organizing a whole crew of Trailheads for what is supposed to be our set-in-stone hikes every Thursday morning requires incredible organizing skills and placing the planets in perfect alignment. This week, Steve was out because of something called “a vacation” (we’re not sure what the word means, but it sounds like an excuse to shirk his sacred duties). He did promise to hike the Tetons while he was away.

Filmmaker George had “meetings,” a Hollywood term for anything from pitching a film to grabbing an iced mocha latte with an agent, to holding an “ON STRIKE” sign on the picket line, or perhaps even discussing your movie with others. We don’t know which of these it was, but he tapped out. Celebrities!

Then there is the curious case of Roy Tumbles. Being a “great indoorsman” makes every week a herculean challenge coaxing him out of his comfortable chair and into the great outdoors. But this week, Roy was on the injured list. He strained or tore a toe ligament painfully, and his left foot was immobilized in a stylish white hard plastic boot. Would he start a fashion fad?

We were suspicious. Did he do this to show solidarity for baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani, who is on the IL with a middle finger blister? Would Roy pitch George a movie idea about his accident titled “My Left Foot?” Was he trying out as an extra on the new Star Wars film? What was his angle? Stay tuned.

That left three remaining devoted Trailheads (Guy, Brad, and Patrick) to fly our flag. Trail Master Guy selected an in-town hike at Frazer Forest Trails so Brad could return to his hectic work life––what is this madness? What’s with these guys who keep working and working? Aren’t you supposed to retire when you retire?

Frazier Forest is a hidden gem off Ponce de Leon Avenue. It’s 39 acres of old-growth forest that was once the estate of Cator Woolford, founder of the company now known as Equifax. And with a name like that, you’d better be the founder of something big.

Atop the hill sits a stately grand house with breathtaking views below. It is being painted now– as Cator would have wanted. Behind the house is the Frazer Center, which for 74 years has served children and adults with disabilities. Click the link above when you’ve finished this inane babble and read Frazer Center’s interesting history.

At the bottom of the hill are the beautiful Cator Woolford Gardens, where the swells and fancy pants of Atlanta gathered in the 1920s for their opulent galas. La di da! It’s a slice of Gatsby in our own backyard and is available to rent for wedding receptions and special events. If you’re trying to impress a young woman named Daisy, consider hosting an event here. Next time we walk these paths, we’ll be in white linen Trailheads t-shirts and straw boater hats, sipping gin and tonics.

The skeletal crew of Trailheads gathered in the “extra parking lot.” Patrick grabbed the wrong hat leaving home, and Brad pointed out it was not Trailheads branded. He offered to sell him one of our new “Hike The Hooch” hats. You can get yours here, along with other fashionable hiking apparel.

Shop like a drunk sailor with a stolen credit card and congratulate yourself knowing that all profits from Trailheads merch sales benefit the Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy. Patrick snagged a handsome HTH hat, and we we went on our way down the trail.

Frazer Forest Trail is short, and some sections were closed for repair. But we managed to snake around, backtrack, and mosey hither and yon to get a good hike.

Along the way, we encountered some children with supervisors and heard the adults caution the kids, “Those are Trailheads––if you don’t behave yourselves, you’ll end up like them). We sniffled as we went past. Why must people be so cruel?

Along another stretch of trail, we encountered two women walking their friendly dog, Lily. Of course, Elvis, Nilla, and Fio just HAD to introduce themselves, so we did the same. The women were Ann Marie, who lives close to the park, and Paula. They were delightful and tolerated our presence.

In talking, we discovered Ann Marie used to work with Patrick at an ad agency downtown in 1994 when the adman first came to town. Talk about your small world (go ahead, talk about it…we’ll wait). We had a pleasant visit and then toured the pretty gardens.

There were several spots for the pups to frolic in the water as they like doing. On this hot day, it wasn’t just dog play. It was heat management.

Guy saw a NO TRESPASSING sign and was attracted to it like a moth to a moth timeshare presentation offering free gifts. We encouraged him to obey the sign (we had to use sticks and bicycle chains for extra persuasion), and Guy eventually stood down, pouting. Good boy, good boy! We called Roy and George, letting them know where we were going for lunch, invited them to join us, and continued exploring the grounds.

We finished the hike, returned to our cars in the “extra” lot, and saddled up for virgin barbecue territory for us––Sweet Auburn Barbecue on N. Highland Ave. This barbecue joint has a fascinating history. Sibling owners Howard and Anita Hsu took their Asian roots and Southern upbringing to make magic happen with smoking meats. They created unique recipes like coconut lemongrass ribs and pimento cheese wontons and applied their flair to the barbecue menu.

Howard collected scads of awards along the way for his smoker sorcery, and soon they sold their fare in the Sweet Auburn Market by Grady Medical Center. In 2014, the sibs hung out a shingle in Poncey Highlands. “Atlanta Magazine” selected Sweet Auburn Barbecue in its 2021 Best of Atlanta edition. They also have a location in McDonough. We salute their entrepreneurial spirit and success.

The restaurant is on the block next to Atlanta Dental Spa, where we imagine you can get a mani-pedi and root canal or a Brazilian wax and tooth filling. Sweet Auburn Barbecue has limited outdoor seating, with four four-top tables nestled between the front of the building and large raised planters containing a bumper crop of tomatoes, peppers, and mint basking in the bright sunshine.

Already seated at the table was Roy and his booted left foot. The dogs scrambled for shade beneath the table and along the building. Guy and Patrick placed themselves in the bright high noon sunlight so their pasty Celtic skin could roast to a crisp (the dogs wouldn’t give them a piece of shade beneath the table).

Our smiling server, named Janice, took our drink orders. SAB makes their Arnold Palmer with strawberry lemonade, a refreshingly delicious touch on this scorcher of a day. George called us to say he wouldn’t be joining us-–no doubt he was in intense negotiations with Tom Cruise or Harrison Ford. Did George forget the little people?

Eat your heart out, Mr. Hollywood; Sweet Auburn has a “Culinary Liaison/Partner” and “Executive Chef” listed on its menu, setting us up for great expectations of barbecue feasting. With Janice’s helpful guidance, we placed our orders––beginning with a large order of Thai Chili Brussel Sprouts. If you've never had these flavorful babies, put them on your bucket list. A vegetable never tasted so savory and delicious. Janice upsized our order, knowing we needed a few more or a fight would break out.

Our plates of food arrived. Guy had the Sweet Auburn Taco Plate with three varieties of incredible flavors. First up, the Auburn BBQ-pulled pork taco with pear slaw, BBQ sauce, and pickles. Then the Mexican Street taco with beef brisket, corn relish, and queso fresco. Finally, the Korean taco with soy marinated flank steak, sesame slaw, sriracha aioli, and scallions.

The plate was like a United Nations for the mouth. Guy cooed in ecstasy. We asked him to cut it out––people walking by were giving us looks. And he was attracting pigeons.

Roy had the smoked beef brisket with sesame slaw and jerk spiced collards. He ordered the lean brisket, and it was pure meaty goodness. The barbecue sauces provided were a perfect compliment (we liked the spicy sauce best). The slaw was sesame through and through. Maybe it had a bit of sesame oil? Roy wasn’t sure, but it was a deliciously different take on shredded cabbage. And the jerk spiced collards didn’t seem jerky at first, but had a definite after-jerk of heat later.

Brad also had the brisket with sides of jerk spiced collards and wok-fired green beans. He liked the subtle kick of his collards and was an instant fan of the generous portion of glistening green beans. The snaps had some extra snap prepared and seasoned in the wok.

Patrick went for brisket and green beans with stone-ground cheddar grits. The Ohioan never liked grits because he had only had the wallpaper paste variety. Once he discovered hearty stone-ground grits, the Buckeye Boy was ga-ga for them. There is something special about Mick Jagger or Keith Richards grinding grits for your eating pleasure. Patrick shoveled a healthy portion of his grits over to Guy, who gave a succinct one-word review: “Goddamn.” The man is a poet. Sweet Auburn Barbecue’s grits and cheese are not to be missed.

Janice brought us another round of drinks, and we were visited by Anita Hsu, the enterprising visionary co-owner and founder of the place. We complimented her on the terrific barbecue and told her our Trailheads tale. She listened, never once yawning or nodding off, and thought our idea was “cool.” And heck, maybe it is. We gave Anita a Trailheads sticker and asked if she watched “The Bear." She hadn't, and said those people she knew in the restaurant industry who’ve seen the show think it’s too close to reality and gives them PTSD.

Guy ordered his wife some delicious grub for dinner and picked up the check. What a great guy Guy is. Maybe we shouldn’t have walloped him with the sticks and bike chains earlier.

As we walked away, we felt proud knowing that Anita thought the idea of Trailheads and our good works was cool. We certainly thought the idea of an Asian-influenced southern barbecue was cool and promised to return. And Guy picking up the check was very cool. Then, it struck us!

We’d have our people contact George’s people and spitball a Trailheads feature film in time for the holidays. Would he take our meeting?

Check out Sweet Auburn Barbecue for a fabulous feed.

Rating: Four Ribs*

Sweet Auburn Barbecue

656 N. Highland Ave. NE

Atlanta, GA 30306

(678) 515-3550

*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.


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