Updated: Apr 9
Five dedicated Trailheads (Roy, Brad, Steve, Guy, and Patrick) gathered in Kennesaw to assault Little Kennesaw Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain. George was MIA on this tactical mission, bivouacked in Bend, OR.
We hiked this trail from opposite coordinates long ago, ascending Big Kennesaw for our main course and having Little Kennesaw Mountain for dessert. This time, General Guy Tucker decided on a surprise attack scaling Little Kennesaw first, then climbing the Big One. It was a Biblical journey. Following Noah's Ark-like rain days, the surfaces were slick as Guy led us like Moses across the mountain to the promised land––barbecue.
The hike up Little Kennesaw was steep enough to give Billy goats nose bleeds, but we marched on past the Confederate cannons (idle, for now). Up, up, up we went, dodging boulders the size of cars, encountering other friendly hikers along the way who were curious about our branded shirts and hats. "What are Trailheads," they asked with innocence. We began explaining the legend of our glorious band of brothers 'on the path to truth and barbecue.' Brad is in the process of creating a five-minute video to use in these situations. The polite strangers nodded their heads, suppressed yawns, and made excuses about their need to hurry up and get home to clean the lint screens in their dryers. And we marched on!
When we reached the summit of Little K, we looked at Big K across the road. It wasn't that much higher, but we were pretty tuckered from following Guy Tucker, so we called an audible to make a loop back to our car. Trailmaster Guy said it would be a mile or so. If only he had told the truth.
Guy led his troops down the paved road and into the woods, with Elvis and Fio protecting our flanks and drinking cool mountain water. On and on, we marched, suspecting we were in the sights of cannons somewhere.
The wind was howling, and the sun beat down on us with no canopy yet for cover. We came to a stream of water running down from the mountain. It was wide. We searched for the narrowest section to jump across––all Trailheads have an impressive one-inch vertical jump. We somehow made it across running waters and kept walking, and walking, and walking, eventually getting to the busy road with narrow shoulders. The cars zoomed by, and we finally made it back to our vehicles. It was a 5.6-mile hike with an elevation gain of 889-feet. We earned some barbecue by gum!
Our selection was Big Shanty Smokehouse, a popular favorite of Yelpers and lauded by "Atlanta Magazine" and TripAdvisor for its barbecue. The joint was started in 2007 by Chic Dillard, an executive chef with 30 years under his apron. He made the business a family affair. Wife Sissy was a veteran of the franchise restaurant world, and their daughter Shannon was a renowned baker and queen of desserts. How would their fare stand up to ravished Trailheads?
We were impressed. The smoked pork was tasty, and the barbecue sauce had a tang with a bang––a nice spicy punch. The St. Louis-style ribs were meaty, the sausage hand-crafted and delectable. Guy was a fan of the smoked chicken and beef brisket. All the meats had a hearty smokey flavor. Chic knows his way around a smoker.
Steve and Patrick liked their Brunswick stew, complete with pork, corn, tomato, and peas. Yes, peas. The stew sauce is heavy on the tomato. Pleasant taste, but different. Brunswick Stews are the fingerprints of southeast barbecue joints. Each serving a unique bowl of stewy goodness.
The slaw looked like tartar sauce in its container, but a fork revealed it was minced cabbage goodness, and the tongue discovered the slaw sauce was flavorful. The daily special of collard greens had a peppery kick, a surprising alternative to the salty greens most joints serve. The Mac and cheese was macky and cheesy. Always a good thing.
Unfortunately, we gorged on our plates and left no room for the acclaimed desserts. However, Guy and Brad both got some turkey ribs to go, a special that our server said was her favorite item the pitmaster smokes––when he has it, which is rarely. What exactly are turkey ribs? They're the shoulders. The meat of the shoulder has a flavor and texture reminiscent of pork ribs but with less fat and gristle.
Trailheads had a wonderful spring day proving there ain't no mountain high enough, except for Kennesaw Mountain after you've done Little Kennesaw.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Big Shanty Smokehouse 3393 Cherokee St NW Kennesaw GA 30144 770.499.PIGG (7444) bigshantybbq.com
*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.