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Trailheads Avert Disaster On Gold Branch Trail, Then Destroy A Ton Of Smoked Meats At McDaniel’s QN2.



Last week, we punted on hiking due to wet weather (and our intense fear of falling and breaking our necks). This week, we scraped together only half our troops. Not because of fear. Or even bone-chilling weather. The day was quite pleasant. But there were missing Trailheads.


George was AWOL in France, wearing his raspberry beret, eating buttery croissants dipped in fondue and sipping Chateau de-le Frou Frou Fee Foo Dee Doo. He whined about almost missing his fabulous bullet train and its Michelin 4-star party car. Imagine the near-tragedy of that!

 


Roy was nursing his noggin from his recent Mohs surgery. Dermatologists treat pasty-skinned people like him as ongoing annuities, periodically harvesting their pale acreage for some serious green. Roy’s theory is that people never die. They just get whittled away at until there's nothing left. He's healing nicely. However, we're not sure why he was limping.

 


And Steve was waiting for a service person who probably told him, “I’ll be there sometime between Monday 8 am and Thursday noon. Or maybe as late as 5 pm Friday." These people love to screw with Steve and do so regularly.

 


This left a dedicated skeletal Trailheads crew of Guy, Brad, and Patrick commandeering Fio, Elvis, and Nilla. The smart money in Vegas was betting on the canines to prevail. The trail master picked a hike we last did in September 2022, Gold Branch Trail near Roswell. Read about our previous expedition here.

 


Old Man Winter woke up in the middle of the previous night and relieved himself, but his bladder was dry on this fine morning. The skies were clear, and the temperature was cool. Nilla, excited to hike, paraded around the parking lot, dragging her leash like a water skier. We finally caught the dog and began our journey.

 


Trailheads marched over a couple of beautiful wooden bridges. They were the kind of structures termites dream about, burping excitedly. Patrick whipped out a dozen Sentricon Termite Bait Traps, and embedded them at the base of the pilings. He hates termites after what they did to his friend, Pinocchio. We came upon a map of the trail, surveyed it, and made our attack plan.



Gold Branch Trail snakes through a forest at Bull Sluice Lake with beautiful views of the Chattahoochee River. If you’re adventurous, you can slice and dice this trail a few ways. We took a path along the lake (fresh territory for us).

 


It was a narrow trail with exposed roots like varicose veins on Miracle-Gro. The ground was slick, so we stepped cautiously. None of us wanted to be in the substitute role of Roy Tumbles in his absence. See cartoons of his wacky misadventures here.

 


Down by the lake, we grabbed our obligatory selfie with Guy’s head dominating the frame and the local ZIP CODE. We continued hiking. The slippery path narrowed and winded up a severe elevation. To the left was a sheer drop, intimidating us. As if that weren’t enough, exposed roots were everywhere, inviting trouble.



Each of us had a dog. Halfway up the hill, Elvis did a Houdini and somehow got off-leash. But the big dog did not run. He looked proud. Brad asked Patrick to toss him the leash so he could wrangle Elvis. Patrick threw a perfect spiral (his collegiate leash completion rate was over 98%), but Butterfingers Brad (his new nickname--please address him as such) dropped it. The leash bounced on the ground and tumbled down the steep hill. Sadness ensued.

 


Elvis looked at it, and so did Brad. Then they looked at each other. Then they looked away.


“Watch Elvis, would you?” Brad asked Patrick. “I’ll go down and get the leash.”

Brad carefully navigated his descent before suddenly hitting a slick patch of leaves and gliding down like he was on a slide at Six Flags White Water. He had answered who would play Roy Tumbles on this hike.

 


He cautiously began trying to work his way back up the hill, but the leaves were like a sidewalk paved with banana peels. Patrick tossed him his trusty walking stick, but Brad kept slipping, and Elvis seemed to be laughing at the sight. Patrick decided to be heroic and save Brad’s life. It just seemed like the thing to do. Here's how it was recounted in the "Tales of The Trailheads" journal:



We hiked a little more and decided to call it a day. Pretty woods, lovely lake, intimidating roots, la di da, yada yada, let's move on. Barbecue beckoned. We were heading to McDaniel’s QN2 in Sandy Springs.



We hadn’t been there in a long time and sent the Bat Signal to Roy and Steve to rendezvous. They slid down their poles into their Bat Caves, ran to their Bat Cars, and raced to meet us there.



We ordered some tasty wings to amuse our stomachs until they arrived. The lollygaggers were fast enough to snatch a wing. We agreed the wings were as delicious as they could be. 

 


The first thing you’re probably wondering about McDaniel’s QN2 is, what’s up with the strange name? According to the website, “QN2” stands for “barbecue ‘n two sides.” Now you’re in the know. Since 2002, the McDaniel brothers have been smoking meats for Sandy Springers, and the place's interior tells you everything you need to know.

 


There are pig figurines everywhere and complimentary pork rinds at the counter that are incredible. Although the restaurant is a smoky hell for pigs, this pork palace treats swine like revered saints.



There are walls covered with 8” x 10” glossies of celebrities, newscasters, and even British royalty like Winston Churchill and The Moody Blues––it seems everyone loves McDaniel’s QN2. Even a guy recognized universally for his excellent taste throughout the galaxy––Lt. Hikaru Suru of the Starship Enterprise.

 


Set your phasers for flavor, and let’s see how this barbecue joint measures up.

 


As you probably guessed from the pig motif, the pulled pork is terrific. It’s tender and moist with a slight smokey taste. Dress it up for dinner with McDaniel’s QN2 sweet barbecue sauce, and you’ll eat like a champ.



Guy described his pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and sauce as “Fabulous.” Take it from Trailheads––the pork here is mighty fine swine. Most of us went with the pig. And the pig delivered. We wagged our curly tails in delight.

 


Brad had the beef brisket, which he liked. It was tender and had a good smoke flavor, but he wanted more bark in each bite. 

 

He loved his solo pork rib. The meat fell off the bone, ate right nice, and satisfied him as only a rib can do.

 

Let’s run the bases on the sides, shall we?



Guy loved his lima beans. They were studded with bits of pork and cooked a long time for extra flavor.

 


The slaw received enthusiastic thumbs up. The shredded crisp cabbage has flecks of carrots and pepper, delivering a clean flavor that cools the palate.

 


The Brunswick Stew is a hearty concoction of smoked pork and sweet corn in a simple tomato base. Plant a spoon in it, and the spoon won’t budge. While the mixture was hearty, more spices could kick the flavor up a notch or two. We like our stew with more ‘tude.

 


The fried okra was a hit. Dip a nutritious vegetable in batter, fry it to a crisp, and hunker down. Enjoy your veggies as nature intended. 

 


The tater tots were tater-totsy. They are delectable nuggets of shredded potatoes fried golden crisp. Dress these babies with salt and ketchup, and you have found a comfortable place for your mouth to settle down. Yes, we know they're kind of children's food, but we're kids at heart.

 


We were alarmed to discover McDaniel’s QN2 serves French’s Ketchup. Sorry, but we believe in the separation of church and state regarding condiments:  Heinz is the only ketchup, and French’s is the only yellow mustard. We don’t like seeing Heinz Mustard and French’s Ketchup––it’s just not right. They’re an insult to the natural order of things. Stay in your lane, condiment people. Do what you do best.

 


Brad declared his collard greens a winner. He said they tasted authentic, with pieces of smoked pork added for extra flavor. The man whose life was recently saved smiled like a muddy school kid with dried tears on his face.

 


And the cornbread muffins were terrific. They are delectable cornbread in a muffin shape; what’s not to like?

 


We’re fans of McDaniel’s QN2. If we had an 8” x 10” glossy, we’d request it to be hung with the other luminaries on the wall. The people working the counter would smile and promise they'd do that, then ditch our pic in the trash. Who could blame them?

 


Trailheads especially loved our friendly server, Kerrie, who brightened our day with her bright smile and cheery attitude. She had served us twice before and didn't run when we entered the restaurant, and in our book that says she likes us! We’ll be back, McDaniel’s QN2, like a bad penny to access your condiment situation.

 


 

 

Rating: Four Ribs*


McDaniel's QN2

200 Johnson Ferry Road

Sandy Springs, GA 30328

(404) 252-3220

 


*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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