Close, but no cigar. Once again, we could not muster an entire crew of Trailheads. We came close, five intrepid hikers, but George was missing--working his pickaxe down in the mines of documentary filmmaking. He had his "people" call to inform us of that "Mr. Hirthler regrets his hectic schedule makes him unable to take a meeting with Trailheads."
We imagined George sitting at The Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge, hobnobbing with Tom Cruise, Michael Bay, and Tippi Hedren, as flocks of birds gather in trees.
He would discuss his film project over Grand Reserve Ossetra caviar and $58 steak tartare (prepared medium-well). We miss our pal and hope he doesn't forget the "little people" he met along the yellow brick road to his stardom. Save us a breadstick, George!
Trail Master guy selected Little Mulberry Trail for our hike, situated appropriately enough (for Trailheads) on Hog Mountain Road between Dacula and Auburn, GA. Roy, Steve, Brad, and Patrick heeded his call. Brad was excited because he had a new stash of Trailheads "Hike The Hooch" tees which are tri-blend and as comfortable as your skin.
ALL profits from sales benefit Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy (CNPC) to help support the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA). Get your tees here and show your pride in Mother Nature this Mother's Day. She'll love you for it, and you'll look amazing.
These shirts feature the CNPC logo on the sleeve with the Trailheads logo on the back. We snapped 47,621 pics of the new designs. Let's see if there are a couple without fingers in the frame. After the fashion shoot, we trudged along the paved path with Elvis, Fio, and Nilla.
It was a beautiful hiking day, warm but not hot, with an overcast sky (nature's sunshade). We had never trekked this location before and loved what we saw. The paths are clean and well-maintained. We went off-road to the trails under the canopy of trees.
We enjoyed the elevations, waterways, and cascading water features along the way. Little Mulberry Trail is a popular place for good reason. The park has 5.5 miles of multi-purpose trails, 2.7 miles of hiking trails, and 5 miles of equestrian trails. We didn't encounter any horses, which was fortunate since we left our jousting lances in the cars.
One of our first topics of conversation was how in the hell do you pronounce Dacula? Da-COO-la? DA-coo-la? DA-coo-LA? It's a mystery. Well, it's not, but had the good people of Dacula considered adding an "r" to the name, there would be endless marketing possibilities.
We know we're not the first to spot the obvious Transylvanian connection here, but if the founders had Bram Stoker'd this town––
"Dracula," the vampire connections could have been amazing.
It would be something like Helen GA and its Bavarian theme. Dracula souvenir shops would be blood-sucking curious tourists. Alas, Dacula formed its name by combining the letters in Decatur and Atlanta, two cities to the west already prospering at the time of Dacula's founding. So they stuck with that. Somewhere Bela Lugosi is shaking his head.
After spitballing Dacula, we moved into free-range conversations: the friendly employees of Fresh Market and Chick-fil-A, Ted Lasso (Steve wore an AFC Richmond Greyhounds cap-- he's a bit of a fan), the high quality of fish at Costco (even Pepperidge Farm Goldfish taste better there), and "The Last Thing He Told Me" with Jennifer Garner.
Guy said he once met the beautiful star when she was in town shooting a movie (no, it wasn't one of George's projects). He said she was friendly, and was thankful the restraining order she slapped on him was only for 500 feet. Jen's security guards threatened to rough him up. Guy kept his distance.
The conversations halted when Brad said something about his "tiny little white thing." All birds and woodland creatures became silent. The breeze and flowing water stopped. Brad noticed all eyes upon him and laughed. "Oh, nothing," he said. "Forget about it." We continued hiking–– perplexed.
He was talking about the CNPC logo, and as we all know, designers make logos as small as humanly possible, knowing that clients want them as large as possible, allowing the parties to meet in the middle.
It was close to lunchtime, and the conversation turned to hot dogs. Steve said he read Nathan's Hot Dogs were the top-rated barkers in America according to a Bon Appetit study. That subject opened a new can of worms (which are not tasty wiener toppers). The discussion turned to the Annual July Fourth Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island. We were curious about the winning number of dogs eaten.
An alert Trailhead jumped on his Google machine and declared Joey "Jaws" Chestnut won his 15th title by scarfing down 63 dogs in 10 minutes. Ten! Minutes!
Guy mentioned a philosophical head scratcher of a story he had heard. Because hot dogs are full of processed meats enclosed in a layer of skin, when you eat one, you become a layer of skin full of processed meats. That makes you a hot dog! It's kind of a never-ending cycle of hot dogness. With our minds blown, we called it a hike and headed to the cars.
In researching restaurants, Patrick scoped Yelp for nearby barbecue joints and found a unicorn––the rare, elusive 5-Star Yelp review bestowed after 50 reviews for Fat Cap BBQ in Hog Mountain (Dacula). It was our first 5-Starer, and we were jazzed. We locked in on the target and headed straight for the restaurant to see what all the gushing was about. Who knows, maybe they served hot dogs. Roy loves them. Patrick doesn't eat them. Go figure.
Fat Cap BBQ has a fascinating history. It's owned and operated by Steve and LeeAnne Robb. The married couple started smoking BBQ for guests at their annual backyard 'Robb-B-Q.' As far as we know, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut was not on their guest list. The people who ate Robb's smoked meat plates raved and said, "Y'all need to start selling this stuff." That gave LeeAnne an idea. She started selling smoked pork butts with her special dry rub recipe through the neighborhood Nextdoor app. People loved the meat and requested some sides. Being a polite woman, she obliged––you see, southern cooking is her passion.
Demand grew. LeeAnne began promoting products on their Facebook business page, and business skyrocketed. The smoking couple began weekend catering and making pre-ordered family meals they sold in a school parking lot. Then the entrepreneurial bug bit. They quit their jobs and started a small restaurant in Hog Mountain (in Dacula). They have never looked back.
Fat Cap BBQ is only open Thursdays thru Saturdays, and after you sample its food, you will adjust your schedule accordingly. Steve and LeeAnne's philosophy is to serve the best, highest-quality BBQ at the lowest prices. Would the discerning Trailheads barbecue connoisseurs think they achieved this noble goal? Yup. Boy, howdy, the Robbs sure did.
We entered Fat Cap BBQ, stood in line, and ordered. The woman working the counter was friendly, had a terrific sense of humor, and flashed a 10,000-watt smile. We felt at home basking in her southern hospitality. The menu features pulled pork and sliced brisket. On Fridays, they add St. Louis-style ribs, and offer smoked chicken wings on Saturdays.
Fat Cap BBQ has a slew of sides, with the usual suspects, plus—get a load of this––fresh fried okra. Many places offer fried okra, but we imagine they are the frozen variety off the Sysco truck. The woman at the counter said fried okra was one of their specialties, but preparing them would take an extra four minutes. You better believe we had 240-seconds to spare.
The kitchen is behind two swinging doors with small windows. The sign above the door says "Restricted Area." Being snoops, we peeked inside and saw LeeAnne and another woman preparing plates. Our stomachs were grumbling. The pleasant woman working the counter came over. She questioned Patrick about his snapping photos through the restricted window. He told her about our website and upcoming review of the restaurant.
She let him play spy cam and began preparing our plastic bags since our lunches were to go. Fat Cap BBQ doesn't offer outdoor seating, but Dacula City Park is just down the road. Roy asked her for "eating sticks." She eyed him warily and then understood he wanted a knife and fork. Perhaps we should have a translator join us.
Trailheads were like anxious trick-or-treaters with empty plastic bags waiting for their treats of smoked meats. We selected our homemade sauces. The house Fat Cap sauce is sweet and sassy, the North Carolina vinegar sauces come in regular or hot, with a peppery punch, and there is also an Alabama (they call it Georgia, but we know better) white sauce.
The three incredible women working posed for a picture. We gave them a Trailheads sticker and told them to check out this site for our review. The ladies are rightly proud of their 5-Star Yelp rating, and we didn't have the heart to tell them that all our reviews are four ribs because we don't want to hurt anyone's business, but if you read between the lines, you can tell our favorites. You won't have to read between these lines--we loved Fat Cap BBQ. They are Trailheads Approved.
We grabbed a table at Dacula City Park and dug into our bags of goodies. The table was an exceptional example of Brutalist architecture, a style that emerged during the 1950s in the United Kingdom, among the reconstruction projects of the post-war era. It is unadorned, plain, and bare. But also surprisingly comfortable for concrete. Go ahead, pull up a seat, and be a hard ass.
Let's get to the food. The brisket is as tender as your first kiss. We could cut the flavorful beef with a plastic fork. The flavor is smokey, rich, and 100% satisfying. It melts in your mouth, not in your hand––please use your eating utensils in public, people! Fat Cap BBQ's brisket is among the top tier of this area and well worth a trip a Dacula.
Likewise, the pulled pork was perfection, not sopping wet or dried out. The pork is tender and tasty. Dressed with some Fat Cap sauce, it is pig heaven. The vinegar sauce also made our taste buds curl in delight. The homemade sauces are killer. The combo plates come with a fresh-baked yeast roll, and you can improvise and prepare a small yeasty sandwich.
Steve had the legitimate pulled pork sandwich, which was the daily special. The bun was toasted (a must in our book) and piled with delectably tender smoked pulled pork. He added a cup of the very tasty Brunswick stew to his order and chowed down.
Roy is our fried okra specialist, and he did cartwheels for it. Once he stopped his cartwheeling, he was dizzy, caught his breath, and resumed eating. Silly boy. Patrick also raved about the fried okra. It was worth the four-minute wait. His other side was the delicious corn casserole, and he shared it with his mates.
"This tastes like dessert," Brad said. "It's so sweet and fluffy."
True, Brad. Fat Cap BBQ's corn casserole is a side that will dress up any plate. We also sampled the green beans, and these babies are as tasty as green beans get. And the slaw is prepared with the perfect blend of vinegar and sugar. The Mac' n cheese could legitimately be called cheese' n Mac––topped with a crispy, cheesy cap.
As for desserts, they all looked incredible at Fat Cap BBQ, but none of us succumbed to the sweet temptations. Who could eat more with so much great food? Joey "Jaws" Chestnut probably could. That guy is a bottomless pit.
Fat Cap BBQ is worthy of its 5-Star review, and we'll be back. And next time, you'd better believe we'll save some room for dessert.
Rating: Four Ribs*
FAT CAP BBQ
2559 Pharr Avenue
Dacula, GA 30019
*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.