Yonah Mountain would not come to the Trailheads (mountains are stubborn that way), so the Trailheads went to Yonah Mountain. It was an hour-and-half drive north from the big city into the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and down a dirt road that looked like the pothole hall of fame.
Yonah is the Cherokee word for Bear, and happily, we didn’t see any of the furry sharp-clawed beasts. We suspect a bear would beat us in a foot race; bad news for the slowest Trailhead (Patrick, who, due to his abundance of artificial joints, becomes a buffet table in the event of bear attacks or a zombie apocalypse). When Patrick’s along, everyone feels just a little bit safer.
The mountain was the most extreme hike we’ve engaged in, climbing almost 3,000 feet to reach the summit and glorious vistas in every direction. Along the trail, Mother Nature threw many treacherous boobytraps–– exposed tree roots, large jagged rocks to be clambered across, damp leaves as slippery as oiled eels––you get the drift. It was a serious hike.
Happily, six Trailheads went in, and after four grueling hours of blood-curdling life-threatening dangers, six Trailheads came out. Elvis and Fio decided this brave act was a cause for celebration, so they told us to reward ourselves with smoked meats at North Georgia BBQ in Cleveland. So we divvied up Advils and an assortment of other multi-colored pain-killing (we’re assuming) pills so we would be able to sit upright to eat.
We sampled North Georgia BBQ’s other location in Dahlonega back in early September (click here for that review) and we were mightily impressed. How would the original Cleveland location compare? We’re happy to say, very well. We loved it.
This unassuming joint is tucked in a nondescript plaza, but once you walk through the door, you know you’re in a special place ("A Christmas Story" leg lamp illuminates the menus). The very nice young lady behind the counter was friendly and helpful. She acted as our BBQ Sherpa through the extensive menu featuring anything you could possibly want–– pulled pork, ribs, brisket, chicken, turkey, smoked wings (Wait! We forgot to order the Smoked Wings??? We must have been tired), burgers, grilled cheese, chicken tenders, even hot dogs. And while this location also claimed to be “Home of the Pig Melt” we politely declined and went for the unmelted meats.
Hell, you can even get a salad (and smother those healthy greens with smoked meats, if you like). And, of course, there are a variety of sides to round out your meal and your belly––Brunswick Stew, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, mac n’ cheese, and fries. If you have any room left after feasting, they’ll even serve you banana pudding to get you wobbling over the finish line.
Unfortunately, we had no room after our carnivorous gorging.
Roy, George, and Brad ordered the brisket, which none had sampled in Dahlonega. The brisket brigade loved it. The beef had a well-seasoned bark adding flavor and attitude to the juicy meat. The servings were so generous they even willingly shared sample bites to drooling bystanders. Roy was a big fan and got a pound of brisket to go. Dinner for the next two nights solved.
Patrick went for the pork sandwich: a hearty pile of succulent smoked pork on a toasted bun–– perfection in your palms. Steve and Guy ordered pulled pork platters and were happy diners shoveling forkfuls of deliciousness into their pieholes. And the barbecue sauces brought the sweet or heat, whatever your palate craved.
The sides received rave reviews: the slaw was creamy with some vinegary snap. Brunswick stew was hearty and delectable, every spoonful satisfying and pleasing. The potato salad was better than your Aunt Jannie’s, and the fries were potatoes crinkle cut and fried into crispy delights.
Fio and Elvis were wicked happy since they had done their online research and discovered there was plenty of outside seating.
Trailheads are big fans of both North Georgia BBQ locations. If you’re up that way, do yourself a favor and stop in. Be smart, and grab some to go while you’re at it.
Rating: Four Ribs*
North Georgia BBQ
897 South Main Street
Cleveland GA 30528
(706) PIG-MELT, Option #1
*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: we have acclaimed designers in our group, and they think the ribs graphic looks cool.
Who are we to argue? Enjoy.