Updated: Dec 10, 2022
It was a freakish weather day in Atlanta, where our temps were warmer than in Los Angeles, and four determined Trailheads (Steve, Roy, Guy, and Patrick) plus Fio gathered at the Jones Bridge Trail in Alpharetta. Immediately we saw a deer staring at us and wondering who we were and why we were in her forest.
Run, Bambi, run! Trailheads have landed.
George was missing because he's moving into legitimate office space now that he is a movie mogul and is probably "taking meetings" with Bobby De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, and Denzel. He no doubt has his people calling their people about doing lunch at The Ivy and ordering off-menu, of course. La-dee-da.
Brad placed himself on the disabled list due to "a chronic heel bruise." Mention any ailment in our crew, and chances are good one or many of us have had it. Guy gave Brad his long-distance diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, a painful affliction that Patrick's also had. Roy has had it too but kept quiet, not wanting to get involved in a "MY Fasciitis hurt more than your Faciatis" thing. Whatever Brad's heel was up to, he was out. Wearing hiking boots was too painful.
You should know Brad is an obsessive chap. He took up Pickleball about a year ago and has been a passionate fiend haunting the court kitchens while poaching, banging, and dinking at the Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Club, where a few other Trailheads play. We suspect he's overdoing it, but the man can't stop. Brad’s hooked, and he’s gotta have it.
Maybe Elvis can talk some sense into him. Doubtful.
Being a rugged crew, we marched on. We had done this hike once before (read about it here), and Jones Bridge is an excellent trail. This time, we did it in the opposite direction because we like to keep it fresh. Some healthy elevations remind your body you have "glutes" and "hamstrings," plus many interesting rock formations and splendid vistas of the mighty Chattahoochee River.
In case you were wondering, that ol’ man river, he just keeps rollin’ along.
We engaged in a grab bag of conversational subjects: the recent runoff election, the fashion photography exhibit at SCAD, things we are streaming on T.V. and loving, fancy pants Roy's ritzy new Kuhl hiking pants (Patrick was sporting stylish $12.99 Kirkland jeans), predictions for the upcoming college football games (we like DeVry Institute in the Dinty Moore Beef Stew Bowl), our Trailheads holiday party coming soon with Franklin's beef brisket from Austin, TX, the art of fly fishing, the mating habits of ostriches and their neck aphrodisiacs, and the enormous size of Guy's head in our group selfies.
That last subject gave us an idea.
Then things got weird.
We passed a few hikers along the way, and after one of these encounters, Trail Master Guy asked, "I wonder what we look like to other hikers. We've all dressed alike, and I wonder who they think we are."
His statement blew our minds like the Nevada desert during nuclear tests.
Did Guy imagine they viewed us as an elite force training for maneuvers? Did we appear to be youth-challenged guys hopelessly lost, babbling in the woods? Were we giving off a creepy vibe? Perhaps we came across as a gang of miscreants searching for someone to tell us to straighten up and fly right. Were we threatening? Pitiful? Noble? Inspiring? Depressing?
Who are we, we Trailheads? And what are we?
That's when we realized we were hungry. Then we wondered if people thought we looked like cannibal hikers. That would explain the springs in their steps as they hurriedly left us. We mulled that over and came upon a trail map.
Trail Master asked if we should begin doubling back or extend the hike.
"Let's go back," his followers pleaded.
"We could go just a little further and–"
"No. Let's head back and get lunch."
"But the trail's not that much longer if we–"
"Do you want to die, mister maniacal drill sergeant?" his mutinous troops asked, enraged. Perhaps our cannibal nature was beginning to reveal itself.
"Okay," Trail Master backed down. "I have a good idea. Let's head back and go to lunch.”
"Sounds good to us," the men agreed.
And off we trudged toward the parking lot seeing signs that read KEEP OUT and PRIVATE PROPERTY––which is like sending an engraved invitation to Trail Master Guy. We followed our bad boy leader and stomped across the forbidden zones, watching for crazy militias that might have "claimed" the park as their own, eager to slay trespassers.
Arriving at the parking lot, we headed north to Duluth for a return visit to Dreamland BBQ.
This author could swear he had written up a review of our first visit to Dreamland/Duluth long ago, but when he sent our Trailheads clerks to the hike/barbecue reviews library, the research team found nothing. Had we been hacked? Were enemy agents pouring over our classified intel and accessing the country's smoked meat vulnerabilities? Had the DOJ discovered our top-secret review and returned it to the archives? We are on high alert.
The Cliff notes of that visit were that we fell hard for Dreamland. Sitting outdoors on a day hotter than hickory embers, we enjoyed our fabulous lunches. The visit was highlighted by our waitress "accidentally" dumping a pitcher of iced tea on Roy. We suspect many waitstaff want to "accidentally" spill things on him or use his body as a knife holder. Roy took the tea mishap in good cheer as his hiking companions laughed like hyenas on nitrous oxide. He tipped her well. He's a good man. The wet fella.
Dreamland began in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1958. Legend has it that John "Big Daddy" Bishop had a dream, and God told him to open a restaurant. Being an obedient God-fearing man, Big Daddy got to work. His specialty was hickory-fired pork spareribs that absorbed savory flavor in a hot wood-fueled brick oven for one hour. There was no slow-poke smoking here because mobs of hungry diners were waiting to gnaw their meaty ribs into Bone City. It's down the road from Flavor Town.
Big Daddy coined a slogan for his joint that may be the best in the barbecue business, "Ain't nothing like 'em nowhere." Trailheads love a confident pit master, and we're fans of double-negative statements that make a statement. Big Daddy was on a mission from God to back up his big words. The man also had a secret sauce for success-- his secret barbecue sauce. It's a vinegary red sauce that'll tingle your tongue and excite your tastebuds to ecstasy.
The original location's fame grew with many on-air rave reviews from visiting CBS pretty boy sportscasters in town covering 'Bama football games.
Big Daddy left us years ago to join his business consultant in heaven, and his son and daughter continue managing Dreamland's legacy and expanding his barbecue empire. There are now 11 restaurants in Alabama and Georgia.
Enough history, let's eat!
Our server, Kat, was a personable young woman who was attentive and kind. We told her about our previous visit and the server who dumped tea on Roy. We begged her to do the same, but Kat was too nice. The friendly manager, Joe, played along for a photo op (however, he didn't douse the bearded one). The Dreamland people are first-rate service pros and good sports.
None of us ordered Big Daddy's famous ribs on this visit, but we had them before and are big fans––even though they're spare ribs and we prefer baby backs. The pulled pork sandwich comes on a toasted bun to stand up to the tangy barbecue sauce we dumped on the tender meat. A light smoky flavor kisses the pork, and the sandwich hits all the right notes.
Roy had the rib tips. These morsels of porky love deliver a delectable soul-satisfying flavor. Roy cooed like a cat as he ate, and we said, “Aww” and scratched his belly––then he clawed us––so we let him be.
We'll look for toys to distract him when he gets like that.
Guy double-dipped on the smoked meats with a combo of pulled pork and rib tips. The lawbreaker enjoyed shoveling the hearty fare into his pie hole. He needs the energy to give his middle finger to polite society and its so-called "rules."
Let's talk sides. The coleslaw was a huge hit. Roy said it's sweet and creamy with a sharp tang of onion and carrots for crunch. Trailheads agreed it's one of the best they've had. Patrick got some fries but forgot to order them crispy––the idiot! They were good but would have been better with a longer bath in hot oil. Fortunately, we had a basket of Dreamland's homemade chips that fully satisfied two basic food groups: grease and salt. We were happy crunchers.
The healthy eaters liked their nutritious vegetables. Roy was fond of his fried okra, and Guy gobbled his green beans, loving their flavor. Dreamland's homemade pickle slices will pucker your mouth and tickle your tongue.
As we ate on the front patio, a model was nearby in the courtyard wearing different outfits while a fashion photographer snapped pictures. The model was working it. Gold lame' and sparkly sequins were everywhere. After we ate, Guy got his photo taken with this fashionista. What else could he do?
We had a perfect day and tipped our Trailheads cap to the Dreamland team, and their efforts ensuring Big Daddy's reputation lives on. Then we slid next door to the Simply Done Donuts shop for coffee to counteract the inevitable barbecue coma that was heading our way. SDD was a cool little place with a ton of made-to-order donuts.
Some shops call them "doughnuts” instead of donuts, but we believe they're just putting on airs. We didn't need fried dough though. We wanted caffeine. Roy ordered an oat milk latte, and we waited as the barista pulled up a tiny silver pail and milked some oat grass. It took a while. Our lattes were excellent and carried us home with a caffeine buzz.
Both Dreamland and Simply Done Donuts are Trailheads Approved. Grab some soon.
Rating: Four Ribs*
3540 W. Lawrenceville St.
Duluth, GA. 30096
*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.