Updated: Nov 4, 2021
The Trailheads began the day with a drive up to Raven Cliff Falls Trail. It’s near German-themed Helen GA, but we didn’t go there. Trailheads were not hiking the Bavarian Forest or dining on Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, or Kartoffelpuffer.
We wanted barbecue. We always want barbecue––it’s our thing. Our brand.
So, hunger and proximity drove us to Rib Country in Cleveland. We came off a six-mile hike to see all the falls along the path. It’s a beautiful area. But we did have to contend with a fallen tree bridge to get over the stream (amazingly, we didn’t lose anybody to gravity). And since it’s a walk-in and walk-out trail, we got to do it twice.
As we were almost within sight of the car park, we lost Roy. A slight misstep and a loose trail edge sent him tumbling down a steep embankment. When he finally came to a stop and his head cleared, he sprang to his feet and asked, “When’s lunch?” Roy’s a diehard Trailhead.
We had a larger group than usual. Kim and Steve from Newport Beach and Barbara, Brad’s Wife, joined our crew for this excursion. Kim, a retired nurse, checked Roy out and declared him fit for the barbecue.
Rib Country had a great front porch for our entire brood, including Elvis and Fio (the Trailheads with tails). It was the late lunching hour, and we ordered through the window and hungrily waited for our smoky hiking rewards.
Honestly, it was hard to judge the quality of the barbecue here because we were all so tired, hot, and starved after our hike. We attacked the menu just as we did the trail, sampling most of the items listed. Ribs (of course), brisket, pulled pork (inside/outside-love the outside crunch and flavor), chicken, Brunswick Stew (pulled pork and corn in a sauce), and every side in sight.
Rib Country offers apple sauce, not something you see at barbecue restaurants. But not just any apple sauce––White House Apple Sauce. And you know what? It’s good with barbecue! They also have hot fried apple pies and homemade cobblers. As usual, we sadly stuffed ourselves on the Cue and had no room for our beloved cobbler.
There was a lot of discussion about the “Country-Made Onion Loaf.” What exactly constitutes an Onion Loaf? And how the “Country-Made” version differs from the “City-Made” variant, assuming there is one. And would it be handled differently in other countries? Eastern bloc onion loaf, anyone?
We finally recovered from pigging out enough to peel ourselves off the picnic tables and head home. Elvis enjoyed the last few bites of meat. The RC t-shirts were declared “clever.” And we all agreed a stop would be needed for coffee on the way back to keep us awake. Fio declined the coffee (she’s a tea drinker) and napped the entire way.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Rib Country BBQ-Cleveland
2652 US-129, Cleveland, GA 30528
(Also in Blairsville, Hayesville, and Murphy)
*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.