Updated: Nov 4, 2021
After a short-ish hike in the brutal heat of late July, we returned to the parking lot. It was time for our barbecue reward after suffering nature’s roasting abuse. Drenched from the heat and humidity, we peeled off our official Trailheads’ wet tee-shirts and donned our official TrailHeads’ dry tees. There was a frightening display of Trailheads’ flesh in the parking lot. Fortunately, no strangers had to suffer that horrendous sight (such a thing could result in blindness and psychological damage for life).
Our first surprise was we had to enter the Lake Lanier Bald Ridge Marina, complete with a Checkpoint Charlie guard at the gate. Security was a first for us, and we wondered if the barbecue was so good it needed protection. After all, Smokey Q’s slogan is BBQ from Flavor Heaven. We explained to the guard we were there for barbecue, and he raised the gate. There was a large, covered patio outside so Elvis and Fio could join us.
Inside it was dark and cool, made cooler by the framed vintage concert posters on the walls. ZZ Top’s Blue Jeans Blues was blaring through the speakers inside and out. The owner/pitmaster said he was giving tribute to the recent passing of the band’s Dusty Hill. We wondered if Dusty was in heaven comparing his beard length to God’s.
The pitmaster explained he uses a dry rub and no sauce, with shorter smoking times. He had three varieties of barbecue sauces on the counter, ready to dress the meats. We asked, “How’s the Brunswick Stew?” He raised his eyebrows, smiled, and said, “We sell a lot of it!” Popularity is always a good indicator. The pitman said he didn’t use lima beans in his recipe. Our Brunswick Stew connoisseurs were divided. One Trailhead thought the stew was too soupy, and he missed lima beans and corn. The other Trailhead savored the simplicity of a spicy stew with tender meat and potatoes. Roy kept his mouth shut since meat, corn, and tomatoes were the only ingredients he remembered from childhood eating Little Bob Gibson’s Brunswick Stew. He looked on in amusement as the other two Trailheads settled the stew matter in our traditional manner––a knife fight.
The owner/pitmaster delivered our food and noticed the Trailheads dogs. He was nice enough to bring them bowls of water. Fio and Elvis appreciated this kind gesture and demanded we highlight it in our review. The owner told us he is from Chicago and earned his culinary chops there. We were glad to hear he disapproved of the abomination that is Chicago-style pizza.
The pitmaster said he’ll soon be introducing burgers made with a blend of ground chuck and brisket, along with a limited but eclectic variety of toppings. And he has a new liquor license and plans to sell hooch after 11 a.m. on Sundays following the church boat services in the marina. We suspect he’ll do a gangbusters business building on his barbecue roots.
The Smokey Q ribs were a hit. Like us, they arrived looking a little pale. The pitmaster doesn’t trim the ends for rib tips, uses a dry rub and a different pan method for smoking the meat with its fat drippings—our verdict: tender, juicy, and smoky.
Smokey Q BBQ is another unexpected smoked meat option on the barbecue trail. Give it a go and have a drink or six after church. Dusty Hill would want that.
Rating: Four Ribs*
1850 Bald Ridge Marina Rd, Cumming, GA 30041
*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.