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Trailheads Hike A Green Spot Off I-85, Then Go To Lilburn For Golden Smoke

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Two Trailheads were MIA this week. Steve was busy with professional work––what's that? And Brad was off in Los Angeles, visiting his daughter and slurping Manhattans with our hiking buddies, The Puppos, as he watched gorgeous sunsets. Well, la-dee-da! Someone’s putting on airs.

That left four of us (George, Roy, Guy, and Patrick) to explore Graves Park Nature Trail on the edge of Norcross, located minutes from bustling I-85. Graves is a big parkland area with playgrounds, fenced dog parks, tennis courts, picnic areas, and an on-demand water fountain.

At the tap of a foot, it sprayed streaming showers from a concrete floor. At the end of our journey, Fio frolicked in the waters, trying to lure Guy into getting soaked. Afterward, they both came over and shook water on the rest of us.

Fio was solo this week. Elvis was at the kennel because Brad didn't want his dog to go to Hollywood and get discovered (Netflix is giving everyone a series). Elvis' head is big enough as it is. Along with the rest of him. Is Brad keeping Elvis from stardom a form of animal cruelty? Perhaps.

Graves Park has a wide walkway meandering throughout the property, with natural trails jutting off the asphalt path. Of course, Trail Master Guy led us down these dirt paths because he knows it’s getting to be chigger and ticks season, and he is in the pocket of Big Chigger interests. Guy gets paid to bring fresh meat into the wilds.

The day after our hike, George reported red welts on his left calf that were itching like crazy. So far, he seems to be the only victim of Guy's evil plan. Next week we spray down. And Roy will continue to wear his big boy, long pants to protect himself from the foliage where danger lurks.

The natural trails were beautiful, with lots of new growth—a forest being reborn. The occasional downed tree showed its roots to tell the young uns, "This is how you do it, kids." Isn't nature grand? We took our group pic by a root ball in honor of Trees Atlanta's Annual Root Ball that we are attending. Guy's wife Patty is on the Board. Trailheads are do-gooder, tree-huggers so we should fit right in.

It was an easy hike, but we did manage to scale some elevations, perhaps the same ones multiple times. We seemed to be going in circles. But who knows––we may have accidentally exercised. The temperature was in the 90s, and we had done our miles. We felt entitled to barbecue for lunch.

Patrick picked Smokin' Gold BBQ in Lilburn, a quick drive away. It is located around the corner from The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu Temple and architectural marvel that opened in 2007. The building comprises 34,000 pieces of Turkish Limestone, Italian marble, and Indian pink sandstone carved by hand in India, shipped to Lilburn, and assembled like the ultimate LEGO set into the impressive structure you see today. It's a gleaming white wonder and quite the surprise when you turn the corner.

And while most Hindu practitioners are vegetarian, Dan and Laurie Dieterle, the owners of Smokin' Gold BBQ, are not. They opened their temple to smoked meats four years ago. The couple had been competition BBQ cooks for years, and they kicked ass with their smokin’. They’ve won scads of trophies, and they’re on display in their homey restaurant. The Trailheads were drooling in anticipation. We placed our orders with the friendly woman at the counter and had pleasant conversations with Dan and Laurie, quite possibly the nicest people on earth. Dan said he is responsible "for everything on the menu," and his offerings are extensive––brisket, rib tips, brisket burnt ends (on Fridays), chicken, pulled pork, and racks of spareribs. Plus, more sides than you can shake a fork at. Oh, and four desserts. We continued salivating.

Dan told us he is not a low and slow smoker guy of beef. He cooks his brisket fast, in Big Green Eggs, at 325 degrees, bringing the meat to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Then he lets time take its good time… bringing the natural flavors to life. The pitmaster gave Patrick (a Green Egger) his award-winning recipe. How nice is that?

Our brisket eaters were fans of Dan's handiwork and scarfed it down. The meat was as tender as the first kiss from your first love. The one without braces. The brisket had a nice flavor, with just a hint of smoke (it must be because of his fast method). The pitmaster believes the meat is the show's star, and the sauce is an accessory.

Because of personal preferences, he offers an arsenal of dressings: a Kansas City sweet sauce, spicy sauce, Carolina mustard sauce, and for the bold, Habanero sauce. Dan also makes a sweet vinegar sauce (he gave us that recipe too, but we aren't talkin').

Patrick had the pulled pork, which was moist and melted in the mouth tender, while George feasted on the star of the show–­ a meaty half-rack of ribs. Sometimes, spareribs can be more gristle than meat, but not these babies. These ribs of love were glistening with sauce and gnaw-to-the-bone-and-savor-every-bite-good. If we didn't know Elvis wasn't with us, we would have sworn he was sitting in the corner chewing away on a bone as we listened to George attack his ribs.

The other standout here is the corn casserole. When we came in, we asked the nice young woman at the counter what was good. She immediately said the corn casserole! Not the answer we expected. Usually the counter person says the brisket or the ribs. But maybe she had a hand in making the corn casserole. This flavorful side is light, fluffy, sweet, full of flavor, and peppered with bright yellow kernels. Don't miss the lighter version of cornbread.

The slaw and Brunswick Stew were excellent companions. The stew was more tomatoey than meaty but had a nice flavor. The slaw was creamy and sweet. The perfect addition to every bite of meat. The collards were soft, flavorful and just fine. But then one of the fellows who works there noticed we didn't have any pepper sauce for them. He quickly remedied that. When we added the Texas Pete's Pepper Sauce it jacked them up to a new level. We're not fans of Texas toast. You know, big slabs of carbs. But this Texas toast was nicely buttered and really quite good.

Throughout our meal, Laurie came by and offered to get us refills on our drinks. We possibly drank a half a gallon of liquids each. As we said, the Dieterles are the nicest people anywhere. Trailheads were impressed with Smokin' Gold, and we suggest you give it a go. It's Trailheads Approved. Just look for the massive Temple… and head around the corner. It's the place with the smoke billowing in the back.

Rating: Four Ribs*

Smokin' Gold BBQ 5364 Lawrenceville Hwy Lilburn GA 30047 (770) 466-3227

*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.


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