Updated: Nov 5
It looks like Trailheads are back. Oh, not all of them. Steve was still on the Disabled List, and Roy joined him with a pulled something-or-other that aggravated his whatchamacallit and that, in turn, made his thingamajiggy discombobulated. Sorry to use all the techy medical terms.
For now, they are the non-hiking wounded, but we're keeping them around for spare parts––if any remnants have some mileage on them. Guy has first dibs on a good shoulder, and Patrick has claimed a left knee.
Trail Master Guy selected one of our favorite inside-the-perimeter (ITP) hikes: Murphy Candler Park, nestled in the wilds of Brookhaven. It is a short trail of 1.5 miles, but you can run laps like you're in NASCAR. Just don't complain if other hikers draft on you.
Brad, Patrick, and the elusive George joined Guy on a clear, cool, crisp Autumn day, with the leaves peacocking their colorful wares. We logged 3 miles before getting called in for a barbecue pit stop for refueling. No, we didn't return to the track after lunch––what are you, nuts?!
Brad has been growing his hair. He looks like an older version of The Dude from "The Big Lebowski." We have encouraged him to hike in a bathrobe while drinking a White Russian, but he can't––he needs both hands for his new "two long leashes dog containment system."
He introduced this revolutionary concept last week (read about that journey here) and was happy with the results. Brad keeps Elvis and Nilla close on the trails but lets them explore and wander in the water. They are, in fact, leading him. But the dogs asked us not to let Brad in on their ruse.
The Trail Master led us along the trail (contrary to popular opinion, he is literate) and down a path portion leading to a small overflow area––an overflow of what you might ask. We assumed it was water because it was wet, but we didn't jump to any conclusions.
Brad threw a tennis ball in, and Elvis bounded after it. The big black dog got to the ball, realized how cold the water was, and returned like a boomerang with insufficient postage. He left the ball behind. Elvis was expecting to play doubles with a couple of Rhodesian Ridgeback ladies. This game of chasing a ball into the freezing water was not on his dance card.
George took over the leash and walked Elvis. He imagines he has a unique bond with Elvis, unlike Nilla, who mauled him with her razor-sharp claws once. George steers clear of her.
"Do you know who you're named after, Elvis?" George asked. The dog rolled his eyes.
"You're named after one of the greatest rock and roll legends," he said. We think we heard Elvis say, "Duh" under his breath. Then George did his Elvis impersonation renditions of "Hound Dog" and "Blue Suede Shoes." Elvis asked him to stop.
"Sorry, but I dig the British invasion more," he said. "Could you do some Who or Stones?"
George shook his head, refusing to play jukebox for the ingrate. He has scruples.
We encountered a Chattapoochee dog hiker (these folks are everywhere) managing three leashed canines. Of course, Brad had leash envy. We talked with the professional walker while the dogs sized each other up.
They were fronting toughness, and before a Jets vs Sharks scene broke out, we continued down the trail––who needs all that dancing and singing early in the morning?
We shared stories of experiencing paranoia after smoking pot years ago. Satan's cigarettes (Maryjane- reefer-ganja-giggle-loco-weed) can do a number on you, especially when everyone is out to get you in the first place. Trailheads are more a gummy, bourbon, Malbec, and beer crowd.
Murphy Candler Lake was majestic, and wild birds were attracted to it like avian creatures to a large water body. Three geese went for a dip, and Nilla immediately was in hot pursuit. Brad let his leash out, and Nilla took it all, but she didn't have the yardage for a first down. Soon, Brad was like Hemingway's "The Old Man And The Sea," fighting to reel in his big catch (she is all muscle and independent spirit). Eventually, Nilla came ashore. "I'll get them next time," she vowed. Brad needed a Caucasian on the rocks, keeping his Dude vibe.
It was time to call the hike since we had a lunch appointment with Steve and Roy at the new Fox Bros Bar-B-Q in Brookhaven. All six Trailheads would assemble at the chow hall and see if it lived up to the other excellent Fox Bros. locations. Game on.
As fate would have it, Patrick scouted this place the day before with his wife, Donna, a Texas native. She has always loved Fox Bros. because they serve real Texas-style smoked brisket, and southeast barbecue joints are mainly about the pig (although more are getting into the beef game). We were impressed that this Brookhaven location is the first to go all in on Texas-style barbecue shacks, meaning you line up, order your meats, and the meats are hand-carved for your eyes to lust after.
Then, you slide down the line and get your sides prepared to order. There's a bin of assorted beverages displayed on ice. Grab one or two of them and pay for your meal. It's like a school cafeteria line, except this is the food you want to eat. And you don't have to go to class after, which is good because you didn't do the homework.
A sign explains the system to people unfamiliar with the Texas barbecue way. Patrick recognized one of the Fox Brothers the previous day and introduced himself. It was Justin Fox, and they had a nice chat. Patrick slipped him a Trailheads sticker and gushed about our love for their grub. Groupies!
On this visit, all six Trailheads stood in line, and Patrick saw the Fox Brother behind the counter. He felt like a hotshot, having met him the day before.
"Hey, Justin," he called. "I'm back again." The man smiled, said, "Justin's over there," and pointed to his doppelganger standing by a wall. "But I do look like him." It was Jonathan, the twin brother of Justin––AKA the Fox Bros. Patrick should remember what he once heard from Frank Sinatra at a birthday party for Marlon Brando at Jackie Onassis' Central Park penthouse, "Nobody likes a namedropper, kid."
The Brothers Fox have built their barbecue empire out of smoke, employing over 230 people and operating three restaurants, a commissary (with a "Que-Osk" selling meals), a concession at the Braves ballpark, and even supplying smoked beef short ribs on select Delta flights.
Justin and Jonathan rule heaven and earth with their delicious fare, cooking about 250 tons of Certified Angus Beef annually. Not bad for a couple of guys who moved to Atlanta from Texas over 20 years ago. Their profile appears in the November issue of "Atlanta Magazine" (where Patrick cribbed a lot of their history).
They are self-taught pit masters who began cooking barbecue at their rented Brookhaven home. Justin and Jonathan started throwing backyard parties with bands playing live music in 2001 and served their barbecue. These bashes became popular sensations, and their reputation grew as they introduced Texas-style smoked beef brisket to the native Georgians. While pork dominated the market, they changed the game.
The twins then got a gig serving their barbecue at Smith's Olde Bar in 2005, perfecting their craft, and opened Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q on DeKalb Avenue in 2007 (read our recent review here). As the smoke and word spread, so did their popularity, and now they are the only Atlanta barbecue joint included in the 50 best barbecue places listed in "Southern Living."
In Brookhaven, the new operation is fueled by stacks of split hardwood, a cavernous rotisserie smoker, and smokers custom-made outside of Austin, TX, from decommissioned 1,000-gallon propane tanks. Briskets receive 12-13 hours basking in these smokers before they're fresh-sliced and hit your tray. You're welcome, America.
Trailheads ordered lunches at the counter and drooled as Jonathan supervised the assembly line. Some new staff members were learning the drill, and things were progressing nicely. We snagged a table on the spacious enclosed patio so the dogs could join us. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is next to a Mellow Mushroom Pizza across from a new Chick-fil-A. Brookhaven Station has a killer's row of Atlanta eateries.
Let's run down our reactions and reviews of the chow. Guy had the Big Tex sandwich, a hefty mound of brisket dressed with a mustard sauce, onions, and pickles. He instantly fell in love after one kiss and proposed to his sandwich. It was embarrassing; he made us swear not to tell his wife, Patty. His secret is safe with us.
Other Trailheads who went for the brisket agreed it was incredibly tender, full-flavored, and completely satisfying.
Those who opted for the pulled pork were also elated. The tender, juicy meat had a subtle smoky flavor.
Rib expert George had the St. Louis Spare Ribs. They are meaty and flavorful; he ate them clean to the bones, happy as he could be. The brothers certainly know their way around smoked meats––no wonder they require massive submarine-sized smokers.
We noticed something new: Fox. Bros. Vinegar Sauce. This concoction has a nice spicy punch that kicks up the volume on anything it touches. It joins the winning lineup of regular Bar-B-Q Spice and the Spicy Blend. You'll find a full arsenal of liquid flavor enhancements on every table. You can also buy them at your local store and spice up boring birthday cakes, noodle casseroles, or egg foo young.
That handles the main courses we had. Let's run down the sides.
We raved about the Brunswick Stew. "This is great," George said. "Some of the best I've ever had." The man knows his stews, and he worked his spoon like an oil pump jack.
Steve loved the daily special of creamed corn. The roasted kernels are seasoned to perfection. This creamy dish is good enough to make Orville Redenbacher cry (and he didn't even shed a tear watching "Old Yeller.")
Guy was effusive in his praise for the green beans. "They have little fried onion pieces on top," he said. "A savory crunch in every bite." Right!
Roy showered hosannas on a new side item of Broccoli Salad (this location does not offer slaw, so this is as close as you're going to get if that's your thing) loaded with cheese and onions. And he has no idea what or who a hosanna is.
The Mac & Cheese is creamy, gooey goodness. Eat it with a spoon or fork. If you're alone, fingers are acceptable, or burrow your face in it.
Patrick is a huge fan of Fox Bros. brisket chili (there are no beans––simply rock 'em, sock 'em flavor in a bowl). Brisket chili is a good side if you have pork as your main dish. Double dip your smoked meat feast.
After finishing our meals, we wanted a photo with the brothers. Guy was sent inside to put on a charm offensive and nabbed Justin (Jonathan probably heard he was coming and hid in the kitchen or crawled inside a smoker). We told Justin how much we loved their food and thanked him for assisting Steve Hartstock by lending him a smoker. Steve runs Socks' Love Barbecue in Cumming (read about it here), another favorite of ours. Justin smiled, "Steve's a great guy," he said. "We welcome everyone getting into the barbecue game."
It's heartwarming to know that the smoked meats kings are enthusiastic and supportive of upping the barbecue game in Georgia. Look out, Texas, the brothers may one day open a Georgia-style joint in Austin. Boy howdy, wouldn't that be something?!
Rating: Four Ribs*
Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
4058 Peachtree Road NE
Brookhaven, GA 30319
*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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