Updated: Jan 28
Trailheads rallied four members (Guy, Patrick, Roy, and Brad) for an official hike. Our two missing members had lame excuses: George was in Switzerland shooting his documentary about Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games (enjoy your cocoa and cuckoo clocks, Mr. La-dee-da), and Steve was at a doctor's appointment––putting his health over our well-being (pretty selfish, right?).
It's not like the rest of us are slackers. Patrick just finished the first draft of his third novel. Roy is walking while wounded with a strained pectoral muscle (he recently attempted his first pushup in several years––that'll teach him). Brad was suffering through Dry January. And Guy was Trail Mastering with his arm in a sling, post-rotator cuff surgery. We all have problems and conflicts, but some heroic souls answer when duty calls.
We had not assembled an entire crew for a while. Two weeks ago, Guy, Patrick, and Fio hiked, although a pair of Trailheads is not an official excursion according to our stringent bylaws. Last week, the troops were rained out and gathered to eat––get a load of this––sushi instead of barbecue. Sushi?! That does not enhance our brand as rugged outdoorsy types, no matter how much wasabi you can withstand. Or afford. We do have an idea how to combine our love for sushi and barbecue. More on that later.
Our destination for this week's adventure was virgin territory for our hiking boots: Reynolds Nature Preserve Trail in Lake City, a small community 11 miles south of Atlanta in Clayton County. We passed billboards for slip, fall, and crash attorneys on the journey. The ad for legal firm Morgan & Morgan showed a lawyer holding a baseball bat with the headline, "We'll go to bat for you." We can imagine the M&M negotiation tact: "So, you maybe wanna pay up, or would you rather see your brains splatter against the walls? It'd be a shame if your pretty face got bashed in, wouldn't it?"
Perhaps they're just big Braves fans. But we doubt it.
The Reynolds Nature Preserve Trail parking lot is across the street from Ambaji Shree Shakti Mandir USA, a Hindu temple and community. Hinduism is the third largest religion, and they have some amazingly intricate temples. We parked our cars and prepared to discover new trails. Everyone was impressed by Roy's shirt reading, "If a pig don't die, we don't eat"--something he heard years ago.
Before we began our journey, we explored the grounds by the parking lot, where old-timey farming equipment stood next to a barn constructed in 1867––older than most of the Trailheads present.
The tractor looked like an earlier version of the one attorney-turned-farmer Oliver Wendall Douglas used plowing the soil of Hooterville in the 1960s sitcom Green Acres. We assume Oliver didn't use a baseball bat in his legal days.
If you've never seen this series, you're missing the absurdist hilarity of Oliver in his three-piece suits farming and coping with a cast of unforgettable characters: Arnold the "talking" Pig, country huckster Mr. Haney, chatterbox County Agent Hank Kimball, Eb the farmhand, and the construction workers Alf and Ralph (played by Mary Grace Canfield) known as the Monroe Brothers. It's every person's hell––being the only rational one in a world of lunacy.
For trivia fans, name the three sitcoms with storekeeper Sam Drucker (played by Frank Cady). Bonus question: What kind of view did Lisa Douglas "just adore?" And for extra credit, do you recall the full lyrics of the theme song? No googling! Leave your answer in the comments section. Your only prize is showing the world you're the best. Now, let's get going.
With four hikers, we can carry on one conversation, that's difficult with all six Trailheads. We began a communal talk about Dry January, which we never made as a solemn pledge for all members. Roy successfully filibustered a mandate in our Second Congressional session. He didn't like the idea of an alcohol-free month, especially one with 31 days. Moderation, he believes, is a more sustainable tactic-- and he raises his glass to sensibility.
Steve, Guy, Brad, and Patrick said they'd do the sobriety deed, and George pledged he'd "try." George tapped out three weeks later when a bottle of Meiomi Pinot Noir seduced him off the wagon. Guy confessed to having a few "slips" but has adjusted for it by pledging a couple of dry February days. Brad is all in and says he may go into a dry February. Steve has been a sober boy, as has Patrick, who has scheduled a date with a couple of tall beers on February 1.
We broke into paired conversations on a variety of subjects: the joys of eating freshly made popcorn, fond memories of watching movies at a drive-in (and clever ways to sneak in), wondering about future generations deprived of attending drive-ins and how it will most likely lead to the downfall of civilization, the fact that Sean Connery is, and will always be the only James Bond, Roy's experience in the Bahamas directing Sean as an ad campaign announcer, new guitars, Fio's stylish haircut, torn rotator cuffs and various ailments, a smattering of politics and sports talk, George's big international production, David Crosby, happiness studies, guitar lessons, Jordan Klepper's podcast, orthopedic surgeons and defective hips, the VW Buzz, Swiss architecture, Elvis's bad habit of diving into water bodies and returning to baptize us, and a slew of other important subjects.
We were impressed by Reynolds Nature Preserve Trail. Even in winter, it is a pretty corner of nature with good elevations, well-worn trails (watch those exposed roots), beds of yellow daffodils blooming (already), beautiful patches of green marsh, a lovely reflective pond, a not very reflective pond covered in bright green algae, and rustic wooden walkways and bridges.
Trust us; this trail is worth finding and exploring. It's not long, but you can loop and patch together a nice hike. On this day, it wasn't crowded. We only saw four or five people out walking.
We ran into a woman at the trailhead who worked for the county. She was charming and nicely feigned interest in our presentation of the Trailheads story. Then she probably went to her office and napped.
Having discovered the path to truth, we needed to get on our way to barbecue. We went to the parking lot and began researching local joints. We decided on Tookes Country Bar-B-Q in Rex, and caravaned over, past an establishment behind high concrete walls topped with razor wire––either a jail or a high-security dry cleaner.
Patrick was in the lead car and pulled into the parking lot where the barbecue joint was "supposed to be." He saw an old, dilapidated building with a faded sign reading Flea Market and waited for the other two cars that pulled into the parking lot from a different entrance. Patrick said it looked like the place was closed.
The other guys saw a big red pig sign in front of a building next to the closed flea market. Though they saw a large, flashing, neon "OPEN" sign, they didn't dispute his erroneous claim, keeping their mockery powder dry. The stinkers.
Was Patrick suffering from another bout of head-up-assitis? Does he have a Tookes blind spot? He has an upcoming ophthalmologist appointment––will the medic have to do a head extraction first? Perhaps he was distracted trying to recall the lyrics to the "Green Acres" theme song? Or was he simply hungry and looking for barbecue in all the wrong places? We'll never know.
Trailheads decided to head into town for Woods Chapel BBQ in the Summerhill area of Atlanta. We've been to this joint twice before (you can read our reviews here and here—along with reviews of different trails), and they smoke some mighty fine meats. Let's go to the blow-by-blow.
Since we had the dogs and it was cold and windy outside, we decided to get our grub and eat at Brad's office (AKA: Trailheads World Headquarters––think Tony Stark's Avengers crib). After placing our orders, we explored the beautiful space. The interior of Woods Chapel is a mini-Atlanta History Museum.
There is a grouping of posters from the '96 Atlanta Olympic Games, with graphics and marketing communications done by Trailheads Brad and George. Included is the classic shot of Muhammad Ali lighting the torch, and the FBI wanted a poster for Eric Robert Rudolph, the infamous Games bomber.
Another grouping displays headlines from the 1963 assassination of JFK and LBJ's passage of historic Civil Rights legislation, along with pics of MLK and other leaders of the cause. There is a grouping of Jimmy Carter's run for President and Atlanta's hosting of the Democratic National Convention.
And, of course, a display in honor of Hammerin' Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth's home run record less than an eighth of a mile from Woods Chapel. Enough history. Let's talk grub.
The daily special was Korean-style ribs. The small spareribs were lean, meaty, and slathered in a seductive sauce of exotic sweet Asian flavors that smacked our tastebuds and said, "WAKE UP!" We suggest these delicious suckers get added to the menu. They are terrific.
The pulled pork delivered the goods––it's tender with a mild smokey flavor that's satisfying. But it needs some enhancement, and the vinegary-peppery sauce fits the bill. Spread it on, let the meat mop it up, and get shoveling. Your belly wants it. Try not to think of Arnold the Pig.
The brisket also brings game. The beef slices are lean, kissed by smoke, and as tender as a first kiss. Brad had the brisket sandwich and made short work of it. Now to the sides.
Patrick got a side of tater tots because they're the perfect food––deep-fried starch that's salted. But these babies had some unique mystery spice sprinkled on them, and since everyone knows fried things don't travel well, the tots never made it to their destination. Guess that makes them an app instead of a side.
Our resident collard greens expert Roy loves WC's collards. They're salty and meaty. How much better could a vegetable get?
Brad fell hard for his mac 'n cheese–– macaroni elbows of love dripping with creamy, cheesy goodness. And worth every damn calorie.
We also liked Woods Chapel's unique slaw. The shredded cabbage gets amped with beets and jalapeno peppers in a savory sauce for a nice flavor with some pop.
And the cornbread? The cornbread is manna from heaven. It's sweet and buttery with a burnt crisp flavor at the edges. Consider this dessert––it's that good. Patrick ordered it. Everyone sampled and loved it.
We apologize to Tookes and promise to return someday and sample your fare. And we commend Woods Chapel and its new General Manager for consistently delivering excellent barbecue. He chatted us up after asking what Trailheads were. We gave him our spiel and a sticker. As you can tell from the previous reviews, Woods Chapel earns a hearty Trailheads' approval and recommendation.
And, no, they do not serve sushi. But we bet they could make some killer Brisket Eel Nigiri with barbecue sauce.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Wood's Chapel BBQ 85 Georgia Ave SE
Atlanta GA 30312 404.522.3000 woodschapelbbq.com
*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.