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Trailheads’ Hike Is A Walk In The Park; They Exercise Their Mouths At Sweet Auburn Barbecue.

In midtown Atlanta, there are 189 acres of beautiful parklands that, 200 years ago, was a forest––but you couldn’t see it for all the damn trees. In 1834, Samuel and Sarah Walker, pioneer settlers, purchased the land for $450 (a pretty good deal, right?). It was before Atlanta existed, and the new landowners cleared some trees and built a cabin. More history later, it’s roll call time.

This week was another pathetic showing of Trailheads. Only 50% of the troops rallied, with stalwarts Guy and Patrick joined by Brad.

Roy was still in Spain, living the high life and celebrating 40 years of blissful marriage to Karlenne. The life of rich foods, fine wines, and refined culture appears to agree with Mr. Tumbles. We may never see him again on the trails. Gravity will miss bringing him down.

In Spain the visitor introduces himself as "Pancho" Trimble––a nod to his childhood love of tennis star Pancho Gonzoles. Roy, the boy, didn’t know Pancho was from Los Angeles. The young one demonstrated his US-centered arrogance. Perhaps a Spanish bull will teach him a little lesson.

George was at the Duke Mansion in Charlotte pimping his latest book, Unstoppable: A Story of Love, Faith, and the Power Couple Who Ignited the College Sports Broadcasting Boom.

No, it was not the Duke Mansion of Randolph and Mortimer Duke, the two main antagonists of the 1983 film "Trading Places."  Or the mansion of Daisy Duke from "The Dukes Of Hazzard." 

The distinguished author spoke to an adoring audience about his must-read book for any sports fan, and you can get your copy here.

Steve was busy doing numerous house projects in the mountains somewhere, which sounded a lot like work to our lazy ears, but he did what needed to be done and joined us for lunch. Enough excuses of the missing hikers––let’s get back to our history lesson.

The Walkers (you remember them from the first paragraph) lived in their cabin and worked farmland, and in 1857, sold the property to their son, Benjamin. Have you guessed what this large tract of land became? Spoiler alert: it’s Piedmont Park. Benjamin built a new log cabin where the Piedmont Driving Club is today. (Too bad Steve wasn't around. He could have given him a hand.) The snooty private club was established in 1887 and was called the Gentlemen’s Driving Club. Kindly hoist a pinkie in the air when you say that.

Below the Gentlemen’s Driving Club, a racetrack was constructed, enabling members to “drive” their horses and carriages. We are sure there were many drag races, as this was before all the anti-drag ordinances began to appear. RuPaul would have loved it.

In 1892, this field hosted the South’s oldest intercollegiate rivalry, Georgia vs Auburn. There was no national broadcast of the first game, and Auburn won 10-0––but the spread was Georgia +10.5, so people who bet the Bulldogs cleaned up big time.

From 1902-to-1904, the city’s first professional baseball team, the Atlanta Crackers, played on these grounds. That name is unfortunate.

This area is where the ball fields are today. Guy and Brad played here in the advertising softball league for years. They swear their uniforms are now on display in Cooperstown. They’re delusional liars but we humor them.

Another section of land was used for a fairground. The Piedmont Exposition of 1887 promoted the agriculture and industrial might of the region. We reckon the candy apples and kettle corn were delicious.

In 1895, the grounds were used for The Cotton States and International Exposition, a world’s fair encouraging good relations and trade of cotton with the international community. This event lasted 100 days, featured 6,000 exhibits, and attracted 800,000 visitors. The stone balustrades around the park once held steps leading to the major Expo exhibition buildings.

We suspect another attraction was the carnies who could guess your weight or age and encouraged patrons to toss darts at balloons to win stuffed animals.

The Expo was attended by President Grover Cleveland and First Lady Frances Cleveland, and there was a fiery speech given by Booker T. Washington encouraging whites to employ blacks instead of recently arrived immigrants.

And get a load of this––the Expo was such a big deal that Philadelphia sent The Liberty Bell for display to the masses. Hopefully, the bell wasn't cracked here. You know what Philly fans are like.

In 1909, the City of Atlanta purchased the decaying fairgrounds. The Olmsted Brothers, respected landscape architects, were hired to develop a master plan for Piedmont Park. The brothers came from good stock; their daddy was legendary Frederick Law Olmsted, credited for designing Central Park, among other significant projects.

The brothers submitted their plan in 1912, and while the city couldn’t afford to do all of their recommendations, it influenced the formation of Piedmont Park. The area has been a work in progress ever since.

Where there once was a 70-acre golf course is now Oak Hill and the Meadow. Musical performances and festivals are held here today. This spot hosts The Atlanta Jazz Festival (taking place this Memorial Day weekend), the Dogwood Festival, The Arts Festival of Atlanta, and the Atlanta Pride Festival.

The three Trailheads trekked with Fio and Elvis upon these hallowed historic grounds. We sported our logo merch (get yours here). All profits from sales are donated to the Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy, keeping the Hooch beautiful. It was a warm early summer day, and we explored Piedmont Park in comfortable shoes as our hiking boots aired out.

We snapped selfies like obnoxious tourists, posing here, there, and everywhere. Along Clara Meer Lake are gorgeous vistas of midtown. Patrick once shot a TV commercial on the pier for Royal Oak Charcoal Briquets with a madman standing by a Weber reciting beatnik poetry about the glories of grilling. Patrick based the character on himself and Maynard GKrebs. 

As we strolled along a pathway, a cyclist zoomed by. We recognized him, and Guy shouted. He stopped. It was Bert, a good friend of Roy’s, who lives in the Park area. He is a pilot involved with Angel Flight Soars, coordinating free air transportation for patients with medical conditions who cannot use or afford commercial airlines.

Talk about do-gooder angels. These people earn their wings daily. You can learn more about this incredible organization here. Yes, it accepts tax-deductible donations.

We continued walking and saw a water fountain where the dogs could hydrate themselves. Elvis drank a lake’s worth. In the distance, workers were setting up equipment for the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Guy told us he saw Miles Davis play here once. We knew he was lying when he said, “Man, that cat could play some mean glockenspiel.”

Guy also said he saw The Allman Bros. Band back in their heyday, and Dickey Betts invited him on stage to jam. Trail Master has many stories; we listen patiently to them with shovels.

We continued our journey and came upon a beautiful community garden. A woman was working the soil not far from maybe the lamest scarecrow ever. It made the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz look terrifying. Crows probably mock this smiling stuffed sentry.

As we returned to our cars, a team of men were working hard on the Beltline. We were going to offer our expert help, but we were getting kind of hungry. The Piedmont Park area is alive with activity, and if you haven’t been in a while, make tracks and explore it all.

And for those who want to call us out for taking a leisurely walk instead of hiking, the Piedmont Park Loop is listed on AllTrails. So there!

Our lunch selection was Sweet Auburn Barbecue. Looking at Yelp, we couldn’t recall having ever been there, but we have lousy memories. Roy fondly remembers our visit but wasn't there to remind the dimwitted lads that Trailheads were here in July (read about it here).

Like Heirloom Market BBQ, Sweet Auburn Barbecue has traditional favorites prepared with an Asian flair. In 2021, this N. Highland Ave. joint was selected as Atlanta’s Magazine’s best barbecue spot. We grabbed an outdoor table by the beautiful flower boxes as our server delivered menus, and the dogs slurped water.

There is a large indoor restaurant with a beautiful bar, but the place was quiet. We had the restaurant’s full attention. Sorry.

Steve, the worker bee Trailhead, arrived and pulled up a seat. We ordered a round of Arnold Palmers. Our server told us they make theirs with strawberry lemonade and asked if that was okay.

“Absolutely,” we said. “We’d love to try your gussied-up Arnies!” We placed our orders.

The festivities started with six smoked wings and two sauces: wu tang, a sweet and spicy delight, and the regular BBQ. Both were excellent. We left clean bones.

Our food trays arrived, and everything looked amazing. Guy, Brad, and Patrick had baby back ribs, which blew us away.

The smoked meat is seasoned and pasted with a thick, savory, sweet barbecue sauce, sprinkled with chopped green onions. Bang, these babies were incredible! They were the meatiest ribs we’ve had in our travels, with very little gristle, only tasty meat candy. Do not miss the baby backs here.

Brad and Guy also had the chopped beef brisket, and they were impressed. “This has great flavor,” Brad said. “Smoky and delicious. Everything you want brisket to be.” Yes, he speaks like a restaurant review.

Steve had his usual order of a pulled pork sandwich, but there was no bun here. The meat is tucked between two slices of Texas Toast. While we are not big fans of TT, Sweet Auburn Barbecue’s cooks made even it delectable. Steve loved the smokey flavor of the tender pork. It was a meal worthy of the hard-working man who can’t find the time to hike with his besties.

Are we bitter? You bet.

Around this time in Gateria, Spain, Roy enjoyed a T-bone to show solidarity with his Trailheads brothers. He will be fined for not eating barbecue. Traitor!

Those were the main events, but please don’t think we’re done eating. The sides show is impressive at Sweet Auburn.

There are two choices of coleslaw: sesame or pear. We tried them both. Patrick raved about the pear slaw. “It has a sweet flavor that makes a cabbage head spin. I love it.”

Guy countered and said he was wild for the sesame slaw. “It makes my mouth say, ‘Open says-a-me.’” He paused and cocked his head waiting for uproariously laughter. Crickets chirped as tumbleweeds rolled by. We ignored him and ate.

Maybe he was trying out material for his father-of-the-bride speech at his daughter Allie’s wedding next week (congratulations to the happy couple and their families).

Our friendly server told us the pear slaw is made with pear nectar and the sesame version has a sesame dressing. “There’s no mayonnaise,” he said. We loved both versions. We hope Duke’s Mayo doesn’t dispatch a goon squad to persuade the inventive chefs to get in line. We don't think George's Duke Mansion has anything to do with the mayonnaise people.

Brad was crazy for his jerk-spiced collards. He loves it when cooks get inventive with classic Southern dishes, and this one was a winner.

He was also blown away by the Thai chili Brussels sprouts. “The flavor is amazing. I love the char.”

Patrick liked his stone ground cheddar grits, although he thought they were a little soupy. But that didn’t stop him from shoveling them down his cakehole.

And finally, Steve was a fan of his Brunswick stew. “It’s hearty,” he said. “Lots of meat and veggies.”

We doubled down on another round of strawberry Arnies and enjoyed talking our usual gibberish.

Then, Trailheads called it a day. We had to get home and see if the Atlanta Crackers game was on TV.

Rating: Four Ribs*

Sweet Auburn Barbecue

656 N. Highland Ave. NE

Atlanta, GA  30306

(678) 515-3550


*About Our Barbecue Rating System

Trailheads do not claim to be food experts, epicureans, or sophisticated palates. We are hungry hikers who attack a selected barbecue venue and ravage our way through whatever smoked fare and fixings they're dishing out. 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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