In outer space, satellites orbit around the Earth and ping back coordinates for humans attempting to reach their destinations. Smartphones have GPS, and these satellites traveling at 7,000 mph are essential in helping people find their asses from holes in the ground.
But then there's Patrick. Not even space-age technology can save him.
Trail Master Guy had selected this week's hike location: Medlock Park in Decatur. Patrick plugged the place into Apple Maps and followed the commands from outer space. When his satellite overloads told him he had arrived, all he saw was a residential intersection with no trail or Trailheads. Patrick called his compatriots who had assembled––Guy, Steve, Brad, George, and Roy––and reported his location. No one knew where he was. Guy sent a pin of their whereabouts (from Google Maps), and Roy vectored Patrick in on the phone for a safe landing. Apple views the world differently than Google. But he made it.
In the satellite space wars, Google 1 and Apple 0 when it comes to locating Medlock Park.
After weeks of partial hiking crews, all six Trailheads had reunited, excited to trek a popular in-city route. But that was not to be. The intended trail was closed because of bridge repairs, so we followed detour signs through residential streets where worried parents grabbed their curious children, looking out the front windows.
"Don't look at them, Brandon," a concerned parent said. "Those are Trailheads, and you don't want to grow up and be like them. They stink of wanderlust and barbecue."
"But, Mom," an innocent boy pleaded, “I love their branded apparel. It's very cool swag! Can I get some? PLEASE? I wanna Trailheads hat and tee!!!"
"Absolutely not. That is the devil's uniform. Now, get away from that window!"
We came into the detour trail, joined by a man named Jim carrying a gallon jug of water. He remarked on our Trailheads hats and tees. We told him of our mission "On the path to truth and barbecue." Brad gave him one of our logo stickers, and Jim said he'd check out our website. He parted with us, saying he was off to sit and drink his water. He is on the path to proper hydration. (Assuming it was not a jug of Grey Goose, which would take him down a very different path.)
Later we decided Jim may have been a vision. A gremlin of the woods. Jim, if you are human and reading this, welcome. We enjoyed meeting you in your flesh form. And we appreciate your insight into the path closure and bridge renovations.
Guy led us on a meandering hike up and down hills, stumbling into an old wrecked VW, by train tracks, under graffiti-ed bridges, and into patches of poison ivy. (See the photo below of Steve's cool app that warns us against poison plants of all kinds. What we need is a chigger detector.) Mother Nature was cranking up the thermostat, and Elvis and Fio cooled themselves in the creek waters. As always, they shared their cooling waters with the group on their return, shaking themselves dry.
We took many divergent paths and happened upon a box turtle who retreated into his shell at the sight of Elvis's curious snout. George stayed behind and communed with the turtle for a while.
After his recent time on Maui, George feels he has a unique connection to the Earth and its creatures (no satellites required). The animals are not so sure. But after a time, he returned and spoke in what he later explained to us was turtle-speak for the next half hour. After a good while, we decided George had earned some lettuce bits, and we'd earned some smoked meats and tapped out, snaking our way back to the parking lot.
Our lunch spot was BBQ Café on East Howard Ave. in Decatur. This joint is in a small structure that was once a cab stand for the Decatur train depot. It has no indoor seating, but fortunately, there are a few tables outside with umbrellas blocking the baking sun seeking pasty skin for ravaging.
A friendly dude named Brad stood at the order window, and we quizzed him about the menu. He explained the place is about two years old, started by three friends from Mississippi who wanted to bring MS barbecue to the land of red clay. They set up shop and began smoking under the banner of BBQ Café: A Taste of The 'Sip.
You might ask, "What's Mississippi barbecue?" We wondered the same and learned it has to do with their rubs. Something about a secret formula with "duck seasoning." Whatever they do, we like it a lot. And we've had Texas-style, Oklahoma-style, Carolina-style, Korean-style, Alabama-style, Georgia-style, and even terrific southern barbecue smoked by some folks from Ohio (what, no Idaho-style?).
We worked our way around the smoked meat bases. Guy said the chicken thighs "were to die for," and he left clean bones as proof.
Roy, George, and Patrick enjoyed their beef briskets––lean, tender, and mighty flavorful. Pit Master Jocelyn (it was our understanding she and Brad were both mastering the pit) came outside to greet us and bring the pups some water. She told us the brisket is covered with the secret duck seasoning rub and marinated in orange juice for fourteen hours before smoking. Although this isn't a barked brisket, we scarfed it down in delight.
Steve and Brad had the pulled pork and ate their way to hog heaven. Sadly there were no ribs to be had this day. They were preparing for the high holies of Mexican-American culture: Cinco de Mayo. They partnered with another chef to offer some tasty-sounding Mexican Barbecue treats for dinner this night. Their focus had to be on that and not the ribs. Since their sign makes the bold claim that their ribs are the best in town, we will have to make a return trip.
Let's talk sides. The Brunswick Stew is a hall of fame contender, the best friend a spoon ever had. It had a familiar heat to it. What could this be? Ghost peppers, perhaps? No, just plain, everyday black pepper used judiciously. Brad called the mac 'n cheese "perfecto" (we had no idea he was bilingual), and Mexican-style street corn, the daily special, received heaps of praise on this Cinco de Mayo.
Speaking of mayo, Jocelyn admitted the slaw had been "over-sauced," but Roy and George loved the creamy mayo goodness. It was Cinco de Mayo, so why not a little extra helping of mayo? Steve, Guy, Brad, and Patrick prefer their slaw with a vinegary tang, thank you very much. But we weren't complaining. And the chips with the pork sandwich were not some generic barbecue potato chip. These were house-made, freshly prepared golden chips with a dusting of barbecue magic. Eat it, Lay's.
The Brunswick Stew, slaw, Mexican corn, and spicy barbecue sauce all have a peppery punch that we were crazy about. The cooks told us pretty much everything gets a little pepper here. And the cornbread was hearty with good flavor.
In Decatur, not far from the train tracks, we discovered a love shack––great people serving tasty barbecue you'll love. BBQ Café wears the seal of Trailheads approval. Check it out.
Rating: Four Ribs*
310 East Howard Ave.
Decatur GA 30030
*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.