Trailheads Return To Mysterious Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, Go Whole Hog At Rodney Scott's BBQ.
Updated: Aug 27
In these dog days of summer, we eavesdrop on a conversation with Trailheads' K9 crew.
ELVIS: Are we hiking this week?
FIONA: Yeah. There are four of them this time.
NILLA: Oh, great. We get to hear humans bitch about how hot it is. You guys catch that? I said, 'bitch.' THE DOGS GIGGLE LIKE BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD.
ELVIS: Humans are wimps. Try hiking in a fur coat, you miserable meat puppets. See how you like that!
FIONA: Ignore the two-leggers. Humans always whine about something.
NILLA: Fio, did you get a haircut?
FIONA: Yes--a little summer trim. You like it?
ELVIS: Chill, Fio. Not everything's about you. Narcissist much?
NILLA: Be nice, Elvis. You look absolutely adorable, Fi.
FIONA: Aw, aren't you sweet. I didn't think anyone would notice.
ELVIS ROLLS HIS EYES AND DROOLS UNCONTROLLABLY (as he does)
Four Trailheads (Guy, Brad, Roy, and Patrick) rallied as the dogs trashed us. George and Steve were working, and Steve also had an appointment to "get needled" (we thought that was our job). The hiking Trailheads questioned their absent friends' loyalty in our noble mission of seeking truth and barbecue in a world gone mad.
We met at Cascade National Springs Park in southwestern Atlanta. We hiked this trail last year and discovered a stash of beautiful fresh fruits and a box of Godiva Chocolates on some rocks in Utoy Creek (read about that adventure here). We were confounded. Why would anyone leave expensive, delicious fruit and fine chocolates in the woods? Especially where we could find them.
Then we researched and surmised these were probably offerings made to ancestral spirits by Santeria creyentes (believers). Santeria is an Afro-Cuban religion that is a mash-up of a few other belief systems. If you're shopping for a faith, you can learn more here. Please tell them Trailheads sent you, and we may get a finder's fee. We're not judging, but man, those Mangos were tempting last year, and who doesn't love Godiva?
NOTE: Trailheads Legal Team here. Trailheads are not making fun of any religion. It's not our groove, but we're open-minded and down with whatever gets you rocking. We'll all discover what's what in the after-gig. Until then, it's all speculation. Carry on, and as the theologian Steve Perry said, "Don't stop believin'."
Although we had not converted to Santeria since our last visit, we were curious to see if the faithful had made more offerings. Roy suggested that Trailheads bring some offerings. A canned ham, fried squash blossoms from Storico Fresco Alimentarie Ristorante, a charcuterie tray, you know, something to give us access without offending. But we came empty-handed. And on this hot, humid day, we thought we might find some Fudgesicles or Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia along the stream. The ancestral spirits might also appreciate a couple of icy cold Sweetwater 420s (we sure would).
Although there were no offerings, we encountered a few friendly people who told us the creek's flow was slow (guys our age know what that's like). They said they'd inform the proper authorities to increase the water volume. We're unsure if that involves any offerings or is simply a phone call to the appropriate bureaucrats. Trailheads imagined two big guys turning a large water faucet upstream. We are a simple people–AKA: simpletons.
This area was a Civil War battle site as Sherman's Army advanced on Atlanta. MARTA was shut down for repairs that day, so the Union troops advanced by foot through these woods. This area is beautiful with a lush canopy of trees, but mind your steps, folks, because many exposed roots and rocks are waiting to trip you like Timothy Leary. We wondered what this area looked like 150 years ago. Were there any trees? A few trees? An Amazon distribution center?
Trailheads climbed the hills and enjoyed the beautiful vistas. We gazed at the land below, imagining how much it would suck to be strolling through these woods as people fired hot metal balls at us. Then again, we'll probably find out how that feels since Trail Master Guy loves to venture beyond "no trespassing" signs and tempt fate. But today, we hoped no live Civil War re-enactments were going on out here.
Hiking along the ridge, we came upon two huge boulders. Roy proposed we play the ancient Greek game of Sisyphus. He said Patrick would wait at the bottom of the hill while the other guys pried a boulder free and let it roll down. Then, he would spend eternity pushing the big rock up the hill, never reaching the top. Patrick listened to the game instructions carefully, nodded, and proposed we play tag instead.
Then Brad said, "Crap, I think I forgot to lock my car!"
"Are you sure?" we asked. We were about as far away on the trail from the parking lot as possible.
"Yes. I don't have my phone." Brad has a fancy electric car, and his phone is the key. He didn't have his phone to call his key? Wait––Brad texts, googles, reads news, and talks on his car key? How weird is that?
We began trudging back to the parking lot to see if Brad still had a car. Or a phone/key. Or his outrageously expensive Pickleball paddle that was sitting on the back seat (do ancestral spirits play? We bet if they do their dinking game is phenomenal). The dogs were disgusted.
ELVIS: Humans are pathetic.
FIONA: Shh, they'll hear you, and then who'll feed us?
NILLA: Don't look a gift human in the mouth, Elvis. We need them–for now. Soon, we'll shed our fur bodies and don their flesh suits to begin our search for Earth 2.
FIONA: Be quiet! Dogs can't talk, remember?
We backtracked, snaking our way to the parking lot. Along the way, we saw an olive oil spray can next to an empty trash can. Was this another offering? Did spirits prefer Pam spray oil? Mysteries abound at Cascade Springs Nature Preserve.
We arrived in the parking lot, and sure enough, Brad had left his phone/key in his car. He locked it, and Trail Master commanded us back to the trails despite our pleading to tap out for an early lunch. "No dice," he barked––"hike on!" But first, we had to pry Roy's sweaty hand off the door handle. We headed back into the woods, and Guy found a hollow tree and stood inside it like a Keebler Elf with a thyroid condition. Trail Master never passes up a cheesy photo op. Of course, Fio joined him. "We're Instagram Influencers," they shouted. Yeah, whatever.
Trailheads did another forty minutes in the oppressive heat, mucking our way through the humidity that was thick as gravy. Finally, Trail Master released us after Roy's phone alarm went off. Roy had commanded Siri to alert us when we were halfway to our departure time for lunch. Trail Master was livid at the technological interruption, and we considered sacrificing Guy and offering him to Steve Jobs. Instead, we shrugged, said tech was the way of the world, and began our march to the parking lot.
The dogs gathered around the water fountain dog bowl as Elvis and Nilla lapped a lake's-worth of water.
ELVIS: Aren't you thirsty, Fio? Have some.
FIONA: No thanks. I only drink FIJI, Evian, or Perrier. I demand fine artesian waters, and bespoke liquids are much more refreshing.
Patrick noticed something curious in the trash (does he always search garbage cans?): a bag with a cored pineapple, banana peels, and other fruit remains. Had the ancestral spirits found their offering tasty and answered the Santeria prayers? Or did they reject them and enjoy the fruit anyway? One can only wonder. Patrick began preparing a fresh fruit salad from the remnants. We asked him to get out of the trash can, put down his salad bowl, and join us for lunch. He agreed, finally.
We headed to our barbecue joint du jour, Rodney Scott's BBQ in Atlanta. We sampled this place back in 2021 (read that review here) and became instant fans. The restaurant was new back then, and we were hungry to see how it was doing today after some seasoning (yes, that's a pun––sue us!).
Rodney's parents, Roosevelt and Ella Scott, were hog farmers, and Rodney cooked his first hog at age 11. He's been at it ever since. In 2017, Rodney and Nick Pihakis (of Jim N Nick's Bar-B-Q fame) partnered and opened Rodney Scott's BBQ in Charleston. His smoked meats attracted food mavens Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman, who raved about the fare.
Rodney's legend grew as the pitmaster opened barbecue restaurants in Atlanta, Birmingham, Trussville, and Homewood, Alabama. And soon, he'll have a new joint opening in Nashville. The man is scenting southeastern air with his delectable coal and hardwood-smoked meats.
Atlanta's Rodney Scott's BBQ is large, spotless, and welcoming. We got in line and surveyed the extensive menu. The friendly counterperson told us the bread man was late, so no sandwiches were available. Bummer. Roy and Patrick had their eyes on sandwiches.
We placed our orders and headed outside to grab a table for Trailheads and their three ungrateful dogs. And surprise, Steve––"Mr. Hard Hardworking Man Too Busy To Hike Because I'm Getting Another Part Of My Body Needled"––came to join us for lunch. He was late, but his eating ethic was stronger than his work ethic.
When our food trays arrived, we noticed Steve had a whole hog pork sandwich.
"Hey, the woman said there was no bread," we bellyached.
"The bread guy arrived right before I came," Steve gloated. "Heh heh…" He did a bite and smile worthy of being in a commercial.
There was some "harrumphing" by us, but no one complained once we dug into our plates of delectable smoked meats and savory sides.
Roy, Steve, and Patrick enjoyed their whole hog pulled pork. Roy ordered his pork with extra bark (he requests "inside/outside" like a barbecue pro). The meat had a light smoky flavor, and Rodney has three sauces for dressing your whole hog for dinner.
There is Kathy's Sauce, sweet as a grandma's kiss on your cheek. Another sauce is cleverly called "Other Sauce." It has a vinegary and spicy tang that kicks things up. Then there's Rodney's Sauce. The bottle had about an inch of black pepper sediment on its bottom, and Patrick shook the sucker like a hardware store paint can shaking machine to mix the concoction. Boy, howdy, this sauce has some peppery punch with a vinegar sass. A little dab will do you just fine. Rodney plays for keeps. This sauce needs a safety warning.
Brad and Guy had beef brisket. "This is fantastic brisket," Brad proclaimed. "I'd put it in the top three of our travels." The meat was tender, juicy, and flavorful. Guy agreed the smoked beef was first-rate.
The restaurant manager, Tony, came out to check on us and ask how everything was. We heaped praise on his fine operation and tasty grub. Brad and Guy gushed about their brisket, and Tony smiled. "I'm glad you like it," he said. "I smoke the brisket myself."
Tony told us his recipe: salt, pepper, and 12 hours of slow smoking. "Leave the meat alone," he said. "Time is the key." He explained that his father came from Jordan, and Middle Eastern cooking is all about quality ingredients, simple spices, and slow cooking. Tony said he learned his barbecue technique from the restaurant's pitmaster, Angie, featured in the AJC (as have Trailheads!) and on WSB. She runs a tight ship, and ravenous patrons are happy about Angie's dedication.
Then again, Tony might have said he cooks his brisket exactly like Angie taught him and possibly didn't take credit for this particular brisket. But since two of us have hearing issues, we will give Tony credit since he was so friendly and enthusiastic about the product.
Having established a rapport with the manager, Guy said he was disappointed that the bread man was late since he, too, was planning to order a sandwich. Tony apologized and later delivered some fresh bread to the table. In return, we gave him Trailheads stickers and big props for running a terrific barbecue joint.
Shall we discuss the sides? Okay, you talked us into it. The mac & cheese is creamy and as cheesy as a Green Bay Packers fan on game day. One forkful will convince you no comfort food was ever so comforting. It makes boxes of Kraft Mac n' Cheese cower in shame.
The coleslaw is creamy, baby. Some slaws are pure vinegar. Not this recipe, but it's not a mayo glop, either. This cabbage concoction is a perfect complement to the 'cue. A cool sidekick for any meal.
Native Alabamans Roy and Brad had the collard greens and were in veggie heaven. Brad grabbed the bottle of black pepper sauce and declared, "This would be great on the collards!" The greens were tasty as served, but Rodney's Sauce added a somewhat painful kick. Brad smiled with grimaced teeth.
The cornbread and its fried sibling hush puppies are legit. They have a sweet, authentic flavor and are perfect sponges for sopping sauce and leftover meat scraps.
Patrick ordered some onion rings because they were branded "Nick's Rings" on the menu. He believes anytime you see a person's name attached to an item, it MUST be incredible. These rings were. He shared some circles of crispy onion love with band mates. Bravo, Nick!
We finished our trays, exhausted from the summer heat and stuffed with some mighty fine barbecue. As we wobbled off, we noticed Rodney Scott's BBQ's slogan in the window: "Every Day Is A Good Day." Those words are the gospel truth when you have walked the Cascade Trail and have a bellyful of Rodney's fine barbecue. Go grab yourself some.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Rodney Scott's BBQ
668 Metropolitan Pkwy SW, Atlanta, GA 30310
*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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