Trailheads Riverwalk without Riverdancing, Then Pig-out At Mr. Pig's Smokehouse
Updated: Mar 3
Five Trailheads rallied (Guy, Steve, Roy, George, and Patrick) and yelled, "Take me to the river" in this week's thrilling adventure. Okay, so maybe not 'thrilling'––we old ad guys can't help ourselves with the flowery gushing and overselling. Let's just say it was an experience more enjoyable than a sandpaper sponge bath with Lava soap in a cider vinegar tub.
Brad didn't join us because he skedaddled to Austin, TX. Maybe Georgia barbecue isn't good enough for Mr. High & Mighty Putting On Airs. No Brad meant no Elvis. The furry brute was in a kennel, locked up, rattling his metal water bowl along the bars of his cage while planning his escape. Did Elvis have a Rita Hayworth poster handy? Would Morgan Freeman narrate his gripping story? Time will tell.
Trail Master announced our hiking site on Tuesday. It was a place he has wanted to hike for weeks, but we've been rained out. This is a trail so new it isn't even on AllTrails.
We received the address. No trail name, just an address. Mysterious, right? Were we to commit this secret address to memory in case we were captured and searched? Would Trailheads be strong enough to withstand painful torture from those who wanted to know our coordinates? Dream on. We're wimps.
The weather worrywarts rushed to their apps.
"It looks like rain Thursday," Roy texted. "I'm not hiking in the rain."
"I'm going," Trail Master Guy threw down. "Rain or shine."
"I'm in," said Patrick after checking his weather apps and seeing little chance of rain. Such a brave soul is he.
Other Trailheads made skittish remarks about the hazards of rain hiking, what with the slipping and falling in the woods as buzzards fly overhead hungrily awaiting their lunch buffets to stop their squirming and screaming. GET ON WITH DYING, the hungry vultures would urge.
The next thing you knew, Trailheads were arranging a sushi lunch on Wednesday in case of a hiking rainout on Thursday. The ragtag team of Charlie the Tuna eaters––Roy, Brad, and George–– gathered for sushi while the other Trailheads prepared for hiking and barbecue the next day––come hell or high water!
The weather was overcast, warm, and dry on Thursday. As dry as melba toast. Hike on!
We arrived at the appointed rendezvous spot, a neighborhood adjacent to Whittier Mill Park (we hiked that trail in December, read about it here). The five Trailheads and Fio began their trek into the great unknown–at least unknown to us, and AllTrails.
The trail snaked through woods, over a wooden bridge, and up to train tracks. Two trains were parked there, so we began our inspections. Carefree George began scaling a railroad car. We believe he may be part monkey or mountain goat. The man loves to climb. We were concerned that the train might start up and carry George to parts unknown.
We proceeded cautiously because of the recent news about the Norfolk Southern train chemical spill and fire disaster in E. Palestine, Ohio. We didn't want a vinyl chloride baptism.
The hiking men romanticized living adventurous lives riding the rails, seeing the country, singing Woody Guthrie songs, sitting around the crackling campfire, eating cans of beans with our pocket spoons, taking swigs from the passed Acme Rotgut Whiskey bottle, and not having a doggone care in the world.
We quickly realized we wouldn't have our TVs, HVAC, Luxardo Maraschino Cherries for Manhattans, fluffy pillows, iPods, or barbecue plates. What were we thinking?! Trailheads aren't the kind of guys who ride rails. A couple of us said we'd only take a train if we had a luxurious private car like in "Wild Wild West." Hell, some of us live in mortal fear of raindrops. We dropped our romanticized rambling rail dreams like an anvil.
Walking along the tracks, we found many railroad spikes. They were substantial, heavy, and rusty. Those of us who'd worked in the advertising game recalled the local ad awards show bestowed gold railroad spikes (painted, not solid) to the best work.
People pay a nice chunk of dough for award show entry fees for the chance to win one. Maybe we'd grab some rusted spikes, get a can of gold spray paint, and sell the suckers on the black market. Or swipe the used spikes and start a Trailheads rail line.
Being a railroad magnate sounds swell, right? We decided both ideas were boneheaded since they required work, lots of work. Plus, spikes were pretty heavy and would rip holes in our pockets (we need those for pocket eating utensils). So we snapped some selfies and moved on.
The trail was pretty with shoots of green, wildflowers, and evidence of an early spring, and we hiked down to the Chattahoochee River. We found a cement embankment with two chairs positioned for river watching.
Close by was an empty Olde English 800 can on the ground on one side, a spent Bud Ice on the other. There were also crumpled articles of clothing, campfire ashes, and a cooking pan with the remnants of a meal that included cherry tomatoes. Our inquisitive gang walked around inspecting the scene and postulating about what happened here.
We were like a CSI unit without intelligence or expertise. After much analysis and spirited debate, we concluded this was a lovely spot for dinner, drinks, relaxing, and enjoying an evening of river watching. Trailheads scurried on before the current occupants returned.
We followed the trail beneath the train trestles and enjoyed the spray-painted art. We put our arms behind our backs and inspected the cement artwork mumbling to ourselves things like, "interesting, compelling, yet colorful," provocative subject matter," and "intriguing composition." Soon Mr. Hunger arrived, and we began backtracking to the cars.
The lunch hour was approaching. Goodness knows what we had discussed on our journey, but we were undoubtedly on the path to truth. We had probably solved many world problems (if we could only remember the darn solutions). No worries, there's always next time. It was time to get on the path to barbecue.
On the last stretch of the trail, we met a friendly young woman named Lexi walking her dog Mara, a dingo, by jingo. Trailheads trivia time: what actress said "The dingo took my baby" in an Australian accent? Hint: the movie was "A Cry In The Dark."
Lexi said she and her husband have lived in the neighborhood since 2013. She told us Keith Sharp, a local man, has been cutting the trail for three years with volunteers. We told her we enjoyed it immensely. Lexi was the first person we encountered, so we bugged her with questions and discovered she was a designer who went to Creative Circus, worked at ad agencies, and now has a design studio. Good for her. We wish her great success.
Lexi said the successful development on the west side is good and bad. The longtime resident misses some of her original neighbors, but such is gentrification. We asked about the local barbecue joints and if she had any recommendations. The designer smiled and said, "My favorite is Mr. Pig's Smokehouse."
Our bellies growled. Knees buckled, and hearts pitter-pattered––we had a lunch destination. We bid Lexi and Mara farewell and took off. The five of us were so excited about lunch we took three different routes scrambling our ways back to the cars. You can't herd trail cats like us.
We headed to Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in the Bankhead area on the west side. There's a lot of work going on over there, and we negotiated our way through the work crews and trucks dealing with utility lines. Our tapeworms roused and urged us to hurry.
We arrived and took over the place as its only customers. Imagine that–– we had an almost private hike and now a private dining experience. Are we big shots, or what? Trailheads were living large, but soon some customers arrived. Feeling special was nice while it lasted.
Our friendly server Kalicia took our drink orders and dealt menus around the table. Mr. Pig's Smokehouse has an impressive assortment of smoked meats: spare ribs, baby back ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, brisket tips, chicken, chicken wings, turkey, and hot dogs. Plus, a gaggle of sides, including all your favorites.
We got a rack of baby backs for the table (and us) and decided on our lunches. We wanted the entire Mr. Pig experience. Kalicia delivered our orders to Pit Master Pokey (who we believe is also the owner) in the kitchen, and he began preparing our feed.
When the plate of baby backs arrived, eager, greedy hands descended, and our teeth holes began gnawing. Those of us with hair on our heads had it blown back– way back– these were ribs of the gods––tender and juicy and as meaty as a Quentin Tarantino script, with an incredibly delectable smokey flavor––even sauceless. We ate and nodded heads in appreciative ecstasy. Happy hikers.
Then we sampled Mr. Pig's sauces, and all were terrific. The Sweet BBQ sauce has a distinctive savory character, the thick Carolina Gold delivers a mustardy snap, and the Hot BBQ sauce wasn't playing around––it packs a spicy wallop that demands tastebuds stand at attention. In no time flat, we turned our plate of baby backs into a scattered collection of clean-picked bones. It appeared we had not eaten for months—a promising start to our meal.
Kalicia cleared our table and delivered the main event. We rolled up our sleeves and hunkered down, preparing to eat in earnest. The pulled pork was exceptional: moist, meaty, and smokey. As was the pulled chicken. Good golly, we loved the delectable flavor served by this joint. As regular readers know, Trailheads love smoked flavor and are critical when barbecue meats taste like they've been cooked in an oven. Pit Master Pokey knows his way around the smoker and plays it like a maestro.
The beef brisket also delivered a delectable smokey flavor. The meat was lean, juicy, and 100% satisfying. It was a carnivore toe-curler. Roy was impressed with the rich beefy taste of the brisket. This brisket, pork, and ribs were in the top tier of smoked meats sampled in our travels. We saw Pokey behind the bar and showered him with praise. We wanted the Pit Master's secrets.
Pokey said he has two 500 lb. smokers behind the building and uses redwood and pecan as fuel. Redwood? Maybe we misheard. Pokey smokes his brisket for twelve hours and the ribs for three. He said the wrapped meat stage is where the magic happens.
The man knows how to get the best out of fire. He is a smoke artist, and we filled our appreciative guts with his meaty canvases. Trailheads suggest he change his nickname to Smokey Pokey.
Sandwiches are meat heaped between two pieces of one-side-toasted Texas Toast. Not to nitpick, but we like front and back toasted Texas Toast. It holds up better to juice and delivers more flavor. That said, we weren't complaining because we were too busy stuffing our gobs.
Mr. Pig's Smokehouse also makes some mighty fine authentic home-cooked sides to keep your smoked meats company. Guy had Pokey's Mac n Cheese. When our Trail Master finished, he was barefoot. The stuff blew his socks off. He described it as the perfect combination of crispy crust and creamy, cheesy goodness.
The Brunswick stew is simple and hearty with a tomato-based sauce, loaded with pulled pork, whole kernel corn, and tomato chunks. It's satisfying comfort in a bowl. Grab your pocket spoon and get to work.
The cornbread was a warm slice of heaven. Bring on a tray of this addictive stuff. They had a cornbread tray behind the counter. We saw it and plotted a distraction to snatch it. Then we burped, and the dirty deed plan vanished.
A couple of us got coleslaw. It was a nice compliment to the meats, but some found this creamy coleslaw too creamy.
The candied yams were both a side and a dessert. This spud was a tasty delivery system for brown sugar and butter. What could be better?
We cleaned our plates, paid our bills, and waddling into daylight—happy hikers who had an eventful and delightful day on the path to truth and barbecue. Do yourself a favor and get to Mr. Pig's Smokehouse. We loved it. As the old saying goes, "Where there's smoke, there's Trailheads."
For barbecue feeds this good, we're sure to return soon.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Mr. Pig's Smokehouse
1992 Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
*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.