Updated: Oct 21
Georgia is cooling off. This area is putting away its summer clothes and preparing for winter. We are in the between season that some call "autumn" and others label "fall." People can't agree on anything these days.
It's the time when Mother Nature shows her true colors. She commands trees to turn their green leaves to shades of yellow, red, orange, and brown--and drop dead. The mornings are cool, nature is beautiful in its transitional wardrobe, and you would think any hiker would be excited to explore the natural wonders. But then there's the Trailheads.
The night before their traditional Thursday hike, they met at the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta to see the 40th-anniversary re-release of 1984's Talking Heads' concert documentary "Stop Making Sense." Directed by Jonathan Demme, many consider this the best concert film ever, and George, Brad, Steve, Guy, and Patrick were all in––Roy didn't attend because he doesn't "do" movie theaters, but he said he'd join us for dinner. He has no issues with eating.
We noticed lead singer David Byrne looked like Cillian Murphy in "Oppenheimer." The movie was the same as it ever was––fantastic. And 'The Big Suit' had not shrunk in style. It was a fashion statement made with an exclamation point.
The Plaza Theatre's manager told us their opening night showing of the film had the #1 box office in the country. Take that, Roy, many people like going to movies.
Roy was cool with the ten cold Trailheads' shoulders waiting for him at dinner. He had seen David Byrne's Utopia show on Broadway a while back and felt like this Trailhead had seen plenty of Talking Heads.
Our dinner reservation was a couple of doors down from the theatre at Southern Belle, a much-ballyhooed fine dining joint that may soon be awarded a Michelin Star rating––which is kind of a big deal (it doesn't matter what Michelin does, we're giving the grub hub four ribs because that's our thing).
The restaurant serves fancy schmancy meals with a southern twist. It's a fun place with a large "Bless Your Heart" neon sign above the bar. Roy joined us, and we gave our menus a look-see.
The drinks are intricately crafted cocktails with whimsical names––this ain't the dive for a bump and a beer. We ordered some booze. Patrick's Slum Beautiful was a frothy concoction of vibrant color. The guys who ordered bourbon drinks had their cocktails served tableside on a Delta Airlines trolley service cart.
The bartender/potioneer poured the amber liquid over a circular design of hardened marshmallow cream. A pack of small Biscoff cookies came with the drinks (a nice touch). The cocktails were tasty, and best of all, we didn't need fold-down tables or have people behind us kicking our seats.
When we asked our waiter for his food recommendations, he said, "Get everything and share." So we ordered all twelve small and large plates––aren't we the high rollers running the table? Had we officially become "swells?" Doubtful.
It had been the first time in a long time all six of us were together, and we engaged in our usual gibberish. Brad mentioned that he was talking to a woman named Donna, and she is a big fan of our blog posts, so naturally, he took credit for writing them. He also claims to have written "The Great Gatsby," The Gettysburg Address, and the slips of paper tucked inside fortune cookies. Brad is prolific. Patrick wept as he listened to the lying braggart. Salty tears seasoned his frothy pink drink (no doubt, Brad will claim to have written this).
George gave us updates on his documentary film (David Byrne is not in it, fyi). Steve regaled us with his various ailments (he's still on the disabled list for hiking), Roy gave his criticisms of movie theaters and humanity, Guy wanted our picture to be retaken so his head could appear much bigger (because he takes our Traiheads' selfies, his pumpkin head dominates the frame), and Patrick offered his unique brand of intellectual pontification and Oscar Wilde-ish witticisms. People at surrounding tables overheard whenever he spoke and asked him to "shut your cake hole. You don't know what you're talking about." Patrons only slugged him twice—which is a good night for him.
The plates of food began arriving, and we passed them around, sampling duck confit, redfish, Vietnamese chicken and waffles, Dr. Pepper-marinated beef short ribs, and other exotic fare. It was all delicious and all completely off-brand for our barbecue positioning.
We even met chef Joey Ward, who has been James Beard nominated. He's a nice guy–– he didn't chase us out of his place with a broom.
We ate, talked, and drank; the evening got late, and Trail Master Guy said, "I've had about enough of you guys. Let's call off tomorrow's hike." WHAT?! Roy leaped at the offer. He's a great indoorsman, and we rarely hike indoors. Brad said he was okay with taking the day off since he had lots of work to do (what with all his writing projects). And everyone agreed to ignore Mother Nature, even though we are her favorite sons (or so we tell ourselves).
To make matters worse, we decided to have a sushi lunch on our official hiking/barbecue day. We'd meet at Tomo in Buckhead at 12:30 p.m. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world where Trailheads have stopped making sense! Are we a hiking group or a supper club? Even we don't know. Do we need a head shrink? Yes, for Guy's selfie shots of us.
To end the evening, our thoughtful and kind trail master gave everyone in the crew tee shirts he had made with replicas of the recent feature article on us in the Sunday Atlanta Journal-Constitution. What a sweetheart.
At the non-hiking, non-barbecue lunch, the sushi crowd ate their raw fish, and Patrick had his cooked chicken (he ate the fried breaded chunks with chopsticks––when in Rome). Our favorite Tomo server, Mei, frowned at Steve harpooning rolls with his sticks. Rookie.
The next day, Roy and Brad were making a presentation about our Trailheads story to The Brookwood Hills Garden Club. Two of its members play pickleball with them. Brad told everyone at lunch he planned to take full credit for everything Trailheads. All the photos in the Keynote presentation are of him or his dogs.
We hope Brad and Roy do not mention our embarrassment suffered for blowing off a hike on a beautiful autumn day to play hooky and eat sushi.
Oh, the shame of it all.
Rating: Four Ribs*
1043 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA. 30306
*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.
Elvis Loves Fio
North Georgia BBQ
Pierre de Coubertin Medal
Glacier National Park
Island Ford Trail
Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy