Updated: Apr 23
On a glorious spring morning where Atlanta trees and vegetation were showing more shades of green than jealous Leprechauns with wads of bills at a gentlemen's club, Guy, Brad, Steve, and Patrick gathered in the parking lot of the East Palisades Trail. Alert Trailheads followers will ask, "Hey, haven't you guys hiked that before–– and what did you do with George and Roy's bodies?"
Yes, we had made this journey before. And, no, we didn't bury our compatriots in shallow graves by a Waffle House. George was on the injured reserve list due to an ingrown nail on his big toe, exasperated by his long journey traveling home from Hawaii. Roy was sequestered at his house, waiting for deliveries of countertops and plumbers installing water heaters and discovering rich sources for additional revenue in his basement pipes. The plumbers turned on the billing spigot.
We noticed the trail parking lot had patches of broken glass from smashed car windows––not a comforting welcome. But we were not daunted. A happily retired Atlanta cop greeted us as we got out of our cars. (Hmm, where was he when the smash and grabs happened?)
We also met a delightful woman with a lilting English accent and two Portuguese water dogs whose vehicle had a "KARMA WAITS" bumper sticker and a window decal of Queen Elizabeth II. It's not every day our motley crew encounters a monarch, so we grabbed a group shot with The Crown. George and Roy picked a bad day to miss a hike.
Off we went on the trail, and we soon encountered two women who also had English accents. Had we somehow found a wormhole to The Sherwood Forest? Or perhaps it was U.K. Day at E. Palisades Trail. We had a pleasant conversation with the lovely British women as their dog and ours sniffed each other. Aren't you glad humans don't greet each other like that? Is there a distinctly British or Portuguese sniff? Only the dogs know.
Guy led us up hills with thick exposed roots and jagged rocks lurking and ready to trip unaware feet, but none of us fell for their evil gambit. There are fabulous views of the Chattahoochee River and the Eiffel Tower (one of those sights is a lie, guess which one). We minded our steps down the hill and into the glorious Bamboo Forest on the riverbank––one of the best hiking sights in Atlanta. If you haven't been, go. Go now. We'll wait.
A couple snuggled in a hammock in the bamboo and watched the water gently rolling by. Perhaps these lovers imagined themselves in Bali (does the 'Hootch go that far?). We took some photos of ourselves and the dogs and trudged onward. The meandering trail led us to another hill we climbed. Our stomachs grumbled, "Where's the barbecue, you jerks? Feed us, fools!" We ignored their complaints. Stomachs and Roy always grumble about hills.
A young couple was coming down the hill. They had thought they were going up to the parking lot but were wrong. They were lost. We joined them in looking at a map of the trail. Were we also lost? Trail Master Guy says Trailheads are never lost because he has a keen sense of direction, and we're always somewhere leading to someplace else, so there. The couple took one path. We took another. We'd all get where we needed to be—eventually.
We encountered a young man with a pit bull on a leash. He noticed our hats and shirts and asked us what Trailheads were. This guy also had an English accent––remarkable. We regaled him with our glorious history.
He smiled and nodded his head, impressed. "That's Dope," he said.
We told him about our mission of hiking "on the path to truth and barbecue."
He said, "That's dope."
Then we explained our purpose of selling Trailheads-branded swag and giving the profits to the families of fallen firefighters battling forest blazes.
"That's dope," he said.
We invited him to visit our website, and if you are reading this, kind sir, we have one thing to say–– "That's dope. Thanks. We enjoyed meeting you. And happy trails to you."
Now our bellies were grumbling and rumbling and bitching like babies. "Barbecue! Give us our smoked meats and sides!!!" We continued hiking until the clearing revealed our shattered glass parking lot. Trailheads saddled up and convoyed our way to Smyrna, not far from Truist Park, and our first visit to Thompson Brothers BBQ.
You'll find the joint in a plaza with a Goodwill Store, Jamaican grill, cigar shop, Mexican taqueria, foot massage place, a Pho restaurant, and many other random businesses. Five siblings from Tulsa (oddly on this day, not from Great Britain) started Thompson Brothers BBQ in 2003, and they serve Oklahoma-style barbecue. What's that? Good question.
As near as we can tell, it means smoking things like bologna, hot links, and creating distinctive sauces that are a mashup of Texas sweet, K.C spicy, and maybe something else. The sauces have a unique flavor that is Trailheads Approved.
Thompson Brothers BBQ has the slogan "Our secret is in the smoke," and it's a mighty fine secret. We fed ourselves pulled and chopped pork, St. Louis-style ribs, beef links, and bologna (they also have chicken, beef brisket, short-end ribs, and salmon on Tuesdays and Thursdays). All our meats had a savory, rich smoky flavor. The ribs were as meaty as pulp fiction, and the sauces kicked up the jams. Brad wasn't a fan of the bologna, but Elvis was. He gave it four paws up and lots of wagging tails.
We scarfed down our sides. The slaw was crisp and snappy, the mac' n cheesy creamy and smooth as Sinatra singing Cole Porter, and the greens flavorful without being pushy.
We had a nice lunch at the only outdoor table where Elvis and Fio could watch us with envy. Our only beef with the place was an order mix-up that left us a couple of items short. The woman who took our order demanded proof of purchase before giving us the goods. How could she not trust Trailheads and forget us so quickly? Patrick had thrown the receipt into the trash (he couldn't write it off his taxes), but he found it resting on top. Steve showed the counter woman, and we got the goods.
This band of hiking brothers liked Thompson Brothers a lot, and our satisfied appetites gave it a one-word rave review with a distinctly Oxford-educated English accent, "Dope." Check it out.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Thompson Brothers BBQ
2445 Cobb Parkway
Smyrna, GA. 30080
*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.