Trailheads Trek Into The Past, Dine at DAS BBQ With Sauce Udder (wait for it–you'll see).
Gather 'round history nerds; we're about to blast into the past. Lace up your hiking boots and walk into a pre-Atlanta world where Native Americans were smart enough not to name every other trail Peachtree.
This week, Trail Master Guy went off the AllTrails grid and selected Standing Peachtree for our hike (lat: 33.828009193, long: -84.4538833293). Are you dialed into those coordinates? Of course, you are––it's a greenspace just off Ridgewood Road. This area is where Peachtree Creek empties into the mighty Chattahoochee River. If you look over yonder, you'll see the water intake station for the city. And you thought water came from faucets.
Going back thousands of years (brace yourself), this area was the site of a Muscogee village the natives called Pakanahuili. Early European trappers came here because they could trade with the Muscogee (AKA Creek Indians) and the Cherokee (also, there was no Walmart).
Across the Chattahoochee was the Cherokee Nation. Not the song by Paul Revere & The Raiders, the real thing. This land was their land. These watery crossroads are the origin of what would become Atlanta.
The first documented mention of the words "peach tree" describing this area was in a letter from Gov. John Martin in 1782. Hold on, the plot thickens like gravy. Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett believes the term "peach tree" may have been misinterpreted for "pitch tree."
There were few peach trees in the area, but many pitch trees––pitch being the sap that natives found useful. But wait, there's more!
In 1897, George Collier (at age 84) said in an Atlanta Constitution interview (pre-AJC mobile app days) that his father had property on the banks of Peachtree Creek, where a large peach tree grew. So, let's stick with "Peachtree" since, unlike the original owners, the new residents have named 71 streets "Peachtree."
We've barely scratched the fascinating history of this area, and it is itching to be told. For an informative deep dive into the historical skinny, click here. You'll be asked to write an essay about this later, so fire up ChatGPT! No one writes anymore except for the sap writing this (he dripped from a pitch tree).
Five Trailheads assembled in the Standing Peachtree parking lot (Guy, George, Steve, Roy, and Patrick). Brad was in California with his family and came down with Covid. He'll be out there longer than planned. Bummer. That leaves Elvis chilling for a few more days at his exclusive doggie spa, getting his nails done (plum passion), and receiving passion fruit-ginger mist facials.
“Brad, who?” Elvis wonders, lapping from a bowl of passion fruit-infused Fiji seltzer water.
On either side of the parking lot are beautiful woodland areas. The side with the water treatment plant is fenced-in with a topping of barbed wire showing it means business––STAY OUT! We blamed George and Brad for this fence because it was erected for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Games as protection against terrorists.
Our hiking pals were instrumental in branding and communications for those Olympics festivities. Little did the other Trailheads know these jokers were restricting our hiking opportunities 27 years later. Be advised: there still may be terrorist sleeper cells lurking in these woods. Keep an eye out.
We hiked down a muddy road to the convergence point where Peachtree Creek merges with the Hootch. The smells were unpleasant – like being locked in a Port-A-John at a Macon carnival in August. Water treatment aromas are not as pleasing as those made manufacturing perfume or Yankee Candles.
We approached the flowing waters and carefully stepped upon the slick concrete embankment. There were glorious photo ops in every direction, and we posed and hammed it up like Easter at the Smithfield Pork Factory. Fio smoked a Newport, caught up on iPhone emails, and waited for us to finish modeling.
Up on the hill was the waterworks building. Lights were on, and we sensed people were in there but didn't see them––perhaps they were hiding.
"Call the cops," a worried middle manager probably told an associate. "Those guys look like the Trailheads sleeper cell––they're notorious no-goodniks."
Yes, yes, we are. We moseyed around, and walked as far as we could along the banks of Peachtree Creek, then backtracked. This portion of our hike was exhausting, and we returned up the muddy road.
The morning fog had burned off, and Mother Nature cranked up the heat. We dropped our jackets in our cars and headed into the unfenced virgin woodlands.
There isn't much of a marked trail, so we trekked along the ground cover and played limbo with a fallen tree. We hiked onto another fence protecting the banks of Peachtree Creek from the likes of us. Curses–foiled again.
We trudged up the hill. Guy saw a couple of women walking a dog on the sidewalk outside the fence, and he struck up a conversation––like a prisoner talking to visitors.
While Trail Master chit-chatted, we discussed influential authors of our youth: Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan, Elmore Leonard, John Irving, Clyde Edgerton, Jerzy Kosiński, and Richard Russo. We finished this leg of the hike and did one more lap down the muddy road to the waters. We had cobbled together a decent walk and were hungry, as is our way.
This week's contestant was DAS BBQ on Collier Road, the original Atlanta location. We sampled the Grant Park DAS location last March (read about it here). Since we're in history class, let's get into the background of this joint. The place opened in June 2016. DAS honors the German and Czech settlers who first brought smoked meats to central Texas, and this Atlanta BBQ joint is a family affair.
Stephen Franklin is the pit master, and his father, Steve, is the "sultan of smoke." These guys have barbecue sauce in their veins, descended from generations of smoked meat people on both sides of the family.
Steve was smoking with a Big Green Egg before it was even called that. He dug a pit at his farmhouse in southern Georgia, lined it with cinder blocks, and began smoking whole hogs. Sound like a good pedigree for a barbecue restaurant? You bet.
Stephen's uncle built two offset smokers, Pancho and Lefty, and he began smoking meats for his Collier street BBQ joint. The smokers are fueled by hickory and pecan wood (from the family farm). The beef brisket and pulled pork are smoked for 22 hours and are the real deal. These guys aren’t fooling around.
DAS BBQ has a few innovations we love. You can order meats in three sizes: junior (4 oz), regular (half-pound), and large (one pound). Create personal sampler platters. Sides also come in three sizes. Mix and match and knock yourself silly.
George says the junior sizes "allow the weight-conscious hiker more control than the usual full-size overload." Is there such a thing as a "weight-conscious hiker?" If there are, they probably ride unicorns.
Perhaps the most remarkable invention is the DAS BBQ sauce udder. It is a large sauce container hung like an IV with a squeezable udder for dispensing the red gold. Pull up your saucing stool and sauce pail, and tug on the giving udder. The sauce is incredible––it has a spicy attitude with a peppery pop of sweet, tangy liquid love. Slather it on, baby. You can't go wrong––it's fresh-squeezed.
We grabbed a table on the spacious patio. The music playlist was exceptional: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Rolling Stones, and The Cure. Fio got some water, smoked a ciggie, and played solitaire while we got to stuffing our faces.
The pulled pork is suc-q-lent and tender with a savory smokey flavor. The bark has a flavorful crust of the secret rub (you can buy DAS BBQ rubs and sauces at the register).
Many people swear by the brisket here. It is moist, fork-tender, and packed with a delicious smokiness that kisses the palate beautifully and causes tastebuds to swoon in ecstasy. The lean is very lean. We like a mix of wet and dry. We believe in meat equality.
Patrick ordered three of the smoked wings. They were terrific, meaty with a sheen of a sweet peppery glaze. You'll chew them down to the bone and wish you had ordered more.
Rib man George had a half-rack of the St. Louis-style babies. He described them as "succulent and meaty with a crusty top finish that delivered a flavorful bark taste, browned, not blackened." He made short work of three or four ribs and took the rest home for snacking later. Good plan.
Roy went old school: a simple brisket sandwich and a side of coleslaw. As always, if the restaurant doesn't put the slaw on the sandwich, he does it for them. Wise elders taught him this in his youth. It made for a tasty stack of BBQ goodness. He returned and got a selection of brisket, pulled pork, and smoked wings to take home for dinner. Smart.
Side dishes are impressive. The star of the show was the creamed jalapeno corn. It's spicy, not overwhelming, with lots of cheesy goodness to mellow the ride down your throat to your expectant belly. Guy said the cheesy, creamy corn must be low in calories (he doesn't know much about nutrition). We heard the delectable corn concoction is the top seller, and Steve said he understands why that is.
George described the coleslaw as "having a zesty kick and some tart crumbs with toasted sesame seeds." He also dug into his Brunswick stew but couldn't identify the unique spice he tasted––this merits further investigation.
Steve also wants to return and give the sausage a try. Why not? They take the time to make the links and smoke them, we should make the time to try them! We will.
After a great feed, we all agreed––DAS good!
Rating: Four Ribs*
DAS BBQ West Midtown
1203 Collier Rd 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.