Trailheads (George, Roy, Steve, Brad, Guy, Patrick, and four-leggers, Elvis & Fio) braved the morning fog and insufferable I-75 North traffic to hike Red Top Mountain Loop Trail. The thick fog gave our adventure in nature a spooky, ominous vibe of danger and impending doom––like being assailed by an insurance salesman extolling the virtues of universal life policies or a deranged killer with a buzzsaw lurking in the woods. So, for our protection, we screamed, "Don't kill us! We're the Trailheads, and we need to eat barbecue after this hike!"
It worked. We survived.
Red Top Mountain is a good trail, as wide as a buzzard's wingspan and clear, except for rocks and exposed tree roots yearning for unsuspecting feet. ("Roy, are you okay?") As the fog lifted there were some beautiful vistas of Lake Allatoona where Elvis and Fio (sporting her stylish new cut) romped and splashed.
We got a late start due to I-75 being a slow-moving parking lot. But the ever resourceful Guy devised a brilliant plan. He took an exit, did what would be considered an illegal U-turn in front of a cop car, and did a New York City cabbie cut in front of an unsuspecting lady doing her makeup in the rearview mirror. It was an impressive driving display. But even with Guy's fast and furious moves, we started our hike late and did not make the entire trail loop.
But we put in enough steps to warrant a tasty barbecue lunch, selecting Ferley's BBQ in Acworth. Trailheads sped there without incident or daredevil driving maneuvers.
Ferley's is a shack with two windows –– one for ordering, the other for picking up your food. It appears to be reasonably new. Clean and neat – with fun signage (a pig smoking a corncob pipe with a tweety bird on its back) and no public restrooms.
Oddly, there are no tables for outdoor seating, but there are bench seats under the front porch where you can perch your buns and eat. We decided to use the car hoods for our formal dining room tables. We're snooty city slickers that way––always putting on airs.
You're probably thinking "Ferley" is the owners' last name. Wrong. It is the nickname of the pitmaster, a friendly 21-year-old man working at the ordering window. He said it was his nickname since being a kid. His father and brother also get called the name. Ferley is a moniker that gets some mileage. The elder Ferley gave the younger Ferley credit for naming their operation. Dad Ferley said he and Mom Ferley would work and help ensure that the food was up to Ferley's standard.
The menu includes smoked brisket, pork, chicken, ribs (St. Louis-style), rib tips, and sausage. Plus, smoked meat sliders and hot dogs to boot. You can even get smoked meat nachos (with a .50 surcharge if you're the anal-retentive type and want the ingredients separated).
This joint takes its sides seriously, offering baked beans, slaw, tater salad, mac 'n cheese, cucumber salad, and collards. Grab a spoon for Brunswick Stew, and on this St. Patrick's Day, they cooked up a pot of potato soup. If you have a sweet tooth, Ferley's makes dentists smile, serving banana pudding, peach cobbler, and Watergate salad, a heavenly combo of pistachio pudding, pineapple, marshmallows, pecans, and whipped topping. G. Gordon Liddy would be giddy over this concoction.
Young Ferley started cooking in his backyard as a hobby for family and friends. Then the barbecue bug bit him, and things got serious. He began entering smoked meats competitions, picked up tricks of the trade, and the pit master's smoking techniques got better and tastier. Word of mouth spread. Soon, the barbecue man was catering social functions and eventually opened his little establishment around the corner from the Dollar General. It's your classic American success story.
Trailheads loved Ferley's tender, glistening, smoky beef brisket bursting with flavor. We're also fans of the pulled pork. It's moist pork you could roll into a ball – but please don't play with your food. It's not the stringy pulled pork variety. The sauces were perfect companions dressing the smoked meats. Ferley's original sauce has a sweet, subtle flavor, and the spicy version smacks the taste buds in pleasing ways.
Roy got a pair of chili dogs on the daily special, and he was as happy as a clam who had just won the Irish Sweepstakes (we're rolling with this St. Paddy's theme, folks, pour a pint of the black stuff and get used to it).
The sides were stellar. Crisp cabbage slaw and cucumber salad were standouts. The Brunswick stew was hearty, brimming with smoked meat, potatoes, corn, peas, and tomatoes in a spicy broth. The potato soup with chunks of tender potatoes swimming in a creamy pond of savory deliciousness made Irishman Patrick dance a jig.
We wish he'd stop that. It's embarrassing.
We were so hungry we even indulged in desserts. The Watergate salad was flavor-filled. We assume Rose Mary Woods accidentally erased the original recipe, but Ferley has done an excellent job approximating it. The peach cobbler was a sweet concoction with a nice cinnamon snap. We could have used more peach, less cobbler, but that didn't stop six spoons digging into it to mine for fruit. We're healthy eaters that way.
Ferley's is well worth a trip for your barbecue buck. Just be sure you can get a reservation on your car hood to eat.
Rating: Four Ribs*
6674 Glade Road SE
Acworth, GA. 30102
*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: we have acclaimed designers in our group, and they think the ribs graphic looks cool.
Who are we to argue? Enjoy.