On an oppressive, muggy August day, three Trailheads (George, Guy, and Patrick) and a special guest, George's son-in-law, Alex (visiting from Bend, OR), gathered to hike Sope Creek Loop from Paper Mill Road. Brad was still in Wisconsin catching fish, Steve was in a mountain house with old high school buddies reliving their glory days, and Roy was at the physical therapist getting the kinks worked out of his back. That left Fio to herd four humans along the path.
The hike started as a pleasant walk in the woods, but Trail Master Guy decided to add a little spice by taking us down to the banks of Sope Creek. Then, George added an extra challenge by leading us along the rocky remnants of "a path" along the water's edge.
The path looked like a trail of slippery rocks. Heavy rainfall left the many jagged stones slick and muddy, and fallen branches and trees made the journey an obstacle course.
Patrick picked the wrong day to forget his walking stick and did his cautious best to navigate balance with his store-bought titanium hips.
Amazingly, none of us fell.
We scaled up a steep hill through dense brush, found the legitimate path, then snaked our way down to the remnants of the old Paper Mill that once housed the Confederate currency printing presses. That ended when Gen. Sherman and his Union troops came by, and the printing operation went up in smoke. Then the Yankees went to Atlanta for some barbecue. Or perhaps you might say – they barbecued Atlanta.
On our way back up the hill, we encountered another hiking group with about ten members. We discussed our hiking schedules. That group hikes twice a week––show-offs! We gave them a Trailheads sticker and slunk away feeling like slackers for only hiking once a week. When we got back to the parking lot, we slashed their tires. Let's see how they like an even longer hike!
That was an evil fantasy. We would never do that to our brothers and sisters of the trails, for we have nothing but love in our hearts. And bitter jealousy.
As we ended our hike, we saw an impressive slug-like thing on a tree. Or perhaps a Millipede? We weren’t about to pick it up and ask. What, do we look like an entomological group to you?
We also came upon a curious display of ceramic mushroom thingies in a hollowed tree trunk. Were the ceramic items the ruins of an earlier civilization of Georgia wood gnomes? We were mystified and hungry. Hunger won over our contemplating these curious revelations further.
Our first lunch pick was Herb's Rib Shack in Marietta (read our review here). But get a load of this: Herb's is closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays––so there'd be no Herb bones for us! Sadness ensued. We've been pining for Herb's ribs since the last time we were there. If they're not the best we've had, they're pretty darn close. We called an audible and went down the road to Old South Bar-B-Q in Smyrna. We had visited here once before but didn't review it.
This joint is owned and operated by a friendly woman named Joy, who gives her patrons hugs as they enter. Now that's southern hospitality. Her parents started Old South Bar-B-Q way back when, and she continues the tradition of serving some mighty fine smoked meats and all the fixings you could ever want. Guy and George were impressed by the spareribs served here and picked the bones clean. Take that, Herb!
The pulled pork was excellent. A sweet, smoky flavor infuses the tender meat and creates a transcendental moment in pig heaven. The brisket is also delicious. It's smoky, lean, and delectable. There's a choice of four ketchup-based barbecue sauces, and the ones we test-drove handled meats very well.
Some of us were big fans of the no-mayo coleslaw made with a sweet vinegary concoction unlike any we've sampled. But some Trailheads missed the comfort of creamy mayo. Joy told us the slaw does have oil. That's like mayo without eggs or lemon. "Not quite," said the mayo crowd. We picked sides, but no fistfights broke out. Too bad. "The coleslaw incident" would be a provocative conversation starter.
We assume that the hush puppies were worth barking about––they’re crisp balls of corny goodness and Guy ate them all. The chili has beans; it's not bean-less Texas-style like Fox Bros., but this was Old South Bar-B-Q after all, so beans are cool. Patrick worked his spoon like a shovel and ate away.
As a rule, Trailheads are not fans of the Texas Toast. It's just a thick slab of fattening. But this joint serves an excellent rendition of it. The bread is not too thick and is grilled with a buttery product on both sides so it can stand up to stacked meat. They also serve a delicious, meaty Brunswick stew, as thick as the plot of a Stephen King tome.
The fried okra was good. We love our okra, and breading and frying enhance the vegetable's flavor, and we like to believe it's nutritional value too. This okra was not hand-breaded and all fancy, but it was fried real good, and we like fried.
During lunch, Alex regaled us with his memories as an assistant to famous photographers Annie Liebovitz and Nadav Kander. He had fascinating stories and insights into how these shutter geniuses achieved exciting shots.
We would display some of their photos here, but we’d get an immediate cease and desist letter and yet another legal suit on the desk of Trailheads HQ. Check out their sites if you're not familiar with these photographers. It's beautiful work. nadavkander.com instagram.com/annieleibovitz
We stumbled to the checkout counter in our semi-meat comas and paid the piper for some mighty fine traditional Old South Bar-B-Q. Joy gave us a warm smile (no hugs) and invited us back. We'll take her up on her hospitality, and we suggest you do the same.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Old South Bar-B-Q
601 Burbank Circle SE
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.