Updated: Sep 17
Once again, we did not have a full team of Trailheads. This time Steve and Brad were on the DL, leaving George, Guy, Roy, and Patrick to walk the walk and talk the smack. This hike was around the base of Stone Mountain, the controversial monument to the Confederacy, The Lost Cause, and the infamous gathering place for the Ku Klux Klan. Learn more about its troubled history here in a short film.
We couldn't climb Stone Mt. because Fio was wrangling us, and the top of the site has a strict no-dogs policy. Fio considered slamming the monument with a lawsuit (she's litigious that way) but decided against it. She has 42 active cases already.
It was a gorgeous early Autumn day, and Trail Master Guy cleared the path with his handy broom ahead of his marching troops. He's a little anal that way. The trail had many exposed roots hungry to attack unsuspecting innocent feet and, as you might have guessed, large areas of smooth granite to transverse––sometimes wet for extra slippery challenges. Although none of us went down, we suspect the stone would have very little give to it if we had.
None of us had ever been to the base of the carved monument to fallen Rebel Generals. We took some pictures, but Roy refused to appear in our shots with the carving on principle. The rest of us are shameless publicity hounds. A photo op is a photo op.
We were pleased to see people of many colors and ethnicities enjoying the lovely walking paths. They seemed to ignore the looming monument, instead enjoying a beautiful day with Mother Nature.
There are a variety of attractions at the base of Stone Mountain. There's a small walkway lined with quotes about bravery and honor from enslavers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Stonewall Jackson, Patrick Henry, and Robert E. Lee. And non-slave owner Thomas Wolfe.
The quotes lead to a statue of a bare-chested rebel soldier brandishing a broken sword in his raised arms. The inscription below read, "Men who saw night coming down about them could somehow act as if they stood at the edge of dawn."—A Confederate Soldier Shortly Before His Death.
We had enough dwelling on this dark chapter of American history (hey, we've got enough of that going on right now). So we hiked forward and came upon another interesting site––the nature garden of the Atlanta Branch of The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. It is a trail of stones etched with the names of female authors, artists, and musicians. A lovely tribute, but our illiterate crew did not recognize many of the people honored. We did discuss having a stone made for our friend, author Lisa Weldon but we weren't sure if she would have to die to get the stone. That's not a good trade.
The hike had some ups and downs and workarounds. Mind your stepping on this trail, potential dangers abound, and we hiked on and on, on this beautiful day. We came upon a beautiful small mill, decided not to stone grind grits or make flour, and kept going. We had postcard-worthy vistas of the lake and a covered bridge and engaged in conversations with strangers we met along the way––until we were served with restraining orders and instructed to move on.
After a hearty six miles hike that would crush most mortals, we were ravenous (actually, we were pretty damned hungry at 3 miles) and headed to Ford's BBQ in downtown Tucker. Unfortunately, there's no Stone Mountain subway to Tucker, so we drove cars. This joint opened in 2020 with pitmasters Justin Bradford and Jon Jaffin at the helm. You can smell their savory smoke blocks away from the restaurant. Parking in downtown Tucker is tight. A couple of blocks away was as close as we could get. There's a second Ford's BBQ joint in Decatur.
The décor inside is inviting, warm, and comfortable, with a fully stocked bar and nicely designed Ford's BBQ swag on display. Brad and Elvis joined us for lunch, so we grabbed a picnic table outside since dogs are not permitted to sit at the bar drinking and bitching about how "It's a dog's life." Instead, the furry Trailheads sat on the patio, and a friendly server brought them water bowls. They still bitched about it being a dog's life.
The menu here is extensive and creative. They serve fried street corn, homemade pork rinds, smoked meat nachos and tacos, 86,000 ways to dress a baked spud, smoked beet Cubano sandwich, veggie sloppy joes––you get the drift. Ford's has some designer barbecue.
But they also serve all your traditional favorites: ribs (St. Louis style), pulled pork, beef brisket, beef short ribs (the Thursday special), turkey, chicken, and sausage, with sides galore. Hayley, our kind server, was attentive and helpful. We all ordered combination plates and sampled two types of meat and a pair of veggies.
Guy thought his ribs were excellent, liked the brisket, said the vinegar slaw was delicious, and the cucumber salad was good but bland. What does he expect? Cucumbers are just water with green skin and seeds! They don't get sexy until they become pickles.
Roy savored the pulled pork's texture and sweet smokey flavor. The chopped brisket was good–it's half lean, half fatty, chopped together–but it was on the fatty side. Patrick had the same review of his chopped brisket. We should have only requested the chopped lean brisket or had it sliced. Lesson learned.
Roy enjoyed the vinegar slaw and its unique, tasty flavor. His okra was delicious. His mantra is "fried is good." Because batter is a food group in the South, and batter on vegetables is healthy.
George loved the tangy flavor of his cucumber and onion salad and was gaga for his side of turkey salad (another unique item for a barbecue joint). He said the turkey had smoky notes (can you tell George is a wine drinker?) and delicious flavor. But he didn't care for his end section of ribs. They were dry. It's the second time he's been disappointed with dry-end ribs. Next time George orders ribs, he's requesting middle ribs. Another lesson learned.
Brad gushed, "Great service, great sides, good sausage." And he humble-bragged that next week he would be eating the beef brisket at Franklin's, the legendary Austin joint. We smiled and chewed our cuds of bitter envy.
Patrick liked his smoked chicken wings cooked extra crispy. They had a subtle smokey flavor kicked up with sweet heat sauce. The green beans were fine––pole beans with some onions thrown in for good measure. He also enjoyed Ford's take on Brunswick Stew with corn, hominy, tomatoes, and strands of shredded pork in a vinegary broth that packs a wallop. It's not a meat lover's stew, but a bowl is very satisfying.
In conclusion, Ford's BBQ is Trailheads-approved and worth a trip to Tucker. But don't try taking the subway. It doesn't exist.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Ford's BBQ (Tucker)
2337 Main Street
Tucker GA 30084
*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.