The Thompson Brothers moved here from Oklahoma quite a few years ago and I kept telling myself that I needed to get over to their little storefront on 41 and promptly forgot. They’re either in the space or next door to the space once occupied by one of a local chain of CD stores whose name I can never remember, Atlanta Disc Exchange or something. In the summer of 1991, I was supposed to be dropping off menus and coupons for a pizza place and I ended up here, buying a Maura O’Connell CD, after the apartment complex on the other side of Herodian, where Dan Barken used to live, caught me “soliciting” and told me to beat it. That, I remember.
Anyway, I was caught in unusually heavy traffic a couple of weeks ago and switched on the only station in town that gives traffic reports worth a damn. This means taking a deep breath and listening to some mule-lipped lying loudmouth talk about all that’s wrong with our country. This he does always, even when his party’s in the White House. So I was sitting still there on I-75, drumming the steering wheel and wondering, not for the first time, whether anybody would actually notice if this loudmouth stopped speaking and just barked like a dog, when one of the Thompson Brothers called in. They’d catered some event for him or something the day or the week before, and the loudmouth said something like “You and I may not see eye to eye politically, but I have got to tell you, those were some amazing ribs you cooked for us.” The next couple of minutes were almost pleasant, listening to the loudmouth shut the hell up about his politics and just tell his gigantic audience how wonderful the food here was and how much he appreciated the good job Thompson Brothers did for him.
So I told myself then that I really needed to quit forgetting about this place and get my butt in there. It was in part that the loudmouth, for the first time in perhaps ever, actually sounded genuine about something, and in part that his organization hired these guys and their little store instead of some much better-known brothers with a great big store about four miles up the road who’ve been supporting the loudmouth’s politics for decades. For anybody to shut this loudmouth up for two minutes to just tell the world about some good food was an act that demanded a visit, at last.
The other week, I was writing about Smyrna’s Old South Bar-B-Q and mentioned that there were some other ‘cue joints within a hop, skip and a jump that I had not tried. I was planning then to stop by as soon as it was convenient. This turned out to be Saturday evening; it was a fine little break between watching the UGA game at home and watching the LSU game with my dad at his place. I’m not sure whether the brothers watched either, as they seem to be Sooners fans.
The house specialty here is what they call “The Whole Nine.” This is a giant plate of beef sausage, bologna, ribs and chopped beef. I confess that I was very tempted, but after the previous night’s pizza, I was still, almost a day later, a little stuffed, so I settled on a sandwich. In deference to the Thompson Brothers’ Oklahoma origins, I ordered beef, which I almost never do in barbecue restaurants, with a side of baked beans. My daughter had a pork sandwich with stew. I sampled them and they were very good.
Interestingly, the beef is just wonderful on its own and doesn’t really go all that well with either of their sauces. They have two, a spicy-sweet one and a this-is-far-too-darn-sweet one, and they mix pretty well with the pork, but the beef is so nicely smoked that neither accompany it at all well. On the other hand, perhaps the sweet baked beans helped with the interference in flavor?
I’ve occasionally read that fans of western-style barbecue believe that their meat doesn’t need any sauce. If the Thompson Brothers’ beef, smoked out back in a cinder block smoker, is a good representation of what they have all over Texas and Oklahoma, then they’re right. I still prefer North Carolina-style, but this was a very nice change of pace.
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