Joe’s Walk Hard BBQ, Leesburg AL

Longtime readers know that Marie and I – well, admittedly, it is mainly just I – get a kick out of stopping in other states for regionally-available sodas that we cannot get in Atlanta. When we were in Fort Payne, we pulled into a grocery store called Sav-a-Lot, where I hoped – actually, where I expected – to get twelve-packs of Buffalo Rock and Grapico, but they didn’t carry them. They did, however, have strawberry flavored Moon Pies. I gobbled those babies up within four days.

After lunch at Fort Payne’s Bar-B-Q Place, we drove south on US-11 in the direction of Centre and Gadsden, intending to stop in the next grocery store that we found and try again. We finally came to a Piggly Wiggly in Collinsville, and I made some very curious discoveries. They were sold out of Buffalo Rock, though they still had it in Diet, but I got the Grapico that we required, along with that distributor’s Crush – slash – Sunkist clone, Sunfresh, which comes in blue raspberry flavor. In June, I had found blue raspberry Crush on Saint Simons Island. It’s delicious. They were out of it when we returned in August, and that Winn-Dixie’s Pepsi distributor said they didn’t have it in any of his Brunswick area stores. The local Publix here in Atlanta can’t seem to get it in, either. Fine, I’ll buy a clone of it in Collinsville, Alabama. As long as I get my blue raspberry, nobody gets hurt.

But the real stunner was finding two-liter bottles of Double Cola a good seventy miles south of its home base of Chattanooga, outside of which, this product is just criminally difficult to find. I very rarely buy two-liter bottles – they go flat quicker than I can drink them, as I have just one soda a day – but I figured that I could share with my daughter and we’d finish it before it turns to syrup. I once read on a message board of Double Cola being spotted in Cusseta, which is on the Georgia side of Opelika, but this was the first time I have personally ever seen it outside its regular habitat.

Well, anyway, we’ve been talking about barbecue, so I should probably wrap that up. The original plan had been to finish up our little tour with a visit to the town of Centre, to try a place called Starr’s Real Pit, which 3rd Degree Berns had written about in 2009. Fortunately, I learned a lesson from our trip back through middle Georgia last, as I recounted a couple of weeks ago in the chapter about our trip to Smokin Pig near Savannah, and decided to phone each of the restaurants on our itinerary and confirmed that they were all going to be open. Starr’s is now called Lanie’s, and they are not open on Saturdays. That left me fumbling a bit, as Urbanspoon was not able to find another barbecue place between Fort Payne and Rome. That’s because, as mentioned in that chapter, the site is called Urbanspoon and not Barbecuerestaurantsinthemiddleofnowherespoon. Google was able to find a restaurant in the area that nobody had submitted to Urbanspoon yet. I phoned Joe’s Walk Hard in Leesburg, a small town between Collinsville and Centre, and confirmed that they’re open for business.

Sadly, I’m unable to write from the usual broad overview of the food and dishes here, because the rest of our group had thrown in the towel and didn’t want to order anything more after our other meals. Well, maybe we should have spent more time at Desoto Falls working off the first two stops.

I had the chopped pork plate and thought it was completely delicious. It was a close second to the meat that we had enjoyed at Big Jim’s in Hammondville. It was chopped quite fine but with a good bit of bark, juicy and smoked just right, and the not-overly-sweet brown sauce worked just perfectly with it. The baked beans were nothing out of the ordinary, but the slaw was just fantastic. Very tangy with a vinegar kick, this packed more punch than most any other mayo-based slaw that I can recall.

I did treat my daughter to an order of banana pudding, as she had been disappointed by the dessert at the last place that we tried. She was ecstatic about it, calling it the best dessert that she had all day. Since she ate nothing but desserts, I suppose she was qualified to judge.

Joe’s is built into the space next to a gas station and convenience store, and about half of the menu is devoted to their various breakfast options. I had hoped to speak with Joe, a younger fellow who looks like he could vault right over whatever defensive back you think you could throw at him, a little bit as we left, but he was deep in conversation with some old-timer. So I just offered my thanks, and the old-timer turned on me with an eye-popping aura of talking-all-day-long power and asked whether he knew me or ever worked with me someplace or other, because I sure did look familiar. I asked whether he ever lived in Athens, Georgia, as I’m absolutely certain I’d never seen this guy at any of the corporate, desk job businesses where I have worked in Atlanta. He said he had not, but wanted to know where I worked in that town. Then he wanted to talk at length about my twin. I got the feeling that Joe wasn’t going to get very much barbecue cooked with this fellow talking everybody’s ear off.

But this was north Alabama, after all. Being able to talk everybody’s ear off is something you learn hereabouts around the age of four.

(Note: We kind of spent August and September being very, very busy. In a desperate attempt to catch up, this should be the first of nine consecutive days’ worth of entries.)

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