I decided that we’d take one more pass at west Georgia before we moved away and let the road get too long. I wasn’t sure when we’d manage it; I put a to-eat list together in February and we finally set aside the first Saturday in April to go visit four restaurants that had not been visited or documented by other writers. Then Andy from Burgers, Barbecue, and Everything Else went to two of them. I was partially jealous of the scoop but more honestly pleased, because I love seeing unheralded restaurants get a little press and spotlight. Even though we often really don’t learn very much on our anonymous, quick visits, I’d much rather read about a barbecue place that nobody has ever documented than the sixty-eleventh blog post about the same restaurants that everybody writes about, even the ones we love.
But on his three-stop tour, Andy didn’t make it as far out as Tallapoosa, which is where we began our little trip. I remain very impressed that this small town of 3100 is home to three barbecue places, meaning it has about the same per capita barbecue joint-to-resident ratio as Lexington NC. One of these restaurants, Sue’s (formerly Bronze Star), is not open for lunch on Saturdays, so we skipped it, and one of them, the Turn-Around, we already know serves some of the best Brunswick stew in the state. That leaves Owens, which has had a number of locations and places around the region. One Owens store, in Cedartown, was sold and became Lively’s Owens BBQ five years ago.
Presently, there are two Owens locations, this one in Tallapoosa and the latest, in Bremen, which opened in 2015 in the home of a former Checkers drive-through restaurant. A different brother owns each location. The meat here is chopped and marinated in the sauce, which is a tomato-vinegar mix. At most of the stops on this tour, I had planned to go with a pork plate, stew, and slaw, and I did not ask for dry meat, wondering whether I’d come across any plates served in the Hudson-Wallace style. While the pork served at Owens was not in the style that I hoped to uncover, and while I’m not generally a fan of meat cooked in the sauce, this was not bad. I would not claim to be in a rush to return, especially as I prefer the Turn-Around’s pork and awesome stew, but I had no real objection to it.
They smoke the meat outside the building using a small smoker and a big stack of hickory wood. It certainly smells terrific. After our short visit, which included my attempts to get a little local history or technique from our incredibly sweet server but receiving instead long stories about her church and children – there are probably many, many reasons why nobody from the Southern Foodways Alliance ever phones me, but my rather pathetic attempts to start a conversation about food and keep it on topic must surely be among them – we paid our bill and walked across the street to look around a little, especially as an old Budweiser sign caught my eye.
On our way out of town, we found one of the older Owens locations. This one, which was called Owens Big O, is just south of I-20 on GA-100, exit 5, and right behind a former Waffle King that later hosted Georgia Express Diner. I snapped a few pictures while getting the distinct impression that somebody was in that abandoned building who should not have been, and we continued south on our way to Carrollton to visit a restaurant that I had been saving for a rainy day.
Are you planning a barbecue road trip? You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 370 !) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts!