Beaver Creek Biscuits and Barbeque, Lithia Springs GA

I think that, to hear Marie tell it, my worst habit might be my swearing, which she kindly suggests might have improved a little bit over the last few years. Since I try to write this blog for all audiences, I am very cautious about swearing or being offensive. That was not a consideration last week. See, I had been wanting to go to Beaver Creek for quite some time after reading Jon Watson in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s “Food and More” blog rave about it, suggesting they might offer the best pulled pork around Atlanta. I had it on my calendar for a visit at the beginning of the month, but then the baby surprised us by arriving early, and I had to put it off. This worked out for the best; fortunately, with my older children off school, I could phone them – maybe I should get a data plan – and ask them where in greebledy-gronk sassin’-frassin’ tarnation this consarned dadburned barbecue place was. My older son had to navigate me here without using either Urbanspoon or Google.

See, Urbanspoon had the wrong address listed. Six Flags Drive, where this restaurant is not located, is north of I-20, off exit 46. The restaurant is actually on Six Flags Road, off exit 44 and just south of the interstate. But it gets worse. Google Maps – and yes, this is the second time in ten days that I am writing to report a failure there – had the wrong physical location of the (incorrect) address. Once I finally got to where 1451 Six Flags Drive should actually be, there was no restaurant there. Do you really blame me for cussing a blue streak?

So I had wasted valuable time and gasoline getting here, I had to talk my son into believing that it was more likely that the internet was actually wrong than I was not reading street signs correctly, and what’s more, this Harry Kemleman novel that I was reading had turned out to be one of the lousy ones. This was going to have to be some excellent barbecue to talk me down off this ledge. Happily, it was better than I hoped. About my only quibble, apart from the restaurant foolishly letting its website expire, is that this place definitely needs to pick one name and stick with it. This is more than just the expected idiosyncrasies in the spelling of “barbecue,” which our blog usually settles by going with the name on the building’s sign. Depending on where you are looking, this place is either called “Beaver Creek Biscuit Company,” “Turner’s Barbecue” or “Turner’s Store.” I’m going with “Beaver Creek Biscuits and Barbeque,” because that is what is on the staff’s T-shirts.

Although, between you and me, at home and with company, I am probably going to call this place “That Blankety-Blank Place Out By Six Flags That Nobody Can Freaking Find and I Drove Around for Half a Flippin’ Hour Looking For.” Well, that’s not entirely accurate. This place was absolutely packed by 11:30, drawing an enormous lunch rush from the businesses around Thornton Road, so plenty of people know where it is. Once you find this place, you’re not likely to forget it, for it is terrific. Watson was right; this is easily among the best, if not the outright, hands-down best, pulled pork in the region.

The pork itself is simply excellent, smoked just right and full of flavor. Accompanied by some decent fries and pretty good, oniony, Brunswick stew, it would have been a pleasant success without the sauces, but those turned some great meat into something memorable. Beaver Creek talks up what they call their Seminole sauce, a mustard-vinegar mix, surprisingly thin, and I really liked that. But the other sauce, the hot stuff, that’s what you’re going to want to sample. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen something like this at any of the barbecue places that I’ve tried. It’s a thick, bright orange sauce and it is the absolutely perfect accompaniment to this meat. Make sure that you order your pork plate pulled and dry so that you may experiment with each. I’m not sure what is in the hot sauce. Possibly mustard, peppers, and maybe a little mayo? Whatever, it was one of the most interesting finds that I have had on my barbecue travels. Also surprising was the complete lack of a tomato-based sauce. I’m pleased that they made that decision; it makes their business stand out a little more.

One other thing that I really liked was the inclusion of Fanta Cherry in the soda fountain. You never see that at restaurants other than Zaxby’s. One other thing that I didn’t really like so much was the unusual reaction of the woman cleaning the tables as she saw me snapping pictures of my lunch. She furrowed her brow and, with a hint of hostility and a drop of confusion, asked “Why are you taking pictures?”

If I had been reading Gregory Mcdonald, I might have introduced myself as Ted Nugent and told her I was from the health department. Fortunately, I was only reading a mediocre Harry Kemelman and told her, “My wife couldn’t be with me today. I want her to see what I’m having for lunch.”

She should probably get used to food bloggers taking photos here. Once the word gets out, a few more folk in this hobby might want to come out this way. Just remember, gang, south of I-20. I sent the address correction into Urbanspoon already.

Other blog posts about Beaver Creek:

3rd Degree Berns Barbecue Sabbatical (Feb. 10 2010)
The Georgia Barbecue Hunt (Feb. 9 2012)

Briar Patch Restaurant, Hiram GA

Next week sometime, I’ll get around to telling you about why I ended up here, instead of at Bocado like I intended on this past Friday. Briefly, I found myself suddenly desiring a nice, comforting plate of chopped barbecue pork instead of the sandwich that I had been thinking about all week. There are a pile of barbecue joints around Atlanta on my to-do list, but the one that spoke to me the most was this old place way out Georgia 120, long past the point the road changes its name from Whitlock to Dallas Highway. From the Marietta Square, it’s about twenty minutes’ drive. I had only been to Briar Patch once before; when I had the Geocities barbecue page up, a reader in the area recommended that I come out this way and give the place a try.

It had been a really long time since I drove out this way at all – long enough to miss an unfortunate change. The El Pollo Loco where we used to eat is now an IHOP. That California-based chain made a big production out of moving into the Atlanta market about five years ago, but it kind of did a half-assed job, if you ask me. Not bad burritos, mind. They’ve a few stores left, I believe.

Anyway, the road takes you past Cheatam Hill Cemetery, where my father was laid to rest in his amazing, see-it-to-believe-it plain pine box, past the IHOP, past the gigantic, upscale Avenue at West Cobb, sister development to the nice shopping center between Marietta and Roswell on the same road, through a charming community called Lost Mountain, and to the Paulding County town of Hiram. Weirdly, I realized too late that I was out in this general direction just four days previously. My son’s middle school had a band competition at McEachern High and this place is only seven miles from that school. Let’s do a better job watching that odometer with gas prices like these, okay?

Not visible in the above photo: Seven hundred trillion ragweed pollen particles. Per hundred. It was a rough day.

This place is a big and definitely popular destination in the area. I got there at twenty past eleven and parking was already at a premium. Briar Patch employs a huge staff to keep things moving efficiently. The service line gets you to a couple of registers underneath three big video screens that show off the menu. It’s a big, full service restaurant with burgers and steaks as well as hickory-smoked pork, beef and chicken. I went with a “little” pork sandwich basket, which comes with fries and slaw, and asked for an extra cup of stew.

Weirdly, and I’m not sure what to make of this, they offer bottled water for free, but charge ninety-five cents for a cup of ice. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never run into this before.

I made the mistake (again!) of not asking for my sauce on the side. The sandwich, nicely priced at $6 with slaw and fries, comes drowned in their red tomato-based sauce. The chopped pork was very tasty, but I think that the amount of sauce really overwhelmed the meat. I was able to fork out a couple of nibbles that tasted much better on their own, or dipped in a really good spicy hot mustard sauce. I got a little cup of this for my fries. My doctor had, just an hour earlier, told me to lay off the spicy food for a week while my allergy-devastated throat heals, but the mustard sauce is just so good that I couldn’t resist a few contraband bites.

The slaw was really nice and creamy. I recall, from my first visit many years ago, not really enjoying it, but it was a pleasant surprise this time out. The stew was very mild, thick and chewy, and quite honestly the highlight of the meal. It tastes terrific, and it felt so good going down my gullet. I will say that the portions are really reasonable, but will probably feel small to people used to overeating with a plate of barbecue like I used to do. Since I’m trying to whittle down my portion sizes, I was pleased, but I can imagine some eaters might want to pay the extra dollar for a large sandwich.

I brought some Gregory McDonald to read, but was distracted a little by the decor. Apart from the mounted deer and game heads throughout the store, the top tier of the walls show off some painted artwork depicting Confederate soldiers fighting in Paulding County. (A drive from Marietta will take guests through a tiny sliver of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.) On the wall above the exit door, there’s a big depiction of a not-entirely Disney-styled Br’er Fox threatening Br’er Rabbit with a trip to the briar patch.

I’ve lived in Georgia all my life and consider Joel Chandler Harris a whimsical part of our common folklore, but was surprised to learn that neither of my kids has any idea who the heck Uncle Remus was. I know the tale in this painting from my third grade teacher reading it to us. I suppose that you can’t do that in school any longer.