Frankfurt Döner & Meats, Ball Ground GA

In 1993, Detley Werner and his family moved from Germany to the United States, and made their way to the small town of Ball Ground, where they opened a butcher shop that also sells sandwiches and a really huge variety of smoked sausages. I’d first heard of his shop a couple of years ago, but we hadn’t been up the I-575 corridor in quite some time and never found an opportunity to go visit. A couple of months ago, however, I got a craving to visit Amicalola Falls, near Dawsonville, a trip which would take us right by his place. Continue reading “Frankfurt Döner & Meats, Ball Ground GA”

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Two Brothers Pit Barbecue, Ball Ground GA (take two)

Since I’m a little less than thrilled with some of the earliest chapters that we wrote for this blog, we’ve been occasionally revisiting a few for a slightly better story. Plus, in the case of Two Brothers, which we first wrote about in March of 2010, an equally good additional reason to visit Ball Ground did not yet exist. Continue reading “Two Brothers Pit Barbecue, Ball Ground GA (take two)”

Bigun’s Barbeque, Talking Rock GA

Here is a restaurant that has been on our to-do list for a couple of years now. Kelly and Lisa Teal opened Bigun’s Barbeque in a great location on GA-515 between Jasper and Ellijay in 2008. We had actually planned to stop when we were last in the mountains last November, but I got a hankering for Poole’s in Ellijay and that became our second barbecue restaurant of that day instead. Continue reading “Bigun’s Barbeque, Talking Rock GA”

Davis Bar-B-Que, Jasper GA

I thought that I had made a very important discovery at Jasper’s Davis Bar-B-Que – well, important in terms of looking for tradition and history in preparing food, anyway – but I was mistaken. I actually found just a fun and very tasty curiosity.

Longtime readers may recall that I’ve stumbled upon some very similar sauces and preparation styles among some barbecue shacks in Atlanta’s western suburbs. Not, apparently, highlighted by any other bloggers – and not, flatly, followed up by me the way that I should – there is a small regional tradition of serving chopped pork swimming and drowning in a thin, black-to-red sauce particular to these restaurants. Places known to serve it this way include Wallace in Austell, Johnny’s in Powder Springs, and Briar Patch in Hiram. They all send it out drowned in the thin sauce, and they all offer floppy hand-cut fries, and they all have a powerful, spicy mustard sauce on the table, which you can only use effectively if you order the meat dry. I have commented on the similarity, and I have noted that another place in the region, Hudson Hickory House, is said to offer something similar, and I have intended to go out to Douglasville and learn a little more about where this originated.

Thinking this just a western-suburb specialty, I was quite surprised to get an incredibly similar plate of chopped pork up in Jasper. Davis Bar-B-Que is located about halfway between the end of I-575 and the retail-packed traffic light of Jasper’s commercial strip, nowhere near the home base of this dish, yet here was my meat, swimming in a blacker-than-red but just as thin and very similar tasting sauce. There was a bottle of pistol-packing mustard. The fries weren’t quite so floppy here, mind.

Questions needed to be asked.

Davis Bar-B-Que is located just about a mile from the main road, behind and alongside a church, across from that church’s cemetery. From the front porch of this faux antebellum house, guests can look out across the graveyard and see the rolling mountains of Pickens and Dawson Counties. In October, it is a gorgeous and amazing sight.

The house was built in the 1960s as the home of Antebellum House Furniture, makers and distributors of Davis Round Tables. After a few decades, the family elected to enter the restaurant business instead, turning the old showroom into a dining room. The building was severely damaged during a tornado some years ago, and closed for a time as it was rebuilt from a two-story house, as depicted in an illustration on the menu, into the one-story property that it is today. There are photographs in a frame near the door showing the reconstruction.

The sauce turned out not to be a very old family recipe that made its way into the foothills of the north Georgia mountains. I mentioned, diplomatically, I hope, that it reminded me of the sauce at Wallace. It turns out that Davis’s is a deliberate homage. As Wallace served the family’s preferred style barbecue, they set out attempting to match their signature sauce and presentation. The prices, like the ones at Wallace, are great, too. A whole pile of pork, stew and a second side comes to just $7.30.

I think that, if you’re a guest in your early forties or late thirties, it’s impossible to eat at any of these places without the old ABC Saturday morning jingle about Louie the Lifeguard and not drowning your food running through your head. It might not be to everybody’s taste, and it might be more sauce than this meat really needs, but it’s all good, and certainly worth looking into. I am glad that we stopped by. We learned a little something, after all.

Amos’s BBQ & Biscuits, Ball Ground GA

When Marie and I go out to eat, we like to think of ourselves as being pretty unobtrusive. Forgettable, even. We don’t want to draw any attention to ourselves, particularly when we start photographing food. I sort of like to think that, should a restaurant’s owner or staff Google their way to our writeup down the line, they won’t necessarily connect the chapter that we have written to the faces that were in their store some time previously. Our trip to Amos’s, however, well, that was kind of unforgettable. We have no doubt that, should anybody on the staff of Amos’s ever read this entry, then one or two of them will nod and say, “Oh, yes. I remember them. They had that baby. And that accident.”

We first noticed Amos’s on a Sunday seven months ago, before the baby was around to cause trouble. I took Marie out for a Sunday Valentine’s Day date that included a drive through Cherokee and Forsyth Counties up GA-372. We noticed Amos’s then, grumbled that it was closed on Sunday, and made our way to the Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge Park.

It has been on my to-do list ever since, of course. You just don’t drive past a barbecue joint without telling yourself you’ll try and get back sometime. Well, a few Saturdays ago, we had planned to go to Columbus and Phenix City to visit friends, but that was a very, very, very trying week – we had daycare problems of the sort I wouldn’t wish on anybody and that stress left us exhausted enough to catch mild colds – and we knew we were just going to want to sleep in on Saturday and not mess with a road trip. We put it off a week, and I’ll tell you about it in a few days. So we slept in and woke refreshed and had a late breakfast over at Stilesboro Biscuits. By the time noon rolled around, we were thinking lazily about lunch. I was all for getting at least a little ways out of town. The last three plates of barbecue I’d had were all overpriced and I just wanted to see something other than suburban sprawl getting there. That’s why we drove up to northern Cherokee to find Amos’s.

I rang Melissa, who lives not far away from the place, and invited her to join us. She was not free. This turned out to be for the best. She missed a fantastic little meal – oh, this place really, really is good – but as we drove away, laughing off the embarrassment, I reflected how if she had been able to come, we could have followed her back around these crazy mountain roads to her place, wherever it is, and maybe Marie could have taken a shower.

Yes, internet travelers, sometimes your search results tell you what you wanted to know about a restaurant and little else besides that, and sometimes they tell you about baby accidents and a little bit about a restaurant. This is how our blog works. So, that said…

Amos’s is actually in a really neat old two-story house that had been located in the Dunwoody area back when that was all woods in the late 1800s. The building was relocated to the mountain foothills about forty years ago, and has been used as a restaurant for the last several years. It’s actually a little easy to miss. The sign is not quite as visible as the gigantic wall of logs. It looks less like the fuel for their smoker and more like a spectacular perimeter fence. The property is gorgeously landscaped and features a really attractive brick and gravel lot. There’s a huge front porch, shaded on one side by trees. Three or four degrees cooler and we would have sat outside.

The food here is simply excellent. After several underwhelming and stupidly expensive Atlanta takes on barbecue over the last couple of weeks, it was so nice to get out in the country and taste some chopped pork that feels, smells and tastes just right. The fries are hand-cut, the Brunswick stew was tangy, soupy and had just the right kick of spice, and the slaw was a nice, green, vinegar-based recipe. Everything was totally delicious. They have two sauces, a traditional brown ketchup-based sauce that goes just perfectly with the meat, and an orange habanero sauce that doesn’t quite nail it, but clears sinuses all the same. My daughter begged off to visit with friends at the mall. Kid missed out, big time. This was an excellent meal, the best I’d had in some time, and considerably better than the last three barbecue places in the city that I visited. Even the best of those three – Community Q, which I liked – was not a patch on this.

Marie had finished about half of her sandwich when the baby, sitting on her lap, had an accident. Not just a small one. This is my third baby; I have seen something like this only once before, and I have told myself ever since that I must surely have been exaggerating. This is going to be held over this kid’s head on every date he ever brings home to meet us. Sometime in the 2030s, I will, indeed, be telling my future daughter-in-law about how epic the failure of this diaper was, leaving Marie in a mad, fruitless dash for the restroom.

Parents of younguns should always, always have emergency changes of clothes for themselves in the trunks of their cars. We hadn’t quite got around to that yet. Oh, the baby’s diaper bag had about four outfits for him, just nothing for a mother on the receiving end of that kind of eruption to wear. Marie, peeking her head out, asked whether Amos’s happened to sell T-shirts. They do not, but a kind server went upstairs, where the restaurant keeps some storage, and retrieved an emergency cleaning shirt for Marie to wear. There came a point where I couldn’t help, and resumed my meal. Marie had to take half her sandwich home, having understandably lost a little interest in eating, but she added a few dollars to the tip jar on the counter for the shirt, and finished stripping off in the car.

Returning home, we didn’t get to stop by that barbecue trailer parked outside a knicknack and antique store about four miles back along GA-20 on the way back to I-575. Marie, half-naked and giggling, told me not to dare stop. Well, I was also going to swing by that Best Buy in Canton and get a new iPod adapter for the car. “Home,” she ordered. Now, of course, we’ve got a barbecue trailer on the side of 20 that we need to try some other day. You just don’t drive past a barbecue joint without telling yourself you’ll try and get back sometime.

Forno Italian Restaurant, Jasper GA

You ever had one of those trips where you feel compelled to go home and look at a map and figure out where in the heck you were? Last week, I had one of those. Since Wednesday is my free day, I took a former boss of mine up on her invitation to take a nice drive way out, and I mean way out, in the country, where she’d moved as part of her “urban evacuation” earlier in the year. I knew that Melissa was a goodly ways north and east of Ball Ground, but when she took the wheel up and over more back roads to go from her house to lunch, whatever navigational skills that I had abandoned me.

After not too long a drive up sparsely populated trails, during which time Melissa told me about an interesting run-in, along a stretch by a weatherbeaten old barn, with a police officer who had asked her whether she had seen three ne’er-do-well hillbillies who were up to some nebulous rottenness… oh, all right, the Pickens County cops were looking for a meth lab. Anyway, we ended up in a small strip mall in the community of Marble Hill near Jasper, punctuated by an IGA grocer that caters to the vacationers at nearby Big Canoe. Alongside the strip is a quite nice little Italian place that recently found new ownership and apparently a very new menu.

This is the first time that I’ve run into this issue doing these writeups. Melissa suggested this restaurant based on the food that they served on her previous visits, but since she last went there, they have revamped almost completely. Previously, Forno served pizza, burgers and hot dogs with a Chicago theme. The original owner, who was from the Windy City, decorated the interior with pictures of area landmarks and street signs, along with an amusing poster explaining the various components of the famous Chicago dog. If you’ve been to the wonderful Bobby G’s in Alpharetta, you have a general idea of what I mean, although Forno is not quite so densely decorated.

The new owner has dispensed with the old menu, although the Illinois decor remains for now. He’s spruced the place up a little, and is trying to turn it into an upscale Italian-styled destination, with higher-end entrees. I’m not certain how easily such a conversion can be managed with the TVs in each booth to watch the game of your choice still reflecting the previous sports bar feel, but that’s the goal.

It’s really not fair to judge a place based on the quality of its buffet, but I’ll plead poverty. Expecting a burger and the attendant cost, I was a hair sticker shocked at a menu full of $15-16 entrees, and so Melissa and I just had the pasta buffet. The salad was not bad, although Melissa correctly observed that most of the available ingredients also made for good pizza toppings, and the pastas, which included ziti with sausage in a red sauce and ziti with chicken in a cream sauce with vegetables, were acceptable and tasty if not outstanding, and the service was just fine.

I do have to confess a little skepticism about Forno’s long-term prospects. As always, I wish restaurant owners all the best luck and success in the world, but their menu does seem awfully high priced for being out in the middle of nowhere. Of course, looking at it on the map, it’s really closer to State Route 515, and the Atlanta-to-Ellijay traffic, than I would have thought, but most of its potential customers certainly live in the back of beyond. It looks like this is a place that’s going to have to work very hard to convert lots of locals into regulars to stick around. My fingers are crossed for them!

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