J-Bo’s BBQ, Carrollton GA

The last time that I was in Carrollton, I deliberately left behind a couple of barbecue places either for a rainy day or for other writers to check out. The city of 26,000 has at least six barbecue restaurants in its metro area. One of these is J-Bo’s, which Jason May opened in 2009. Its location is certainly one of the most unusual spaces of any restaurant that I’ve visited. It’s in a two-store building, kind of like a little strip mall, with a coin laundry on the other side of the wall. Now, having a next door neighbor that doesn’t serve food is nothing out of the ordinary, but these two spaces have a window between them. So if there’s nothing good on the TV while you enjoy your lunch, you can always watch people’s down comforters tumbling around in the wash. Continue reading “J-Bo’s BBQ, Carrollton GA”


Barbecue by Jones… and More Barbecue by Jones, Carrollton GA

So back in the spring, I went to Carrollton with my friends Matt and Kelley, and noticed several promising places to eat within the city limits. One of them was called Jones Bar-B-Que, but when I looked for it on Urbanspoon a little later, I found a place with a similar name at a different address. This was going to prove to be confusing. Continue reading “Barbecue by Jones… and More Barbecue by Jones, Carrollton GA”

Highway 61 Revisited – part one

Backstory: A few months ago, I got a whim to visit the small city of Carrollton in west Georgia, to see what barbecue and books could be found. Matt and his wife Kelley came along, and we had a good day, and I came home with an astonishing list of nine previously unknown-to-me barbecue joints along the way that warranted a return trip to document. Nine! A little research when I returned revealed that only one of them, Merle’s, had been written up by another hobbyist blogger, but let this be a lesson to any of us, blogger or writer of books published by university presses, who thinks to make a claim that they know the be-all and end-all of a region’s barbecue. Nine! Continue reading “Highway 61 Revisited – part one”

Billy Bob’s Bar-B-Q, Carrollton GA

Consider this entry a prologue of sorts to something that I hope to come back to sometime in the summer. I have protested many times before that the occasionally great state of Georgia just has not had the attention paid to its barbecue that it deserves. In April, I took a drive out to Carrollton with Matt and Kelley to see a bookstore that turned out to be really quite wonderful. The road took us directly past one barbecue joint that I featured here some time back – Briar Patch – and, had we gone from the Marietta Square instead of my house, it would have been two, as we would have passed the excellent Dave Poe’s. Continue reading “Billy Bob’s Bar-B-Q, Carrollton GA”

Jack’s, Tallapoosa GA

I’m not going to name any names, but when I made an announcement – someplace that I won’t identify – that I finally went back to a Jack’s, a guy who runs a blog that I enjoy reading very much just turned up his nose quite publicly at the notion. Never mind all the good and interesting restaurants that we enjoyed on our trip through Alabama and Mississippi that I described, the only thing worth a reply, and a nose-upturned one at that, was my visit to a Jack’s.

That’s okay. This is not very good food. It would appear that, after fifty years in business, Jack’s has quite successfully managed to make a perfect clone of Burger King, and nobody calls that good. But it’s very interesting food, to me. Jack’s is wrapped around my childhood in a way that I will never extricate. I find this chain absolutely enthralling, even though they have not done very much to earn it.

When you are a child, you have a very different perspective on space than as an adult. Throughout the 1970s, my parents would routinely take me to visit family in Fort Payne, Alabama. We’d go out there once every four or five weeks. The path would almost always wind through Cartersville, Rome and Coosa, but then often take one of several different directions, depending on whether Dad wanted to get there in a hurry, or if nostalgia for his own misspent youth would send us to Fort Payne via Boaz or some other small community. I swear one was called “Blood Bucket,” but I can’t find any evidence of it anymore.

Once we were in Fort Payne, we might use my Pappy’s house as a staging point for trips to visit any number of places in northeast Alabama. None of the towns that I see looking over Google Maps seem familiar, but we would often drive to old businesses and speak to old acquaintances. There was a Jack’s in every town. I’d know that red circle logo anywhere.

When you’re a child, of course, you can’t really work out that “this is a chain almost totally exclusive to north Alabama.” You just figure that there are Jack’s everywhere, and when you are at home, Mom and Dad just don’t drive down any roads that have them. I don’t even know how often we actually stopped to eat at one. Probably not often, as I had an Aunt Rosie who wouldn’t dream of allowing anybody to eat a fast food hamburger when she had forty pounds of fried chicken, turnip greens and potato salad to feed all of us. I just know that Jack’s is part of my seventies restaurant memory the same way that the Krystal Kritters and the initial use of that creepy Burger King and his R2D2-knockoff French fry robot are.

About a month before that last bolt clicked into place and we started up this blog to document our travels and the fun we have eating, I took a drive out to Carrollton after a short day at work to try a Jack’s for the first time in a really, really long time. The restaurant had come up in conversation a few days previously when I was visiting Dad and some other friend of his had stopped by. This friend had heard, erroneously, it turns out, that a Jack’s was coming up in Douglasville or someplace nearby. That got me curious, so I drove out there, and had a… decentish meal. I imagine that it’s probably about the same caliber as the better-known (and confusingly similarly-named) Jack in the Box or Whataburger, each of which I have damned with faint praise in this blog’s pages before.

On our way back from Mississippi, I made sure that we stopped again. Marie and I had noticed this location about a month previously, when we visited Tallapoosa to try the excellent barbecue and stew at The Turn Around. It is apparently one of only three Jack’s in Georgia. There is one in Corinth, MS and sixty-some odd in northern Alabama. Around Birmingham, there are some very neat interstate exits where the local chains Jack’s and Milo’s duel it out alongside their better-known national rivals like Burger King and Wendy’s.

Jack’s isn’t essential eating, of course, but it’s always interesting to me to visit a restaurant like this that I can’t get at home. Driving I-20 through Alabama takes you past about a dozen or more exits where travelers can sample one. I think it’s worth a visit once in a while.

The Turn Around Bar-B-Q, Tallapoosa GA

Many years back, Marie and I had a good pal, Dave Prosser, who moved from Athens to Anniston, Alabama. He’s since moved farther afield, to Idaho, dug up dinosaur bones, got lost on a mountain for three days, got married, and has only come back to town once. But while he was living in Anniston, I took the kids to visit one time. This would have been 2002 or so. I realized that US-78 connected Anniston with Atlanta, and decided to take that back home instead of I-20. Crossing back into Georgia brings you to the small town of Tallapoosa, and I stopped at the Turn Around Bar-B-Que for a take-out barbecue sandwich and fries and munched on those in the car for supper.

These days, Turn Around is no longer open for supper. They’re a breakfast and lunch place only, and they don’t do a roaring trade in lunch, either. That’s just not right; this Brunswick stew is completely remarkable, and if you are reading our blog and like barbecue, you need to plan to get out here and try this stuff.

This past Saturday, Marie and I got out for her first baby break for a drive through northwest Georgia and a barbecue tour that I had planned a couple of months ago. Our baby came two weeks early; he was due on the 18th but came on the 3rd. We had originally planned to get out and do this tour on the 7th, but we used that day to treat her to some hot dogs around Atlanta instead. Marie’s mother was in town visiting and providing some much-needed help, and she watched the baby for about six hours while Marie and I stretched our road-tripping legs.

Tallapoosa is about one hour from our place in Marietta, and we got to Turn Around at 11.30. The sign out front is faded and, incorrectly, still notes their old dinner hours. Inside, the walls are peppered with grouchy, silly but nevertheless unwelcoming signs about following the house rules. Fortunately, our server was polite and agreeable, and utterly unlike the signs! Marie and I each ordered a chopped pork sandwich, and I had stew and she had potato salad. The pork is incredibly smoky and really, really dry. It’s served on a buttered sesame seed bun, but it really needs some sauce. There’s just the one here, a medium-thick red sauce of tomato and vinegar.

The pork is pretty good; I’ve certainly had worse. But this stew… well, I’ve certainly had many, many worse helpings of stew than this. It is simply remarkable, right up there with Harold’s and Speedi-Pig. It’s just not right that nobody seems to know about this stew. Seriously, if you’re on I-20 between Birmingham and Alabama, you should really swing by this place and see what I am talking about. It doesn’t appear to be anything special, just the standard ingredients of (I believe) ground pork, chicken, tomatoes and corn, but it is seasoned just perfectly.

Turn Around has recently started selling ice cream and brags about their banana splits; that’s a pretty good idea to try and draw the after-lunch crowds in and I hope that it works. This isn’t an area that I get too very frequently, and I kind of want them to still be around, serving this stew, the next time that I am.

Marie and I passed on dessert as we had several more stops to make. More about those in the next chapter…