When you’re driving state highways through central Georgia and you come across a barbeque joint whose sign indicates they’ve been in business since 1929 and the building looks like it’s had at least three or four additions, do you:
A. Pass on by and go home and eat leftovers for lunch;
B. Pass on by and hit the McD’s in town; or
C. Slam on the brakes, cut the wheel hard and skid to a stop in the gravel parking lot?
Hopefully you answered C. If not you probably should stop reading now and go on to McD’s…
OK, I didn’t exactly just come across Fresh Air Barbeque. I had some work to do out near Lake Oconee early in the morning and then some work at another location near Jackson around lunchtime. It’s not like I planned it that way or anything. Nope, not at all.
OK, so maybe I did…
Fresh Air Barbeque is a Georgia landmark and is claimed by many to serve some of the best, if not the best barbeque in Georgia.
I really can’t disagree.
When I stepped out of the truck I was greeted by the sweet aroma of hickory smoke and cooking pork. With a little luck that’s what Heaven will smell like. I could have sat out in the parking lot and just inhaled the aroma…but there was chopped pork and Brunswick stew to be eaten and it was calling to me.
Unless you’re ordering a la carte, ordering at Fresh Air is fairly simple as there are three ‘platters to choose from, chopped pork and Brunswick stew, chopped pork, Brunswick stew and cole slaw, and two chopped pork sandwiches. Simple, right? I ordered the chopped pork and stew plate and a Coke and my order was ready in the amount of time it took to fill my drink cup and for the folks at the counter to ladle up a cup of stew.
Once I sat down at my table I noticed right away that the consistency of the stew was a fine grind and exactly to my liking. I’m sorry, I just don’t care for chunky Brunswick stew. I took a taste, added a generous squirt of their vinegar/tomato based sauce and my cup of stew was just about as close to perfect as it can get.
A few words about their sauces… They have two to choose from, their original vinegar/tomato sauce and a spicier version. Normally I like things on the spicy side but the original sauce had a little kick to it and, again, was just about perfect in my book.
About the pork… Many moons ago the subdivision we lived in had a Labor Day barbeque (or maybe it was Fourth of July…doesn’t really matter) and my dad was the pitmaster…not because he made excellent barbeque (which he did) but because he was the only one in the subdivision that knew what the heck to do with a hog, a couple of pieces of rebar, some chicken wire, a bunch of concrete blocks, a stack of split hickory, a shovel, a mop and a bucket of salty brine. My dad would build the pit and start the fire before dark and build up a good bed of coals, once the coals were going good they’d be shoveled into the pit and the pig, suspended by the chicken wire and rebar, would be placed over the coals for a long slow overnight cook. Of course Pop and a few others would stay up all night tending the fire, shoveling coals and mopping the pig down with the brine. By late morning the pig was done and ready to chop and serve for lunch. Once finished the meet was sweet, smoky and just a little bit salty…and dang was it ever good. When I put the first bite of Fresh air’s in my mouth without any sauce I had a major flashback to those subdivision picnics and the que that Pop made.
So how did Fresh Air fare on the Thumbs Scale? I gave it two thumbs up…and threw in the rest of my fingers and toes and…errr, we’ll just stop there. Yeah, it was that good. Don’t believe me? Bypass McD’s and go try it for yourself. You can thank me later.