Barbeque. Yeah, I’m going down that rabbit hole again. Folks tend to be rather passionate about their pig here in the South. I always run a bit of a risk when I write about a barbeque joint. Someone loves the place and someone else hates it and I’m likely going to tick off one of the two. Just remember, this is my opinion and I’m the leading expert on my opinion (to quote Mr. Brian Levine of the Pipes Magazine Radio Show).
We were headed home from Young Harris this afternoon and were thinking about where to stop for supper. I suggested barbeque and no one disagreed. Once we’d settled on what we wanted, we had to decide where. There are at least half a dozen barbeque joints to choose from in the Ellijay-Jasper area so I made an executive decision to go to Poole’s in East Ellijay.
If you’ve driven up Hwy 515 through Ellijay anytime in the past 25 years, you’ve probably noticed Poole’s off the highway on the right. If you didn’t notice the yellow building with red trim that looks like a fireworks stand, you’ve probably noticed all of the colored pigs on the Pig Hill of Fame behind the building. It’s a sight to see and has received a lot of attention over the years.
Poole’s interior is also a sight to see. Every flat surface that doesn’t contact someone’s back or bottom of the soles of their shoes is decorated with newspaper clippings, photos of the owner and his family or visiting politicians and celebrities, piggie pages colored by kids and other assorted swine memorabilia.
We walked in, placed our orders at the counter then headed into the dining area and found a booth. Jenna and I both ordered the chopped pork plate with Brunswick stew and fries and ConnieLou ordered the chopped pork plate with stew and fried okra. Our food was brought out quickly…and that probably should have been a sign.
Let’s start with the chopped pork and sauce. In a word, it was fantastic. The pork was tender, smokey and flavorful. When I first tasted the sauce my initial thought was “oh great, another average KC-style sauce. Might as well be K.C Masterpiece or Sweet Baby Rays from the fridge.” Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the flavor of the sauce combined with the flavor of the meat to do something almost magical. I don’t know what happened but what I do know is that when the two flavors came together there was a “dang, this is really good” moment that came with every bite.
Now for the stew. We typically don’t really like Brunswick stew with large chunks of tomato or whole veggies. We prefer a fine to coarse grind with nothing overly recognizable. Don’t ask why, that’s just the way we roll. Most likely it’s what we grew up eating…and Poole’s nailed it. More often than not I’ll add a small squirt of hot sauce or barbeque sauce to my stew to add a little flavor. Not this time. It was dang near perfect, or at least as close to what I would call perfect as you could realistically get. I’m not sure I’ll ever find perfect Brunswick stew but if I ever do you can bet I’ll be bring home a 5-gallon bucket and going back for more.
With the fries and okra things got bad then worse. If you read my last entry you might have noticed that I have a thing for fresh-cut French fries. The fries were limp and absolutely flavorless. No fried potato taste, no salt, no nothing. Just limp fried potato sticks. Remember what I said earlier about the food arriving quickly? I have a suspicion that the fries, and the fried okra for that matter, had been sitting in a warming tray or under a heat lamp for more than just a few minutes. Maybe I’m wrong on that one but…
Do I really need to discuss the fried okra? Let’s just leave it at mushy and flavorless.
So how did Poole’s fare on the Thumb’s Scale? We gave it a 3 ½ out of a possible 6. The pork and the stew were fantastic. The sides killed ‘em. I’m sure we’ll give Poole’s another try…and I’m also sure we’ll try different sides next time. Maybe the potato salad or mac & cheese.