Monday, July 11, 2011

Harold's Barbecue ~ Atlanta GA

  I love time travel movies. The Back To The Future series is a favorite of mine. When watching those movies, I wonder about the choices that we make which forever change the space-time-continuum. One poor decision and the "Bad Biff" takes over Hill Valley. Is it possible that time travel changed Harold's Barbecue that way?

  Maybe they have changed the same way that the 50's-style soda-fountain changed in the movie Blast From The Past. Rent the video or watch the movie to get the full effect.

  Harold's Barbecue has been in business in the same place since 1947. That fact in and of itself is a staggering feat (of glue and duct tape). I am not an engineer, so I do not know exactly how long concrete block structures last before they totally disintegrate. Sixty-odd years are a long time for a restaurant to occupy the same building. The space-time-continuum for Harold's Barbecue will be altered forever if it is thoroughly cleaned and remodeled. I personally do not think that the walls would remain vertical. It would be too much of a shock.

  Many famous people have dined on Harold's Barbecue over the years. Jimmy Carter, Jeff Foxworthy, Lewis Grizzard are a few names that may impress diners. The original owner Harold Hembree Sr. and his son did a superb job feeding Atlanta over the last sixty years. With the  Federal Penitentiary right down the street, plenty of officers, lawyers, and such have graced Harold's doors. The Hembree legacy of barbecue in South Atlanta is epic. Now, who will they impress over the next sixty years?   

Violation # 2-1C. No bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.
  I know that they did not impress the health inspector back in January 2011. The health inspection (which should be posted by the entrance) eluded my failing eyesight during my lunch visit. However, I did find my reading glasses at home and the health inspection results on line. January 15, 2011 they did not fair well. On a re-inspection, about ten days later they did significantly worse. The next day they passed with a 95. I do not want to bash Harold's Barbecue for a bad score. I just thought one may want to know. I noticed several violations, but I am anal like that. I worry about their guests health and Harold's Barbecue continuing to operate within the health department guidelines.

  Upon arrival, the first thing that I noticed was an ancient ginormous smoke stack. Slightly disappointed, by the lack of smoke emanating from it, I pressed forward past the barred windows and through an overly squeaky door labeled with a "cash only" sign.

 My wife studied my face for fear worry or shock from the moment we drove into the parking lot. She searched for the same look on my face that was on hers several weeks ago when we pulled into Heirloom Barbecue. She got no such satisfaction from me. I was in love with this building from the moment that I saw it. It looked like a mini penitentiary. A newspaper article on the wall by the table we selected stated that Jeff Foxworthy used Harold's Barbecue as a backdrop for his classic line "You might be a redneck if...".

Seeing the bars on windows and the cashier wearing a Superman T-shirt and "packing heat" made me think "You might be in a bad part of town if...".
  • You might be in a bad part of town if... you have to put bars over your air conditioners.
  • You might be in a bad part of town if... you are the only eatery around for miles.
  • You might be in a bad part of town if... there is a penitentiary a few blocks down the road.
  • You might be in a bad part of town if... the cashier is wearing a sidearm.
By the way, I have always wanted to use the term "packing heat".

   I did not see any neon blue lights or flaming trails of fire like Marty McFly  used to see when traveling through time. However, when I made the time-warp-leap through the front door, I did imagine them. I also imagined Beuford T. Justice walking in and asking for a Diablo Sandwich and a Dr. Pepper.

  Where was I? Ah yes, sitting at the table reviewing the menu (modified with price-change stickers).

Before making the trip to Harold's Barbecue, a friendly farmer instructed me to order an "inside cut" sliced-pork sandwich, a bowl of Brunswick Stew, and a side of Cracklin' Cornbread. The farmer stated "If you don't like that, you don't know what good is.".

Given this challenge, I ordered the above meal. My wife added a chili-dog, and I added a half rack of ribs to the order. While swatting a lone hungry fly, we received the crackin' cornbread. It was perfectly cooked and delicious. The Brunswick Stew arrived and tasted a lot like South Carolina Hash with a bit of corn and tomato added. It was better than most Brunswick stew that I have tried in Georgia.

  Then the highlight of the meal came to the table. It was the chili dog topped with diced onions. Although probably filled with indigestible poison, this chili dog rules the Deep South. One will not find its match anywhere in the South according to gf. The current owners have not lost the art of making the distinctive chili which topped this dog.

  The ribs engulfed the plate on which they sat. I am not sure what cut of ribs these were, I think they were short ribs untrimmed, but they came from a thin pig. They possessed a slight smokiness, but they were not slow cooked over smoke. I am sure of it. The sauce, which is a thin red vinegar solution, accompanies the ribs and the sliced barbecue sandwich.

  I am not a fan of diced (chopped) barbecue. Chopped barbecue may come in handy when all of my teeth fall out. Until then, I will pass on this delicacy of the toothless. The sliced barbecue sandwich looked disappointing. Stacked on sad looking semi-grilled-toasted white bread it begged for a face-lift. However, it rose to the occasion and proved to be a spectacular sandwich. The meat proved to be tender and flavorful. I hereby dub it the Ugly Duckling Sandwich.

  While eating, I finished the cleaning list that lingered in the back of my head. We finished lunch and chatted with Maggie our server (surprisingly photogenic) who gave us prompt service. Maggie informed us that she was the great grand daughter of the original owners.  I understood from the conversation that the myriad of workers milling about in the restaurant are also related to the original owners.

  Can Harold's Barbecue still cook fabulous barbecue? Absolutely, but... Harold's Barbecue is not for the faint of heart. If one does not venture too far from ones suburban cocoon, one should not bother trying to find Harold's Barbecue. However, if one likes an adventure and is not skeered of a fly, some dirt, bars on windows, pot bellied patrons, and cashiers with sidearms... then go for it.

  Order a chili dog, a sliced-pork sandwich, Brunswick Stew, and some cracklin' cornbread. "If you don't like that, you don't know what good is."

 Update: Harold's is toast. gf
Click here for details.

Thanks for reading,



Connie B said...

Marty McFly: Whoa, this is heavy.

Dr. Emmett Brown: There's that word again; "heavy". Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth's gravitational pull?

Gregory said...

"...maybe you are not ready for that yet, but your kids are going to love it." lol

Social Workin' said...

After you're done with all the BBQ...can we do Mexican??!! :p

Jennifer Springer said...

Wow, who are you again? Those who cannot create; teach. And well, I guess everyone else ( gf) simply observe. Great work, your folks must be proud.

Gregory said...

Jennifer my name is Greg. You presume that I do not create or teach? I do observe. I observed that Harold's is now closed. Don't shoot the messenger, and I do believe that on some small level, my parents are proud of me. LYLTMI gf