If you’re a local there’s probably not too much I can tell you about Southern Soul Barbecue. Started in 2007, you likely know about its resurrection after a huge fire in 2010 (less than a month after Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives host Guy Fieri visited – and raved about the place). You probably know about the delectable ribs, the juicy smoky barbecue, the fried okra, Soul slaw and the extensive beer selection. For you non-locals, let me point out this place was named Southern Living’s Best Barbecue Joint for two straight years. And is listed on the 11 Restaurants in Georgia You Have to try Before You Die. (Well, obviously, you have to try them before you, well … you know). But – who amongst either group — knows about the Barbecuban?
That’s right – a combination of barbecue and my favorite sandwich, the Cuban. The bread, of course, is the key. It has to be Cuban-style bread, which is light and crispy simultaneously, and I understand must be made with lard. The sandwich must be pressed under a brick or something heavy on a grill to get the texture right. And believe me, Southern Soul gets it right. The addition of mellow Swiss cheese to the already incredible barbecued pork plus a pickle or three … well, it is a treasure. It comes with a slather of mustard, but for extra deliciousness, try dipping each crisp bite into one of the joint’s signature sauces.
By the way, if you haven’t visited Southern Soul you could get up right now, take this issue with you, and head over to the former gas station that is now a coastal icon. Don’t be dismayed by either the line or the crowd – the staff is well-organized and your wait will be surprisingly short. Besides, remember what I said about the extensive beer selection? Scope out your choice while you wait to place your order and try something new.
On my most recent visit I tried an amber ale from Creature Comforts Brewery. Based in Athens, the brewery’s signature brew is Classic City Lager, but these folks specialize not just in brewing but in creative naming as well. Consider, they offer Tropicalia, Athena Paradiso, Cosmik Debris – and a pilsner called Bibo that I first mistook for a Democratic Presidential contender’s nickname. On this occasion, a tap labeled Reclaimed Rye Amber Ale with Coffee caught my eye. Coffee, I thought? Why not? And it was a great choice with my Barbecuban – the complex mixture of scents and tastes getting better with each sip. Think toasty bread, toffee notes – and of course coffee. The brewer uses a special Ethiopian bean for its distinct berry-like flavor. It all comes together and works deliciously.
One thing you can’t get at Southern Soul is a cocktail, so after my indulgent lunch I traveled back home to try a recipe I’d come across for a Smashing Pumpkin.
1-1/2 oz. Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
3 oz. pumpkin ale
Combine the rum and lemon juice in a Collins glass with ice.
Carefully add the ale and stir gently to mix. Sprinkle with allspice and garnish with a bay leaf.
I used Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin because this stout already boasts a caramel-y spiciness and a faint tinge of molasses. Other good pumpkin beers include Pumking and Sam Adams 20 Pounds of Pumpkins (they might have gotten help with the name from the people of Creature Comforts).
This drink allows you to hop on the annual pumpkin spice bandwagon but in a different and creative way. Besides I’m not eating pumpkin spice Spam or ordering a pumpkin spice Blizzard at Dairy Queen.
If you just can’t go the pumpkin route, I tried another intriguing recipe lately (not the same day as Southern Soul, the beer, and the pumpkin cocktail – I had to regroup after that full day of research!) This one is perfect for a cool evening and you can make it in a crock pot for a group of friends. And don’t you love the name?
A HEATED AFFAIR
2 oz. anejo tequila
6 oz. hot spiced apple cider
Add the tequila and cider to an Irish coffee glass. Top with a dab of whipped cream. Top it with a dash of grated nutmeg and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
For a crock pot full simply multiply the number of tequila shots to add to the volume of cider you’re planning on serving. You can purchase spiced cider this time of year, or buy plain cider and make your own by heating the liquid in a pot with cloves, cinnamon sticks, orange slices and allspice. Strain out the solids and voila!
Note: This won’t be too good with regular tequila. The aged anejo is definitely called for. Your lucky friends will think you’re a genius for coming up of this combination for your fall get-together. And if you supply barbecue sandwiches to munch on – well, just think of the Christmas invites you’ll get!