Masters of the Que



Throughout the South, BBQ reigns as the premier cuisine. Though Texas waves their 10 Gallon hats boasting that they are the king of the Que, few know that Georgia is where smokin’ meats all evolved. The word “barbecue” comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa.” Originally, barbacoa wasn’t a way of cooking food, but the name of a wooden structure used by Taino Indians to smoke their food. In 1540 Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto’s expedition through Georgia came upon a deserted Taino camp and discovered meat left roasting on a barbacoa, the embers of the fire still warm.

Originally, usage of the verb barbecue meant “to preserve (meat) by drying or slowly roasting”; the meaning became closer to that of its modern usage as a specific cooking technique by the time Georgia was colonized. But barbecue isn’t just a verb, it’s also a noun. It’s something you attend, and going to a barbecue is one of the gatherings we Southenerners just can’t resist. So it’s not surprising that when one vacations here in the north Georgia mountains, BBQ  is the cuisine most sought out. 

Rembrandt, Picasso, and Warhol are all celebrated master artists, putting paint to canvas, yet yielding a different effect. Barbeque in the South is more than just the slow burn of meat, it’s a subculture with wide variations of techniques, seasonings, textures, and sauces.  With well over a dozen BBQ joints in a twenty-mile radius of Blue Ridge, we’ve chosen to highlight three different experiences, much like the three artists we mentioned. They are masters at the Que, but they are different.

Mike’s  Trackside BBQ

Photo Courtesy of Mike’s Trackside Bar-B-Que

If you agree that what makes the best restaurant experience is great food, atmosphere, and service, then Mike’s has you eating off his black checkered lined metal trays. With only 5 tables inside and 4 more on the porch, this tiny place packs a huge punch! Let’s talk about the atmosphere first. It starts with that 1939 Chevy pick up truck parked outside. Walk around it and imagine hauling around the dirt mountain roads of eighty years ago in this prize jalopy. This is just the beginning of your museum tour. The porch and the whole indoors is covered ceiling to floor with tons of fun historical memorabilia.

Mike’s Trackside Bar-B-Que 1939 Chevy

 If you can manage to take your attention away from the décor and turn it to the menu, you might find it difficult to decide what to order before they close.  With their meats selection, they more than have you covered. There’s the traditional smoked brisket, pulled pork and baby back ribs. Add smoked chicken wings, smoked sirloin, pulled chicken breast, and their famous all-beef “Kiolbassa”  and your decision becomes even tougher. 

Mike’s Trackside Bar-B-Que Brisket

Though the protein is usually the main event at a good BBQ, the sides complement the fare, and Mike’s has some very noteworthy offerings.  We recommend the Mountain Dew stewed apples with walnuts, an old fashion fresh-squeezed lemonade, and the Texas toast. Yes, even their Texas Toast is called out as the best in Trip advisor reviews.  All this is served up with a friendly, helpful staff, and if you decide to get it to-go (check out these picnic spots) you’ll find it will be packed up with TLC and everything you need to dig right in once you get to your destination.

Mike’s Trackside BBQ
Open Monday through Thursday 11-6 and Friday-Saturday 11-7. Closed Sundays.
3950 E First St, Blue Ridge, GA |(706) 258-2533

Carroll’s Barbeque

Up the hill and across from the Blue Ridge Post Office is a small, unassuming strip center. On the facia, in large block letters, it reads “ Carroll’s Barbeue”. The size of the letters matches the Que experience diners get here.  Walk inside and you’ll get the old country jive. Not only are the optics there, but you’ll get that smell of smoke rendering the fat that emanates from the real wood-fired pit, and the hunger pains spike the brain and you gotta have everything on the menu. 

3 Meat Combo Plate at Carroll’s Barbeque

This is some of the most tender and tasty of briskets you’ll find in these parts. The ribs are “fall off the bone” good!  They have pulled pork, pulled chicken, and smoked wings. But the one meat that they are legendary for is their smoked turkey, available on a plate, stuffed in a large sandwich or covering up a fresh salad for those who eat just a little lighter. They also have a few unique items on the menu that, when dining with a group, are great sharing treats. The BBQ Burrito (baked beans & shredded cheese in a flour tortilla, topped with Brunswick stew) is stuffed with your choice of pulled pork or pulled chicken. Then there’s “Tater Hill”. Carroll’s takes a large, classic baked potato, covers it in their white sauce, pile it mountain high with pulled pork, mac & cheese, baked beans, and coleslaw and then drizzles it with mild & sweet sauce.

Stuffed Potato at Carroll’s Barbeque

All servings are generous, as is the hospitality at Carroll’s. Only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for lunch and dinner, you want to plan a trip here with plenty of time to chow down your main plate, and then rest up a little before you indulge in a couple of their famous desserts, including homemade banana pudding served warm with a meringue topping or their show stopper, the Skillet Brownie Sundae. 

Carroll’s Barbeque
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11am – 8pm
39 Lance St., Blue Ridge, | GA 706-946-1126

The Pink Pig

Combination Plate at The Pink Pig

This smokehouse has been an institution in these mountains for over 50 years, and it is still cared for daily by the family of Granddaddy Holloway who first manned the smokers. Just down the road from Blue Ridge, in Cherry Log, GA, The Pink Pig stands out from the roadside. The Pink is not a subtle hue, but then every artist has its shade. And speaking of shade, The Pink Pig is one of our favorite places to outdoor dine, especially with kids. Lots of places to spread out as a family while eating succulent ribs with sauce all of your face and fingers.

The Pink Pig’s Garlic Salad topped with Fried Chicken

The Pink Pig’s menu has some twists to it that you won’t find at many other  Que’s. They receive five-star reviews every day for their garlic salad (it’s the garlic brine the lettuce is soaked in- yet stays crunchy- they keep coming back to devour). You can get this salad veggie style or top it with grilled chicken, fried chicken, smoked pork, or brisket. Signature offerings like Bubba’s Brisket Nachos and SJ’s Brisket Tacos are the distinguishing brushstrokes that make this a Picasso of fine BBQ dining.  The entrée menu includes a mouth-watering Ribeye cooked perfectly on the grill. Sandwiches and burgers can be topped with peppers, mushrooms, and onions. We like that you have a choice in the size of your sandwich, too. Those with a hearty appetite won’t be disappointed. 

Apple Cobbler & Ice Cream at The Pink Pig

You might want to leave room for dessert because the Holloway family has a way with a cobbler that is served warm with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream all cuddled up next to that fresh seasonal fruit and topping. And note: they are open on Sundays and also stay open till 9 pm.

The Pink Pig
Open Thursday through Sunday 11am – 9pm
824 Cherry Log St. Cherry Log, GA | 706-276-3311

7 Family Friendly Diners



In Blue Ridge there is an amazingly diverse, reasonably priced, restaurants designed with families in mind. It’s not all just chicken fingers, tater tots, and buffet lines. Dining out with children, especially if you’re on a budget, is tough. But if you approach things differently, and look at it more as a family outing, you will be much more satisfied, and to be honest, so will the kids.

You might be surprised by the variety. You might also be surprised at the way in which many restaurants have managed to cater to families’ needs, including recognizing that, with all there is to do in Blue Ridge, dining out is an important part. So, in addition to providing good food at a good price, their approach is more – “ya’ll take your time, enjoy your meal and plan your day”; or “don’t worry about a thing, we can move things along quickly to get you out there enjoying your day”.

In the end, it all comes down preferences and choices, and Blue Ridge has many choices to choose from. Sample traditional Southern cuisine, classic barbecue, or everyone’s favorite – pizza! The following is a list of tried & true places to go that your kids (and Mom) will like, but that won’t break the bank.

Southern Charm

Photo Courtesy of Southern Charm

What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually, when you can simply say what you are. Southern Charm is Southern and it is charming! But it’s location, in the heart of Blue Ridge, makes this a great starting spot that will appeal to all members of the family.

This is traditional family style dining, featuring Southern cooking in a casual setting. Biscuits and apple butter? Yup. Fried chicken? Of course. Collards? Need you ask? Expect to be called “honey” or “darlin” by the attentive staff. Reasonably priced and worth every penny!

Sue’s Burgers

Photo Courtesy of Sue’s Burgers

How can you be so bold as to pronounce, in large block letters, on the front and side of your building, on your website, and in your advertising that you have the “Best Burgers in Town”? Well, it seems when you have testimonial confirmations online, in local “best-ofs” and random people-on-the-street recommendations for where to go for a great burger, and it all comes back to “Sue’s Best Burgers in Town”. Sue’s is most loved for their crispy, crinkly fries and fabulous desserts.

Affordable? Yes. Fast food burger prices? Sue’s Burgers is the oldest restaurant in town, family owned and operated since 1976, and will settle for nothing less than the best in food quality, service, and friendliness!

The Trailer Drive-In

Photo Courtesy of the Trailer Drive-In

When was the last time you ate at a place that accepted cash-only? Now that is indeed old school. And this throwback Trailer Drive-In diner is old school. It’s actually exactly what you expect – delicious food, large portions, outdoor picnic table seating, monstrous breakfast biscuits, a chicken sandwich that can’t be beat, and ridiculously good sweet tea! This is one of those under-the-radar kind of places, but your kids will love it! They can be sloppy outside, if you decide to dine outside, and it’s decidedly dog-friendly.

Mystic Mountain Pizza

Photo Courtesy of Mystic Mountain Pizza

No list of family-oriented, affordable restaurants would be complete without the obligatory entry from the pizza category. In this case, Mystic Mountain is not your ordinary pizza joint. It comes with extra sauce – live music! Plus it’s Blue Ridge’s “grooviest pizza parlor”. But seriously, folks, Mystic Mountain is family-friendly, relaxed, trendy, and colorful. Oh, and by the way, they also have great pizza, cooked in oak-fired brick ovens, unique hot dogs (like a Deep South Texas Dog), and crazy tasty wings, plus sandwiches and salads. It’s a great place for a family to be laid back. Like totally, man.

Mike’s Trackside BBQ

Photo Courtesy of Mike’s Trackside BBQ

You knew we’d get there. You just knew it! After all, who doesn’t like barbecue? You are in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Georgia!! And you deserve some great barbecue. Which is why we are recommending Mike’s Trackside BBQ. Mike’s is another one of those tiny places with a big heart for food and great service. Although barbecue is in the name, you might want to be adventurous and try their extraordinary, fall-off-the-bone ribs or the chunked smoked chicken.

Mike’s is located exactly where it says it is – trackside. That doesn’t mean you can bet on the ponies from there. It means you’ll hear that lonely train whistle loud and clear, and you might even be inspired to load the family onto the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway after lunch for a ride that will be long-remembered.

Pete’s Place

This is an American-styled restaurant that’s rustic and homey, and it’s Southern enough to have great grits. We recommend you trying the delicious, locally-caught, and freshly-prepared trout, but any of their classic choices like chicken parmesan or pecan chicken salad will delight your palate. At Pete’s Place the prices are reasonable, the service is great, and not only do they welcome your children, but they also welcome your furbabies to dine on the patio!

Rum Cake Lady Cuban Café

Photo Courtesy of @gluten.freed

And now for something completely different. Okay, calm the kids. We’re gonna get a little crazy here. We’re moving off into something far, far away from hot dogs and brown beans. But we will survive, and maybe even thrive. Besides, the name of this restaurant has “cake” in it so that, kids, is a good thing, because, very likely, there is dessert at the end of this meal!

Indeed, the Blue Ridge rum cakes are amazingly delicious. But so are the sandwiches, plantain chips, and the Cuban food bowls. This is called adventure. Striking off into the wild Cuban yonder to discover new foods. Try it. You’ll like it!

Fall is Prime Time to go to Blue Ridge



Guest Blog by Blake Guthrie as written for the AJC (Atlanta Journal & Constitution).

The Cabin

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

Cloud Nine. It’s the type of name one would expect for a mountain vacation rental home. It’s one of those places that if you try and follow GPS directions you’ll get lost. The rental agency sent a confirmation that stressed the importance of following the turn-by-turn directions provided in the email, including detail you wouldn’t get from a GPS such as “go right when you see a bunch of mailboxes.”

The Approach

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

What it didn’t mention was the very steep and winding one-lane road. After putting my Honda into its lowest gear for the first time ever and having to navigate past an approaching vehicle, I came to the crest of Sunrock Mountain four miles west of Blue Ridge. I saw that Cloud Nine was the type of place I might want to hole-up for a while, but, having never been to Blue Ridge or nearby Ellijay before, I came to do some exploring, to find the most beautiful scenery and the best outdoor spots to experience the autumnal ambiance.

The Train

Photo courtesy of @chusion

It turned out the back porch of the cabin was one of those places. In the morning I could see how the cabin got its name. It was literally in the clouds, the surrounding mountain peaks sticking up through a thick white blanket covering the valleys below. Still, I had to venture out. First on my itinerary was the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The major attraction in town, the railway has been in operation as a sightseeing excursion train since 1998 along tracks that have a history going back as far as 1886. The tracks follow the route of the winding Toccoa River through the Chattahoochee National Forest to the twin towns of McCaysville and Copperhill, Tennessee. They’re essentially the same town with the state line running through the middle. Like a running joke, the line is demarcated by a blue stripe painted on sidewalks, roadways and running through the middle of businesses.

The train rolls at a leisurely pace and the open-air windows are large, making it a prime fall sightseeing adventure with a good dose of history thrown in. Along the way, you’ll see a Native American fish trap in the middle of the river that experts believe is 500 years old, and the old telegraph poles that used to be the fastest form of communication in a bygone era. The trip takes four hours, with two spent in McCaysville/Copperhill for exploring the towns.

McCaysville

If hunger strikes, Burra Burra on the River in McCaysville is near the train station and serves pub fare and local brews. Be sure to ask for outside seating, weather permitting. The real selling point here is the covered deck that overlooks the clear waters of the Toccoa River flowing past the state line where it becomes the Ocoee River after crossing into Tennessee.

Piano Bar

Photo Courtesy of The Black Sheep

Back in Blue Ridge, the largest patio bar in town can be found at Black Sheep Restaurant, where the seasonal menu leans heavily on seafood. Housed in a historic home shaded by a 200-year-old oak tree, the patio overlooks the center of town. It’s a popular place, so make reservations for dinner. Or just have a drink at the bar.

Breweries

The craft beer scene is surprisingly good in Blue Ridge for such a small town that was dry not too long ago. Two breweries — Fannin Brewing Company and Grumpy Old Men Brewing — both have large, inviting outdoor beer gardens where you can play cornhole, meet the locals and catch some live music. Wine drinkers have no shortage of options either, as wineries have been opening at a fast clip in this area over the last few years.

Photo Courtesy of Bear Claw Vineyards

Near Ellijay, Chateau Meichtry (pronounced “my-tree”) stands out not only for its wine but also its patio outside the barn tasting room where the rolling vineyards reveal a long-range view of the mountains to the north.At Bear Claw Vineyards visitors can spend the night in the Blue Ridge Treehouse, featured on the DIY Network show “The Treehouse Guys.” The treehouse overlooks the vineyards and contains all the amenities one would expect when staying in a hotel.

Apple Country

Photo Courtesy of Mercier Orchards

No trip to the North Georgia mountains during the fall harvest season would be complete without taking advantage of apple country. The pull of a roadside farm store backed by endless acres of fruit orchards is undeniable. Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge and R&A Orchards outside Ellijay both have roadside markets selling freshly picked apples and other fruits, fresh-baked goods, local foodstuffs and offer pick-your-own days as well as plenty of free samples.

Welcome to the Mountains!

Photo Courtesy of Blake Guthrie

Lake Blue Ridge is the centerpiece of a scenic drive worth exploring. Stop at the Blue Ridge Welcome Center to pick up a detailed map. Ringed by mountains, the lake has clear, emerald-hued water and a pristine, forested shoreline. The route also runs alongside the tumbling rapids of the Toccoa River, rolling farmland, historic houses, and has many side hikes to cascading waterfalls and other pastoral pleasures. Bring comfortable hiking shoes and make an afternoon of it if you plan to visit all the stops listed on the map. On my last morning at Cloud Nine, I got up early enough to see the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains and stayed on the porch until checkout. Sometimes where you are is the best place to be.

If You Go

Blue Ridge is 92 miles north of Atlanta.

What to see

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. $35 and up. 241 Depot St., Blue Ridge. 877-413-8724, brscenic.com

R&A Orchards. 5505 Hwy. 52 East, Ellijay. 706-273-3821, www.randaorchards.com

Where to stay

Escape to Blue Ridge. Cabins $140-$1,800 per night. 866-618-2521, www.escapetoblueridge.com.

Blue Ridge Treehouse. $234 and up. 2555 Tennis Court Road, Blue Ridge. 706-223-3750, blueridgetreehouse.com.

Where to Eat

Burra Burra on the River. $11 and up. 100 Blue Ridge Drive, McCaysville. 706-400-6660, www.burraburraontheriver.com.

Black Sheep Restaurant. $20 and up. 480 W. Main St., Blue Ridge 706-946-3663, www.blacksheepblueridge.com.

Visitor Info

Blue Ridge Welcome Center. 152 Orvin Lance Drive. 800-899-6867, www.blueridgemountains.com.

Ellijay Welcome Center. 10 Broad St. 706-635-7400, www.gilmerchamber.com.

Pet Friendly Blue Ridge



As animal lovers ourselves, we understand that when you plan a vacation to Blue Ridge, Georgia that you want your four-legged family members to accompany you. Just as you love the fresh mountain air and seeing new places, so do pooches! There are so many new smells they’ve never sniffed, creeks to splash in, and they would much rather be with you than be kenneled!

Stay

Here at Escape to Blue Ridge we have over 100 cabins that are pet friendly! You can choose cabins by the lake or near a river. There are also pet friendly cabins in the middle of the woods with acres and acres for your puppers to run to their little heart’s content. Some properties are even fenced in like Black Dog of Blue Ridge.

Shop

Blue Ridge is a very pet friendly community. Whether you are bringing Fido with you or just want to bring home a souvenir for your best friend, Blue Ridge Cotton Company is both a pet and human friendly store! Here you will find great apparel, gifts, and of course doggie approved décor! The owner’s own pup, Watson Agee, can often be seen “working” at one of their two locations in Blue Ridge or Blairsville. Stop in, give him a pet on the head, and enjoy browsing all of their unique finds!

Watson Agee working at Blue Ridge Cotton Company

For the outdoorsy canines, head to Blue Ridge Adventure Gear for the hottest trends, most delicious treats, and all the outdoor gear you might possibly need. Keep Rufus safe out on Lake Blue Ridge with life jackets, play fetch at Morganton Point with glow in the dark balls, or keep them safe in your car with a dog hammock. Oh, did we mention the treats? Well, they have plenty along with their sister store, Blue Ridge Adventure Wear. Your pup is going to get pawsitively excited when you buy him some of their most scrumptious looking doggie donut treats!

Doggie Donuts at Blue Ridge Adventure Wear

Love Dogs and Cats Too is a holistic pet supply shop that has everything you could ever need for your favorite family member. They carry collars, leashes, food, toys, and treats. Here you’ll find natural flea and tick soaps, pet friendly cbd oils, and even puppy clothes! Stop on in if you Love Dogs, they’ll be happy to see you!

Dine

It’s true. We have some incredible restaurants here in Blue Ridge. The best part is some of them allow pets to join their owners for delicious meals. Right in the heart of downtown Blue Ridge, you can sit on the inviting patio of Treo and enjoy an outstanding meal. This fine dining establishment features southern cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Their steaks are to-die-for, but really you’ll enjoy anything Chef Patrick prepares!

Coolest Pooch at Treo

Why does happy need to be limited to an hour when you get to vacation with your best friend? Well, it doesn’t have to be at Brew Ridge Brewery! Their “yappy” hour lasts from 4pm to 7pm. You get good deals on custom crafted brews and your BFF gets a special puppy treat! While you’re here you can also enjoy a delicious burger, meatloaf sandwich, or some good ol fashioned chicken wings. They often have live music and of course ice-cold beer!

Yappy Hour at Blue Ridge Brewery

Drink

How can you not love a business that broadcasts “Dogs are welcome, and people are tolerated!” Grumpy Old Men Brewing is a laid back, fun microbrewery is open Tuesday through Saturday and offers 18 beers on tap. They often have live music and they stand by their motto: If we don’t like it, we don’t drink it. If we don’t drink it, we don’t sell it. So, come out and feel like a local, have fun, and drink good beer!

Chilling at Grumpy Old Men Brewing

Best Friend Wanted

If you don’t already have a best friend or are looking to grow your furfamily, stop by the Humane Society of Blue Ridge. This no kill shelter often partners with local businesses to encourage pet adoptions and to support their non-profit work of supporting sick, injured, or abandoned animals. They run a Thrift Store to help offset operational costs, and they even have a dog park that’s open 24/7 that all are welcome to use!

Adopt a best friend at the Humane Society of Blue Ridge

Doggy Daycare

A lot of times our guests will make day trips from the cabin and not all towns are as pet friendly as Blue Ridge. If your planning an adventure and you can’t take Benji with you, make an appointment at Violet’s Doggy Daycare. Here your pup will be able to make friends, run around, and be safe and secure until you come retrieve them. While there you can even get your pooch a peticure or a full grooming session. Violet’s also offers homemade pet treats and jerky treats.  

Puppy Play Date at Violet’s Doggy Daycare

Emergency Services

While you are on vacation, sometimes things can happen. Maybe Rufus counter surfed and gobbled down some grapes and now he feels under the weather or maybe while he was out exploring in the yard, he tried to eat some berries that he shouldn’t have. We don’t like to think about these things happening and when you are away from home you don’t know who to use or where to go to when emergency services are needed. Fortunately, right here in Blue Ridge we have a highly rated and extremely respected emergency veterinary service that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! Mountain Emergency Animal Center provides comprehensive emergency and urgent care and work closely with your primary veterinarian to provide the most complete care possible for your family pet. We hope that you won’t need to utilize their services, but in the event that you need to, know that you are in great hands!