Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Shack off the Beaten Track

 




The Shack by the Track
246 Jackson St.
St. George, GA




Did you know that it is possible to drive southbound out of Florida into Georgia?

It is.

I just did it.

Traveling south down County Road 121 through the cattle farms and under the live oak canopies in Nassau County Florida, I hung a right onto Florida Route 2, crossed the St. Mary’s River and found myself in St. George, Georgia -- a good 17 miles southwest of Hilliard, Florida.

St. George is a tiny dot on the map on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp in that little nook in Southeast Georgia that juts into Florida.

It’s the kind of place I’d daydream about exploring when I was a kid.

Technology has taken all the mystery out of life.

Young Suit757 loved maps.

Loved them.

I’d throw an atlas on the floor and occupy myself for hours exploring the nooks and crannies of the world, using my imagination to wonder what some little obscure dot on the map like St. George, tucked away in some forgotten corner of the world, must be like.

I know. Right?

Kids were so easily amused back then.

Thanks to Google Earth no one needs to wonder any more.

With the click of a mouse, you can place your avatar right there and see for yourself.

Of course viewing the landscapes, dirt roads and boarded up trailers of forgotten little towns on a computer screen doesn’t tell you much about what it might be like to live there among the locals.

But that’s what reality television is for.

Thanks to “Swamp People”, “Snake Salvation”, “Gator Boys” and “Ice Road Truckers”, what nook of America is left to the imagination?

Well, that’s what makes being a Suit in a Strange Place so much fun.

Sure, Google, TLC, Animal Planet and Anthony Bourdain can take couch potatoes virtually to a lot of cool places, but isn’t it more fun to actually check them out yourself?

I think so.

Especially when you bump into backwoods barbeque shacks serving up some of the best smoked pork you’ll ever find, like I did here in this forgotten pocket of the Peach State.

All you’ve got to do is follow your nose to the source of the hickory smoke emanating from the appropriately named Shack by the Track.

Tucked under the Spanish moss-draped live oaks, hard against a busy railroad track, stands a mishmash of sheds, trailers and hand-painted signs beckoning the locals and log truckers barreling through this tiny dot-on-the-map town.

A single take-out window punctured through the knotty pine paneling is where you go to place your order.

Smoke pours out of the chimney rising above the battered tin roof.

A pile of hickory logs stand ready for duty beside the outdoor smoker.

Just as I am about to place my order, the shriek of a Norfolk Southern locomotive horn shatters the tranquility of the steamy Southern landscape.

The shack and ground rumbles as the double-decker train roars past just mere feet from the back of the smoker.

Within a minute or two, I am opening my Styrofoam box to reveal a monstrous mound of pulled pork piled thick between two buns.

There is no humanly possible way to lift it up and eat it like a sandwich -- at least no way that would spare my suit from an expensive dry cleaning bill.

Fortunately, the Shack provided a handy plastic fork.

This is some of the most exquisite barbeque that has ever graced my taste buds.

Soft tender strands of smoky pulled pork gilded with a just the right amount of sweet savory tomato-based sauce, this is the real Southern barbeque I dream about late at night.

It’s the kind of authentic smoked pulled pork that is getting surprisingly hard to find in many large and medium towns in the South -- let alone obscure backwaters like St. George.

Barbeque this good takes real hard wood…

…and real smoke…

…and real pit-masters practicing their craft for hours under Spanish moss and a leaky tin roof.
Now that Brunswick’s Georgia Pig has shut down, I bet there’s not a barbeque sandwich like this within a 150 mile radius.

And this out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere shack, a stone’s throw from the alligator-infested Okefenokee Swamp, seems like the perfectly appropriate place to find it.

And I’m damn glad I did. Because you know what?

No matter how much you paid for that fancy high def TV, The Food Network and Travel Channel just can’t deliver the aromas and flavors of sweet smoked Southern barbeque.

Nope. You’re just going to have to break out that old road atlas and come down here to this obscure little nook of Georgia to experience that yourself.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!


Shack By The Track on Urbanspoon

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