I Left the City for Some Fresh Air
It had been a long pre-weekend that started on a Thursday afternoon with the state high school wrestling tournament in Macon, GA. I had enjoyed watching my son’s team, the “Hillgrove Hawks” have a pretty good showing up until the 3rd round eliminations on Friday evening. Go Hawks!
Now, time to celebrate with some BBQ before hitting the road back to Atlanta. Fortunately, a high school chum of mine works for Mercer University and lives in Macon so I didn’t have to rely on Yelp! for my BBQ decision. I find online and app BBQ reviews about as reliable as movie reviews. If your high standard for entertainment is “Beverly Hills Cop 3” then please don’t venture into reviewing food and ruin that for the rest of us too.
My buddy gave me two options and only two when I asked for the best. Fresh Air BBQ and Smoki’n Pig. Being that Fresh Air was already on my route out of town and Smoki’n Pig is located in the Macon Mall I went for the easy choice in order to make time back home and sleep in my own bed. I’m not slighting Smoki’n Pig and promise to try it next time.
Living in Atlanta gives me the great privilege of enjoying some of the finest cooking in the south. BBQ is no exception to that rule. The brothers and I have had some of the best, most complex and innovative tastes the BBQ world has to offer. And it’s for that reason that we sometimes forget our roots. As we discussed at our last meeting, many restaurants are offspring of long standing favorites. The competition is great and the need to differentiate is even greater. Where does that leave us though? We sometimes are BBQ nomads like brother Timmy. Trying to recall the beginning while being swept up in progress.
My brother, there is hope. And it’s name is Fresh Air BBQ.
From the moment I walked in and was enveloped in the air of hickory I knew I had landed in a safe place. Growing up in south Fulton County there were not many BBQ joints but our town had one of the best. Melear’s BBQ (closed). Just simple, good, BBQ, served only a few ways. The thrift plate was the most popular choice. Sandwich, side of stew, white bread, pickles and sweet tea.
I don’t know if I was overtaken by nostalgia or I was weary from sitting tens of hours on bleachers but I was certain Fresh Air BBQ was going to satisfy.
I left nothing to chance and ordered the house special of every BBQ joint, the pork plate.
The sandwich was average size, non-assuming. The stew, pretty well pureed in a little Styrofoam cup. The bun, Sunbeam, raw. No side of pickles but a few on the sandwich. All served in a plastic basket of wax paper on a red plastic tray. A cup of sweet tea with pellet ice and I was about to chow. This entire meal looked about as exciting as eating lunch with my fourth cousin at the county detention facility. I was just ready to down it and hit the road.
A few bites into my sandwich and a couple of spoonfuls of stew and I was yanking my phone off my hip to text Brother Fixin’s who was waiting on my report. “$%^# good BBQ!” I exclaimed. It took me way back with it’s simplicity to my childhood and eating lunch with my grandmaw at Melear’s. There was nothing phenomenal about this pork plate that I could discern except for it’s respect for the history of BBQ in the south.
Fresh Air was indeed a perfect name I thought to myself as I absorbed the essence of hickory into my fleece jacket, hair, clothing and inner self. What I assumed would be just another “one cleaver” meal quickly turned into one of my most memorable experiences.
You see, BBQ is more than a way to cook. BBQ is history. It’s emotional. It’s memorable. It tells a story. BBQ is the language of generations of people cooking to show hospitality and love.
Fresh Air BBQ has been serving since 1929. I have great respect for them because they have not caved to pressures to “modernize” their image nor their menu.
I’m going to have to give Fresh Air BBQ 4.5 cleavers and you might possibly disagree with me if you eat there. I can’t really explain or make a great case for that rating other than to say I thought it was BBQ done right and with love. “A breath of Fresh Air.”
3076 Riverside Drive
Macon, Ga 31210
1164 Highway 42 South
Jackson, Ga 30233