Hinesville is rapidly becoming the go-to place for barbecue.
With Shane’s Rib Shack well-established on Gen. Screven Way, Sho Nuff Smokin’ Good BBQ set on Airport Road near Fort Stewart’s Gate 7, Rusty Pig BBQ’s recent opening on Veterans Parkway and the soon-to-open Ole Time Country Buffet on East Oglethorpe Highway have given more mouth-watering choices to those of us who love smoke-flavored meats coated with a tangy sauce. Seasoned veggies also are available.
If these aren’t enough choices, executive chef Efrim Dehart said Lena Mae’s Country Café, which features St. Louis-style barbecue and has been catering to the public and competing in contests, still plans to open a restaurant in downtown Hinesville.
I’ve sampled the flavors of each of these establishments, but I can’t say I’ve sampled everything they have to offer. I’ve swooned at the depth of flavor in Sho Nuff’s ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken and Texas-style smoked sausage, but I can’t say I’ve had a chance to try owner Jonathan Garrett’s brisket.
I will, though, and when I do, I’ll try some of his side veggies. I’m hoping for a good mess of greens, which are great for ratcheting up the flavor of smoky barbecue.
I have tried all the meats and side dishes at the Smok’n Pig BBQ – not that we have Smok’n Pig here. Ole Times, though, is owned by the same folks who own the Smok’n Pig in Valdosta and Macon, and since they’ve added a smoker behind their Hinesville restaurant, my expectations are high for the barbecue on their buffet.
I also know after having frequented Ole Times in Tifton, Brunswick and Savannah that their greens are a complement to any meat, including seafood. Ditto for their other seasoned veggies.
The brisket at the Rusty Pig is very good, but the brisket at the Smok’n Pig is the best this side of Texas. Sadly, I don’t recall ever seeing brisket on Ole Times buffet — lots of great ribs and pulled pork, but no brisket.
I’ve enjoyed the ribs at Shane’s and Ole Times, and though I haven’t tried the ribs at the Rusty Pig, Sho Nuff’s ribs have won my loyalty. Every bite makes you want to holler. They’re so good, it’s embarrassing for me to eat them in public. Aside from the hollering, I gnaw those bones until there’s nothing left to gnaw, and then I try to suck the sauce-soaked marrow from the bones.
I love the homemade fries at Shane’s and the Brunswick stew at the Rusty Pig. Both do a great job with pulled pork, having just enough smokiness to make it delicious but not taste like the carcass of something dragged from a burning house. Shane’s has some tasty hot wings, and Rusty Pig has some great smoked wings.
It’s too bad that Ida Mae’s Eastern North Carolina-style chopped-pork barbecue closed its doors. And it’s too bad that Sonny’s (Florida-style) BBQ closed before Hinesville became barbecue country. For a chain restaurant, Sonny’s makes some excellent barbecue.
A lot of folks may not know it, but Sonny’s cooks up some delicious fried catfish. In fact, many restaurants double as barbecue and seafood joints. That’s one of the things I like about Ole Times. If your family is split between some wanting barbecue and others wanting seafood, visit Ole Times on Friday and Saturday nights.
I love both, so I pile my plate high with ribs and pulled pork as well as wild Georgia shrimp and fried catfish fillets. Sometimes they have fresh, fried mullet and broiled flounder. But don’t forget the greens, beans, taters, okra and peas. A balanced diet, after all, is nine parts smoky meat and seafood to one part seasoned veggies.