Tag Archives: Georgia Barbecue

Floyd’s Hamburger Shack, Fitzgerald

A friend recently reached out to let me know that I should photograph this Fitzgerald landmark because it’s about to be razed for redevelopment, as are all the other adjacent commercial structures. (Thanks, Sara Padgett). The little brick building at the corner of Merrimac Drive and the Ten Mile Stretch will always be remembered as Floyd’s Hamburger Shack, but its history goes back a bit further.

Francis Marion “Frank” Malcolm II (1874-1954) came to Fitzgerald from Waycross in 1906, and in 1910 he bought the largest single tract of land (11 acres) in the city, to which he moved a home from Alapaha Street (still standing) and built other structures over time. [A house he built across the road from his own, in 1948, is where I spent the first six years of my life]. His grandson, renowned artist David Malcolm, told me that the ‘Floyd’s’ building was built in 1930 as a cannery, which employed young women. He even related that my grandmother, Nettie Pate Brown once worked there before she married my grandfather. After the cannery shut down, it was a Venetian blind shop and later, a grocery store.

The association with Floyd’s came in 1952 when J. W. Floyd moved his popular short-order business from the Five-Story Building (Garbutt-Donovan) to this location, which was closer to the new homes and subdivisions being built on the west side of Fitzgerald.

Later owners were Wade and Myrtice Malcolm and their daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Varnell Hendley. Walter Owens and C. L. Martin also operated a barber shop in the connected space next door to the restaurant.

Hamburgers topped with grilled onions, a concoction known as Mama’s Stew, and barbecue smoked in the pit out back were required eating by generations of families in Fitzgerald. The barbecued goat was a particular favorite.

Pam Hunter, daughter of Barbara and Varnell Hendley, kindly shared the recipe for Mama’s Stew. [Mama was Pam’s grandmother, Myrtice Malcolm]. She writes: I think great recipes are made to pass down to future generations and share with friends! You will need 2 lbs. Ground pork*, 4 lbs. Ground beef and one diced onion. Brown this up in a large pot and drain off the grease. Cover all this with water and add salt and pepper to taste. Next dice 6 large baking potatoes and add to the mixture. Make sure water still covers all. Cook until potatoes are tender. Now add 2 cans of cream corn, one can of LeSueur English peas(drain), 3 cups of Heinz ketchup, and 3/4 cup Heinz 57 sauce. Do not substitute . It will not taste the same! Go easy when adding salt as the ketchup and 57 are both salty, but those taters need some salt when cooking! I hope your families enjoy this as much as mine does! Don’t forget the crackers and salad! This makes a lot, but you can freeze it and it is still good!

*Ground pork and sausage are not the same thing, if you’re wondering. You can find ground pork in most groceries and specialty meat markets.

An iconic hamburger sign was located on the side of the building and was synonymous with Floyd’s.

Walt’s Bar-B-Q, Weber

I can’t find any history of the Weber community, but considering that it was the home of Walt’s Bar-B-Q (Walt Gaskins) and the old Gaskins Consolidated School, it seems it should have been called Gaskins. I imagine Walt’s was a landmark but looks like it’s been closed for many years. Rhonda Garrett writes that Walt Gaskins was a long time Sheriff of Berrien County (who) also served in WWII and was on The Arizona when it was bombed at Pear Harbor.

Tucker’s Barbecue, 1947, Macon

One of Macon’s oldest restaurants, Tucker’s Barbecue was established at this location on Broadway in 1947.

Originally a drive-in, it saw its busiest days when Broadway was the prime industrial area of Macon, supporting several factories. Though this stretch of Broadway is now one of the most desolate areas in town, Tucker’s hangs on and still serves its original recipe of chopped pork marinated in a vinegary sauce. It has its loyal fans and detractors alike, but its very survival says they owners are doing something right.

The old sign is an amazing survivor itself, and is a popular stop for photographers visiting Macon.


Sprayberry’s Barbecue, 1926, Newnan

One of Georgia’s oldest barbecue restaurants, Sprayberry’s association with two famous Coweta County natives has made it known far beyond Newnan. Lewis Grizzard sang its praises in his books and country music superstar Alan Jackson waited tables here as a teenager. It all began with Houston Sprayberry, who owned a gas station and sold barbecue out of the back. By 1926, the barbecue became so popular he closed the gas station and made it a restaurant. Over 90  years later, it remains as popular as ever.

Fresh Air Barbecue, Jackson

Dr. Joel Watkins began selling barbecue here in 1929, making it the oldest pit-cooked barbecue establishment in Georgia still in its original location. Upon Dr. Watkins’ death in 1945, the business was purchased by longtime manager, George W. “Toots” Caston, who is credited with making Fresh Air Barbecue into the institution it is today. Caston made improvements to the cooking process, the sauce, and the Brunswick stew recipe and expanded the business from a drive-in to a dine-in. Even the coming of I-75 couldn’t keep people away from Fresh Air, with many travelers taking the exit just to experience the legendary fare of the “Barbecue Place”. Still boasting one of the shortest menus in the business, there are no frills here, just barbecue, Brunswick stew, pickles and potato chips, and pecan, lemon or Reese’s pie for desert if you need something sweet for the road. And you can buy a whole ham if you’d like.  There’s a Macon location today that has a few additional items, but you really should go to the original first.

Cook’s Lunchroom, 1945, Jackson

Pit barbecue and homemade chili, cheeseburgers and fries. And apparently doing it right for over 70 years. You immediately know from the signs that the place is a landmark and the building is really neat. Unfortunately, I was here a little too early for lunch.

Hot Thomas Bar-B-Que, Oconee County

On my numerous trips to Athens, I always pass Hot Thomas Bar-B-Que and bemoan the fact that it’s not open. Numerous friends have told me I have to eat here, but I’m either here on Monday, when it’s closed, or pass through too late to sample their barbecue. They’re open from 10-2. Recently, I was determined to at least get a photograph of the place and while I was here shooting, owner Mark Thomas stopped by and graciously shared some of its history with me. He’s a really likeable guy and you can tell he puts a lot of himself into this business. He noted that the building was constructed about 1948 and first used as a general store. But the Thomas family has been on the property since at least the mid-1800s, when they opened a cotton gin here. They ginned cotton into the 1970s; the old Continental gin is an event space today. A farmhouse, tenant housing, barns, and other historic structures also remain on the property. They weren’t moved here to make the place look more authentic; they’ve always been here.

Mark’s late father, Carl Howard “Hot” Thomas (1935-2011), who started the business, was really a jack-of-all-trades, a farmer and entrepreneur who raised cattle, hogs, and turkeys, row-cropped, grew and ginned cotton. He also owned a large peach orchard until a hard freeze finished it off years ago. But he was best known for his barbecue restaurant, simply known as “Hot’s” to locals.

The day after meeting Mark I raced from a photo shoot in Jefferson back down to Watkinsville so I could finally see what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t disappointed. The place was packed with locals, from white collar bankers and lawyers to blue collar laborers in work clothes. That was the first good sign. And the interior walls are lined with shelves from the building’s days as a general store. Hot’s collection of old bottles and other treasures shares the walls with dozens of loaves of Sunbeam and Wonder bread. I guess some people have a preference. One of their most popular items is chicken mull, which I haven’t tried but is described as a sort of chicken pot pie in stew form. I opted for the barbecue plate with the vinegar sauce (a lot of people prefer the ketchup-based sauce and I’ll try it next time) and my prerequisite sides of Brunswick stew and slaw, complimented by some really good (and really sweet) tea.  It’s an indulgence reserved for road trips. And a good day trip if you’re nearby would include a mandatory visit to the nearby Elder Mill Bridge.

 As of August 2020, Hot Thomas has shut its doors.

BJ’s Bar-B-Que, Jesup

As with most good barbeque spots, BJ’s Original Hog Wild Bar-B-Que in Jesup is a bit ragged around the edges, but don’t let the looks fool you.

For nearly 30 years, BJ’s has been doing barbeque right in Jesup. Pulled (they call it chopped) pork with a tangy mustard sauce is the highlight of their menu for me. I personally hate sweet sauce on meat. Their baked beans, which I recommend, are a bit sweet but full of pieces of pork. Brisket, chicken, and Brunswick stew are also available. The only thing I don’t care for here is the slaw, which is just too sweet. But the pork is so tender and the sauce so good, the slaw isn’t that big of a deal for me.

Billy’s Restaurant, Tifton

Several restaurants have been located here over the years. The old Billy’s Restaurant sign appears to date to the 1950s or thereabouts. It was most recently Hawk-Eye Bar-B-Que.

Armstrong’s Barbecue, Summerville

The first time I came through Summerville, on a mission to see Paradise Garden, it was lunchtime and I stopped at this place. It was packed to the rafters and like a step back in time. None of the interior has been updated since it was built, likely in 1965 when the business was established, but the place was warm and welcoming. And I loved their pepper-based sauce. A jar was purchased and guarded until the last drop was used. I wish I’d bought a dozen jars, because it was closed when I passed through a few weeks ago. And judging by comments online, it’s a real roll of the dice to find it open. Locals obviously love the place, too. I don’t know anything about their hours or why they’re so rarely open, but I do know that they have some of the best barbecue sauce I’ve ever eaten. If you’re lucky enough to be in Summerville when they’re open, make sure to stop by.