If oak-smoked, lightly dry-seasoned, tender barbecued pulled pork, spareribs, chicken and beef, with house-made signature mustard and tomato-based sauces on the side pumps you up, AND if made-from-scratch, battered fried green tomatoes with ranch dip and a side of the best Brunswick Stew on the planet rings your bell, AND if you “Go Big” with homemade fried blackberry pie a la mode so good that it triggers a spontaneous Hallelujah chorus in your tummy: you’ve found barbecue bliss!
Barbecue bliss, of course, is in the mind and palate of the beholder. Some beholders insist on the one and only barbecue they have known and loved since childhood.
Kansas Citians, however, have an eclectic barbecue mind and palate. We find barbecue bliss in an order of burnt ends, ribs and fries at SLAP’s; or Q39’s Ball Park Pork; or Joe’s Kansas City Z-Man; Arthur Bryant’s beef and fries; Char Bar’s CBGB with fried green tomatoes; Back Porch brisket with greens; LC’s burnt ends and beans … and the bliss goes on.
Barbecue bliss lives in other cities, small and large, across the nation. Last November and again this November, my friend Gary Bronkema and I found it at Smoakie’s Bar-B-Q in Cordele, Ga. While in Dooly County for the Big Pig Jig, we swine dined frequently at Smoakie’s.
Smoakie’s serves barbecue, sides and dessert with attitude — Southern attitude — and that means genuine, friendly Southern hospitality and attentive service.
Co-proprietors Steve, Frances and Stephanie Southwell, with pitmaster Jay Moudy, plus the kitchen staff and wait staff make Smoakie’s a world-class exemplar of Southern good eats and hospitality.
Wait staffers Jennifer, Nicky and others’ knowledge of every item on the menu is impressive. Their descriptions will inspire you to try it all — over several visits, of course. For example, when we mentioned to Jennifer that Rhonda Lamb, Big Pig Jig Event Coordinator, told us to try Smoakie’s blackberry fried pie, Jennifer urged us to “go big” with vanilla ice cream on it. That pie was so spot-on delicious that we now call Smoakie’s fried pies “Go Big Fried Pies” instead of fried pies a la mode.
If your travels by train, plane and car ever take you within 100 miles of Cordele, make a stop at Smoakie’s. Or maybe you’re bold enough to take a road trip to Cordele, a 14-hour drive from Kansas City by way of St. Louis, Paducah, Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta.
Smoakie’s Bar-B-Q is on the outskirts of Cordele at the fork of Highway 257 and Cemetery Road. From I-75 take Exit 102 East. You’ll be within sight and smell. Phone: 229-273-0802 or check out smoakies.com.
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. He is author/co-author of 11 published barbecue books and is a 2016 inductee into the Barbecue Hall of Fame.