Heavy's BBQ -- Crawfordville GA (Near I-20)
The stretch of I-20 from Augusta to Atlanta goes through what appears to be a fairly empty stretch of Georgia pine. But, if you get off the highway, there is good food to be had.
One of the places that never seems to hit Roadfood and other such guides is Heavy's BBQ, which is a couple of miles south of I-20 on Ga Hwy 22. And that's a shame, because this stand has an excellent vinegar based sauce, a pretty (and quiet) location, and one of the more unusual bbq joint decorating schemes you will find. If you are into farm implements, old trucks, and taxidermy, this is your bbq stand.
You can take your food onto some picnic tables, or onto the benches in the old barn that provides the restaurant's seating. There are loafs of Colonial Bread and communal jugs of iced tea (good, strong, sweet) waiting for you. Don't mind the deer and owls staring at you. They're dead. During the winter, a big fireplace heats the barn. In summer, barn seems to stay cool.
Q is peppery and vinegary. Brunswick stew is good -- tastes better if you add some of the sauce. Cole slaw is a good counterpoint to the BBQ, sweet, pickly, rather than drenched in mayo.
Only open Fri-Sun.
I love Heavy's! North Carolina style Q and stew and great shack atmosphere with oddities like the 2 headed deer. The place would be a joke if it were not so authentic. Similar Q can be had a Jot em Down south of Athens where the atmosphere is carefully reconstructed but Heavy's is the real deal. I take route 78 through Lexington to Crawford then down 22 to shave a few miles off of the trip from Athens to Augusta and It's worth the extra 2 miles to go to Heavy's. Even with the detour it shorter than going down 15 to I 20. Glad you mentioned it.
My wife and I had a very different experience at Heavy's this past Friday evening, and think that there might well be a reason that Roadfood and other guides ignore it. We saw the signs advertising Heavy's in Crawfordville, and followed them to the restaurant. When I saw the tractors and other decor outside the restaurant, I had a slight feeling of dread ("Tourist Trap!"), but we went in anyway. At 6pm, we were the only customers there.
The inside decor is veeery interesting- the best way to describe it is that he's trying to build a poor man's Ripley's Believe It Or Not. The decor is much more interesting than the food, by far.
I had a good feeling about the food when I saw a grandmotherly lady in the back serving it. Then my wife and I sat down to eat it. I thought the pork was unoffensive, but very mediocre. There was no smoke flavor at all- it was as if they had cooked it in a crock pot. The hot bbq sauce (they provide two) made it more palatable. The brunswick stew was inedible. I'm not a slaw person, so I didn't try the slaw. The iced tea is good, though.
My wife says that she could stick a pork butt in a crock pot, but that's not quality BBQ. The best thing about the meal to her was the cole slaw, and she doesn't like cole slaw. It was cabbage, dill pickles, and mayonaise, which was palatable. She thought the decor was over-the-top and the BBQ to be poor, as though they were trying to use the decor to compensate for the food's lack of quality. The meat had bits of fat in it, and was wet- you could squeeze it and water would drip out.
In short, we thought that if they spent half as much time on their food as they did on their decor, they'd have decent que. Not recommended- even though there's little to eat in Crawfordville, we'd driving recommend driving further.
Nice drive out there and atmosphere is kinda fun (or weird and creepy, depending on your perspective, I guess). But the food isn't worth walking a half-block to. I know my NC BBQ and this isn't even close. If I were jonesing for BBQ, I'd rather drive 4 hours up I-85 to Lexington #1 than 45 minutes to Heavy's. Fresh Air in Hull has decent BBQ (but is lacking in the sides department) and The Barbeque Shack on Lexington Rd. in Athens has decent BBQ and surprisingly good baked beans, which in most places are nothing but warmed up canned beans. The beans at the BBQ Shack tasted homemade and were more like Boston baked beans than the usual tomato-based variety. I hear that Thursdays are the days to go to the BBQ Shack for the freshest, best-prepared food. Paul's BBQ in Lexington GA has pretty good beans too - I think they use canned baked beans and doctor them with Manwich sloppy joe mixture. As weird as that sounds, it turns out pretty well.
I can't remember when I was there. Perhaps a couple of years ago. I'm not sure how they stay in business. We pulled in because of the unique decor and our love of bbq and stew. We were the only customers in the place on a Saturday around noon. The animals on the wall kept our children occupied (must be a very busy taxidermist in the area) but the restaurant was very dirty. A lady that brought our food also brought her grandson to our table in his diaper and talked to us the entire time we tried to eat. The food was ok but I was concerned about the cleanliness of the preparation area. After we had eaten (while being watched the whole time) the grandson started putting his hands in my daughters mouth and scratched her a couple of times. When she started crying, we left. Won't be back....food just ok, ambience scary and again, not sure how they are still in business. Don't go if you don't have to.
My parents were born and raised in Crawfordville, then branched out around the US and globe raising our family. Throughout life, we have always gone home to visit farm and cousins. We have always looked forward to the stew. We have had Heavy's, as well as others. For the life of me I cannot remember the other ones. Its my impression, from what my relatives have said, that Heavy's has gone a little south, pardon the expression, in recent years.
I'll speak to the relatives and get back to you about the other locations, as they are variations of the same stew, but doing well at this time.
As for the hot sauce, its mostly a mixture of pepper, ketchup, and vinegar. The more the pepper, the hotter!
I was raised in Crawfordville. What happened with Heavy's is simple: he died. His son (who I went to school with) just doesn't have the same cooking skills in my humble opinion. They filmed scenes from Sweet Home Alabama out there so if it seems familiar, that may help explain. For the best barbeque in this area, consider Holcombs in White Plains or Paul's in Lexington. Both are much better. Locals swear by Holcombs. Paul's isn't as well known in Crawfordville, but it is really good stuff.