Chattanooga, TN – Recently a couple of photographer friends of mine and I decided to get up at O-Dark-Thirty and go to Old Car City in White, GA. Old Car City is over seven acres of roasted, toasted, roached old cars sitting in a large Pine tree thicket. The cars are piled on top of one another, side by side, and tilted at all angles. You walk through the maze on wide road/trailways that seem to never end, in fact there are nearly 6 miles of the paths. We spent several hours taking photographs of the old cars and barley saw maybe a third of the old car collection.
We left Old Car City at about 4 pm local time and headed back home and had to pass through Chattanooga. We got to talking about stopping for dinner somewhere and I suggested we give Hillbilly Willys Bar-B-Q a try. I had heard of the place from several sources and had been by once with my wife Debra but they were closed that day. (They are closed on Sunday & Mondays).
We pulled into the Bi-Lo Shopping Center where they are located along with a discount tobacco & beer store and a storage locker building where the Bi-Lo used to be. A lot of the high-brow folks would have fled for their lives upon arriving but we knew that good bar-b-q don’t come out of fancy white table cloth joints. So, having no fear, we got out and ambled up to the front door and went in.
The first thing you notice other than the staff hollering “Welcome to Hillbilly Willys” is the aroma of barbecue meat and hickory smoke. Even though they don’t have an indoor pit the aroma comes in every time the Pitboss George Foster comes in and out the back door from the outdoor pits. Aah, the smell of hickory smoke is like heaven on earth to bar-b-q aficionados who live for that smell.
The staff is friendly, and the Bar-B-Q joint is themed in true Hillbilly style with moonshine sitting on the shelf as well as artwork all around depicting the Hillbilly Willy character, who is an old codger with a beard and a toothless grin on his face, and, if he were real, he’d had moonshine on his breath. Hillbilly Willy is a depiction of a Appalachian ridge runner that wouldn’t like to be caught even dead amongst them Flat-Landers and who would be best friends with Snuffy Smith of cartoon fame.
The three of us perused the menu and then noticed the Daily Special on the chalkboard, which was a Regular hand-pulled Bar-B-Q Pork sandwich, one side and one drink for $8.99. With a deal like that who could refuse, so we all three ordered up. I went for the fries as my side item, one of the other guys got potato salad and the other got plain chips (no spirit of adventure I guess.) A couple of us got iced tea which was served in a plastic fruit jar and Lee got a coke which also came with the same drinking jar. The plastic drinking jugs were to remind you that Hillbilly Willy didn’t use a glass to sip his moonshine with either. These were either store bought plastic jars or recycled peanut butter jars, but that’s an argument for another day.
After placing our order at the counter we found a vacant table and waited for our orders to be delivered. While we were waiting, there was a constant stream of customers coming in, both for take out and dine in. From the speed of some of the take orders that were brought out, I would guess them to have been call in orders.
Hillbilly Willys advertises and proclaims that their barbecue is a mix of the Carolina style and the Memphis style. Their cooking style as best I can tell, is using a smoker that George Foster designed and built that uses both direct and indirect heat. The direct heat box is mounted in the middle of an upright box on either side. Check out the picture of one of their units.
In due time our meals were delivered to the table, the young lady that brought them made sure we had the right stuff and even passed the lemon testwhen I asked for lots of lemon for my tea. When I placed my order, the young lady at the counter asked if I wanted hot or mild sauce and slaw on my bar-b-q sandwich and as always I requested it on the side. She told me no problem and it was delivered exactly as I ordered it. They even stuck a toothpick in the hot sauce to identify it as if one couldn’t tell by taste.
I first taste tested the meat, it did have a good smokiness to it which I liked, however, I did taste the subtle taste of the meat having been reheated, which most people can’t detect though. That reheat taste does not make it bad by any means, it just is noticeable to me. I then sampled both sauces and both were very good. The regular sauce was a tomato based sauce, that is supposed to be their secret recipe. It’s a really sweet style sauce, with no vinegar undertones coming through. The hot sauce I think is the regular sauce with some spices in it to kick it up a notch. Both sauces were good and I wound up using some of both on my sandwich since I couldn’t make up my mind which I liked best. The coleslaw as a mayo based coleslaw that was seasoned well and quite tasty. In fact, it was so good, I didn’t put it on my sandwich, I just ate it by itself.
Both of my dining companions enjoyed their meals and thought the bar-b-q was really good. I was glad of that, since I was the one that recommended we stop there and eat. This was my first visit to Hillbilly Willys but it won’t be my last, I plan to stop again the next time I’m rolling through Choo-Choo town and maybe I’ll even give the ribs a try, if I do, I’ll do an update to this review.