Road Trip Part 12: Thanksgiving in Augusta & Charlotte

We left Austin early Saturday morning, knowing we had a long drive to Memphis ahead of us.  I took the first leg, getting us out of Austin and into Arkansas (literally JUST into Arkansas...took exit 1).  Because of timing and knowing that we wanted a meal in Arkansas to cross the state off the list and never have to return, I had already looked into restaurants in the southwest section of Arkansas.  There aren't many.  The food for Arkansas is a chopped beef sandwich, so we went to Big Jake's BBQ, a local chain, and got a chopped brisket sandwich (Adam), a baked potato with pulled pork (Melissa), and a fried pie (that was about 4x the size we were expecting).  All things considered, the food wasn't bad, although our stomachs didn't feel too great afterwards.

Yes, that giant thing taking up 3/4 of the photo is the fried pie.

Lucky Adam got to drive the rest of Arkansas, a pretty long stretch from the bottom left to the top right of the state until we got to Memphis (for those who are not geographically inclined, Memphis is pretty much right on the border of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi).  The drivers in Arkansas were NOT good - probably some of the worst in the country - and really enjoyed tailing you as closely as possible.  It was a pretty long day of driving, but we made it to Memphis and were planning on going to Beale Street, since it's the most famous street in Memphis.  I had checked the basketball schedule, and I *thought* I had seen that the Grizzlies were out of town that night - however, when we got downtown, it was very clear I saw the schedule wrong and that they had a home game.  Their arena is right there, the streets were very crowded, and parking was a mess.  We quickly switched drivers (I'm the one who typically does the city driving - I'm more used to it, and I am a quicker parallel parker), drove around for a few minutes, and then made a decision to head out of Beale Street and to a restaurant I had found that wasn't too far from our hotel called Hog & Hominy.  I dropped Adam off while I looked for parking - even though it wasn't as urban as Beale Street, it was still a mess and I ended up having to valet.  Adam had grabbed seats at the bar and holding down an empty one was getting harder, but thankfully I got there and we were able to have a great dinner of a small pizza and an octopus appetizer.

Our favorite pie shop in Brooklyn, 4&20 Blackbirds, does Thanksgiving pies every year and our favorite is their Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie - we bring to Pam & Brian's every year!  Well, they have become so popular that this year, during the holiday season, Whole Foods is selling this particular pie in their stores for $15 (pie from the shop is $42).  We were so excited to see this and were determined to find one for our Thanksgiving!  Unfortunately, Augusta's only Whole Foods closed in February, so we went to both Whole Foods in the Memphis area to finally find one before we headed out to Augusta - but we were able to continue the tradition for 2017.

Our plan for Sunday was to get breakfast in Mississippi and lunch in Alabama so that both those states could be crossed off.  The breakfast in Mississippi proved harder than it seems, as apparently everything is closed on Sundays in Mississippi.  We FINALLY found what can only be described as a Mississippi gas station version of Waffle House, where we split a breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, grits, and bacon, totaling $5.89.  After breakfast, Adam took over driving and got us to Birmingham, Alabama for a food Adam had been dying to try.

Our $5.89 breakfast in Mississippi.

While the Thrillist list says the food for Alabama is fried catfish, the real Alabama food Adam had been wanting to try is Alabama white barbecue sauce.  This wasn't too high on my list as it's a mayo based barbecue sauce, but I looked around and finally found a place in Birmingham that appeared to have Alabama white barbecue sauce.  Oh my god was this place good.  Saw's Soul Kitchen was only about five minutes off the interstate, and it was worth it (after the fiasco in Mississippi, and despite Google saying they were open on Sundays, I called to confirm).  We discussed it, and we both agree that as good as the brisket was in Texas, if I was going to have one barbecue place regularly, it would probably be Saw's.  I got a fried green tomato BLT, Adam got a sweet tea brined fried chicken sandwich, and we split an order of wings.  These wings...perfectly charred on the grill, with just a bit of a thin vinegar-y bbq sauce, with a light coating of Alabama white sauce on top.  It was not at all what I was expecting - it was about 1000x better.

Sweet tea fried chicken with white bbq sauce, and my friend green tomato BLT.

Some of the best wings I've ever had.

To make the day even better, we got to Lauren's house in Augusta about 3 minutes before she got home - we hit absolutely zero traffic in Atlanta, probably the first time anyone can say that.  While she was off from her school job for the week, she was working at Dick's that week (holiday season and retail means not much time off!).  She didn't have to work until late afternoon, though, so we were able to spend Monday checking out downtown Augusta; she was off on Tuesday and took us to Phinizy Swamp Park, which was beautiful - we spent that day walking around there.  Adam found this awesome stick on our walk around the swamp that he wouldn't share with me.  He kept the stick, hoping that Squirt would like it, but she couldn't have cared less about it.  Squirt is Lauren's cat, and she shares an opinion on visitors with Pluto and Skittles, Adam's parents' cats - that is, she doesn't like them.  While she wasn't as mean to us as Skittles is, she literally would squirrel under the blankets so as to hide from us.  When Lauren wasn't home, we wouldn't see Squirt except when we would go looking for her.

Downtown Augusta.

Phinizy Swamp Park.  I'm a turtle!

On our way home from downtown, we stopped at a local butcher shop for the pork shoulder and the sage sausage.  It was a great local shop, and they had exactly what we were looking for - and the prices compared to NYC were AWESOME.  Adam and I took advantage of Lauren working to get the rest of the groceries and prep Thanksgiving dinner.  Since there were only three of us, we didn't make as much as we normally would - only did a pork shoulder, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and stuffing for dinner, and our bittersweet chocolate pecan pie and a pudding pie for dessert.  Dinner turned out great - the pork shoulder was really good, and the sides all came out great, too (we made all the sides from scratch, including the green bean casserole.  All of them came out great).  Lauren had to work at 5pm, so Adam and I cleaned up and then settled in for a very lazy evening - I got most of my Christmas shopping done online Thanksgiving night.

Adam, Lauren & me 

Our meal!


We got on the road around 9:45am on Friday, and we made it to Charlotte to see our good friends Cal and Jodie and their kids by 12:15pm - just in time for Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch.  Most specifically, mac and cheese - this was the one side we really wanted but just couldn't justify making for three of us.  Thankfully, they had some from Thanksgiving, and we were able to get our fix.  They have two adorable kids - Madeline is in kindergarten and Jake will be 3 in January.  It was so good to see them and hang out with them and have them show us around Charlotte!  Charlotte was beautiful - the weather was fall-like, the leaves were colorful and falling, and it was a great weekend.  The children's library was really nice, and we stopped by a food hall near the library for lunch - I had grilled cheese and tomato soup, Adam a hoagie.  Cal was telling us about this amazing fried chicken place near them, and we tried to get this for dinner Saturday night, but they were closed for the whole weekend because of Thanksgiving.

Ava was VERY happy to see Adam.

Saturday night we went to Lake Wylie, SC to see one of my old roommates from college and her family.  I hadn't seen Stacey since her baby shower for Ali - who is now SIX.  They also have a little boy, Luke, and it was so nice to see Stacey and Derek and to meet Ali & Luke.  And to top off the great night, Clemson kicked the snot out of South Carolina, 34-10 (and it wasn't even that close).  We spent the night there and headed back to Cal & Jodie's in the morning.  As Stacey texted me that morning, we never took a picture while we were at their house - this was a common theme.  Out of all the friends and family we saw, I think the only photo I have of us with friends/family is in Miami with my friend James - which was pretty much the next place we went after Stacey's comment!  We were able to check out some local coffee houses and breweries on Sunday with Cal, Jodie, and their friends - it's a really nice, growing city, with decent public transportation.  It's too bad we were there a week too early, since Clemson stomped Miami there the very next weekend in the ACC Championship game, held about a mile from Cal & Jodie's.


Since we'd left San Diego in the middle of November, Adam had been interviewing for positions in San Diego & Denver.  One of the processes had been progressing very quickly, and they wanted to fly him out for an in-person interview.  So on Monday morning, I dropped Adam off at the airport at 6:30am and headed down to Florida by myself.  The drive was REALLY easy considering I hadn't driven 8-9 hours alone in quite some time, and I made it to Aunt Carole & Uncle Pete's by 3:45pm.  As a morning person, I was very thankful that Adam's flight was so early as it meant the majority of my drive was earlier in the day - I didn't really get tired until I was about an hour from their house, which wasn't too bad.

Adam's amazing fried chicken sandwich from The Crack Shack, back in San Diego

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