Thatcher's is hidden treasure in Trenton

Thatcher's is hidden treasure in Trenton

January 30th, 2014 by Ben Benton in Chattnow Dining

The smoked and sliced rib combo comes with three sides. The ones above are fried green tomatoes, fried okra and french fries.

Photo by Ben Benton/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

Where: Thatcher's Barbeque and Grille.

Address: 35 Price St., Trenton, Ga.

Phone: 706-657-6465

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Price range: $2.49 (most sides)-$23.99 (whole slab of ribs).

Directions: Once you get on Interstate 59, look for Exit 11 at Trenton and turn east onto White Oak Gap Road/Georgia Highway 136 at the light at the end of the ramp. After turning, stay in the lane that goes straight and continue to the second light and turn left onto South Main Street/U.S. Highway 11. Go one block to a right onto Price Street. Thatcher's is on the left.

The smoked, sliced and rib combo comes with three sides, here, fried green tomatoes, fried okra and french fries.

TRENTON, Ga. - As you slip into downtown Trenton from the south, just before you get to Dade County's picturesque courthouse building, something will tickle your nose.

It's the smell of hickory smoke, and it will start your mouth watering.

Thatcher's Barbeque and Grille has been around since 2010, and the crowd that descends on the place during the prime dining hours is a good tip that the food is good.

I started dropping by a few years ago for jumbo pulled-pork sandwiches and decided to try a bigger dish for a change when my son and I visited recently, sneaking in just before the lunch-hour crowd.

That lunch crowd, by the way, is made up of people from all walks of life around Trenton, and most of them know the staff and family who work there by first name.

The first time I stopped, Thatcher's was a walk-up and carry-out "smoke shack" operation with a small, covered, lighted porch and a few picnic tables in the grass by the creek that runs alongside. Nowadays, it's kind of a scotched-together collection of small buildings with stained wood siding, metal roofs and a large covered deck that, on the chilly day we visited, was wrapped in plastic to keep the heat in.

THE MENU

The menu, flush with wood-fired, smokehouse goodies, has lots of fried sides and a selection of potato dishes packed with pork, chicken or beef brisket, as well as dishes called "shovels" that I haven't tried yet but seem to contain similar ingredients combined with hand-cut corn chips for shoveling down the tasty stuff.

I've been told the "buckets" - which go by names like "Tot a' lot," "Porky Bucket," "Chickey Doo" and "Brickhouse" - are a wondrous treat. The buckets, ranging in price from $6.69 to $7.99, are a combination of tater tots, cheese, different smoked meats, barbecue sauce, some with ranch, others with bacon and even fries.

There are the standard barbecue sandwiches regular ($4.69 or $4.89 for brisket) and jumbo ($5.29 or $5.59 for brisket) made of slow-smoked pulled pork, brisket and chicken. There's also a selection of smoked turkey breast, ham and a chicken club, po'boy, and other specialty sandwiches, all priced between $5.39 and $6.49.

Barbecue plates include pork ($9.99), smoked chopped chicken ($9.99), sliced brisket ($10.99), ribs ($14.99 half slab, $23.99 whole), pulled chicken and pork combo ($10.49), chopped and sliced combo (pork, chicken and brisket, $11.99), and the version with ribs that we ordered. All come with three sides and Texas toast.

Thatcher's has a lineup of eight burgers with one to two patties, weighing in from 5 to 8 ounces. The burgers range from $4.29 (small hamburger) to $8.99 (Double Trouble cheeseburger with 16 ounces of meat), depending on how big and how many patties are included.

There are 18 side dishes ($2.29-$4.99), all but four of them house specialties. And, of course, they have desserts, and they sell in bulk.

THE ORDER

We both ordered the chopped, sliced and cut combo, mine with sides of fried green tomatoes, fried okra and french fries, my son's with sides of fried sliced jalapenos, fried pickles and macaroni and cheese.

That plate ($13.99) comes with pulled and chopped pork, two thick slices of beef brisket and three ribs all in a stack, surrounded by three sides with some homemade ranch in a cup for dipping. There's homemade regular and hot BBQ sauce on the table, along with a bottle of Tabasco, in case the hot's not hot enough. I thought the hot was plenty spicy, but some would add some heat, I guess. A big roll of paper towels serves as napkins, which comes in handy with the hands-on nature of the eats.

The brisket would stack up against the best in the region, well-smoked, juicy and tender with a nice, red smoke ring. The pulled pork, which had been chopped, was deliciously tender and smoky with not a speck of fat left behind. The ribs had a bit too much bark for my preference - some people like that - and were a little dry, though they were really smoky. The great house sauces jazzed the ribs up just fine.

My son and I agreed that the side dishes were some of the best we've had anywhere. I thought the fried green tomatoes were the best I've ever eaten, and my son thought the sliced jalapenos and fried pickles were excellent, especially complimented with the ranch sauce, which the waitress said she made herself.

THE SERVICE

When we walked in, the waitress greeted us with a homey, "Hi. Y'all can sit wherever," and we were served our perfect sweet teas ($1.99 each) in just a couple of minutes while we perused the new menu. The waitresses in such a small space passed by our table every 20 seconds or so, and we never ran out of anything. I found it interesting that they were using tablet computers instead of the traditional order pad for taking orders and payments; very high-tech considering the milk-pail lights overhead.

THE SPACE

And speaking of milk-pail lights, the d├ęcor was very rustic with comfortable booths seats and chairs. The main dining area had seven tables, and the deck had four tables and a counter bar with six seats facing a large flat-screen television.

In warm weather, many people also sit at the picnic tables outside. Everything was clean, and the furnishings looked pretty new.

THE VERDICT

I'll keep coming back, and now I'm putting the delicious brisket and fried green tomatoes on my must-haves list. Owners Melanie and John Thatcher denote their specialties with the stamp of a big pig on the menu, and there's so much variety it'll take several visits to try them all. I'm ready and willing.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.