Coach Drew Burnham, ABG College Football Analyst
It’s that wonderful time of year again when the highways and High School hallways are filled with college football coaches on a wide-reaching quest for the next generation’s best football talent. The expedition is exciting, ever changing and completely unpredictable. Try as you may to plan your days as well as possible, the inevitable always finds you and your path is disrupted in ways you could never imagine. Every lead must be trusted and every stone must be overturned for fear that the unrealistic outlier is the next big name in college football. That wouldn’t be the case if there weren’t so many of those stories every year in the game. Then again – if there weren’t that many of those stories this great game would lose some of its luster.
The odyssey takes you to many small towns looking for their young Friday night hero. What’s the best thing about small towns OTHER THAN their tremendous knack for producing football players? That’s right – It’s the food! My recent recruiting trip lead me to cover 2,767 miles in 10 days without leaving my state. I saw the overwhelming majority of South Georgia which is the most notorious region of our great state when it comes to producing hard-working, gritty, talented young players. It is also home to countless aforementioned small towns overflowing with the best food you’ve never heard of. While you’re on the road and recruiting is your primary focus…a man’s gotta eat. Todd Blackledge thought he had it going on with “Taste of the Town” but he’s never worked for it quite like I did. I’m not saying these are the absolute best places in South Georgia (There were certainly more I was crushed that I couldn’t get to) but I found these and promise that if you are to one day also stumble into them, you could do so free of worry or disappointment. These are the best I found in their genre over the last 2 weeks.
DISCLAIMER: The NCAA prevents me from naming people or schools so if you want to get a few levels deep into this, or you just really like high school football, start your own google map scavenger hunt to see if you can find out where I was.
CHANDLER’S DRIVE IN – THOMASVILLE
The walls are covered with jerseys and autographs of past athletic greats of 2 storied programs that call the city home. I got a Double Cheeseburger with a side of fries and a Large drink for the road for less than $5. When the cashier told me my total I had her go back through my order with me just to make sure she heard me correctly. She seemed like it was odd that I would be surprised and asked if I was out of town. I just smiled and replied “something like that” as I handed her the cash. The burger was smaller (it was 2.79…get 2 if you’re really hungry) and the fries would remind you of Steak & Shake except they were good. I’m told that chili dogs and breakfast sandwiches are both extremely safe plays as well. Grab yourself your favorite flavor milkshake on your way out. There is no industrial mixer in the back…
JERSEY’S PIZZA – WATERS AVE, SAVANNAH
What do you do when you’re in a bit of a time crunch trying to make sure you get to every school you’ve got to get to? Grab a slice. While they are definitely able to make you whatever you want, the lunch special is the way I went. 2 slices and a drink OR 1 slice, a salad and a drink for 6.49. This isn’t some knock off pizzeria. The slices are legit in size and quality. It’s tough to do buffet style pizza without sacrificing quality but Jersey’s figured it out. It’s heated from underneath, not just with a lamp overhead. Best slice I’ve had in quite a while. I didn’t walk in with high expectations. Just trust it…
BBQ PIT – CORNER OF 1ST AVE & 3RD ST, MOULTRIE
As a big BBQ guy, this decision was the toughest because there were a LOT of contenders. What set the pit aside wasn’t the thick-sliced savory BBQ or the sweet sauce that was out of this world good….it was the sides. The pit was the total package: Cabin building, BBQ, Sauce, Vegetables, sweet tea, waitress named Ethel. What a time to be alive! The Pit ran away with the BBQ race in the same way that you have picked your favorite BBQ restaurant. Tell me why you like it the most. You don’t know! You can’t verbalize why it’s the best. It’s just good! Prices were reasonable by my memory although I can’t say for sure. Man, the people of Moultrie sure do love their football.
BUBBA JAX CRAB SHACK – VALDOSTA
While the waitress could not support the Shorter Hawk Logo on my shirt, she treated me like family just the same. Customer service at this place is at a premium. It was likely the friendliest place I was in all week. It was like a chic-fil-a. Eat-mor-fish. I had eaten a late lunch and wasn’t in search of something big. I ordered the Shrimp and grits app. Y’all…. For real. If you’re in Valdosta make it happen. Get it as the app and treat yourself to something else also, but make sure you get the shrimp and grits. If you’re even driving past Valdosta on your way to Florida for vacation…make it happen. This is not a recommendation. Get to Bubba Jax.
BERNIE’S OYSTER HOUSE RIVER ST, SAVANNAH
Shut up Bernie, shut up. You had me at hello. This place grabs you as soon as you step foot in the door. I stayed for an hour and a half after I was finished just hanging out. It was a Tuesday night so the tourist traffic was very low. This seemed to be the locals place on River Street. Waitresses were calling patrons by name. I felt like I was in an episode of cheers. I just didn’t want to leave. Save the tourist stuff for later. If you’re on River Street, get to Bernie’s. Joe’s Crab shack will still be there. Get in there, grab you a coke and a shrimp po’boy. Kick back, stay a while, tell stories, listen to better stories and enjoy yourself. I really enjoyed this spot and you will too.
There you have it. Those are my top recommendations from the previous trip. Leave comments or reach out with suggestions. This won’t be the last trip to this area. I can’t wait to get back down there and try out your favorite spots.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire