Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
ST. SIMONS ISLAND — Returning to this island, named for the apostle, who was a fisherman, is like going back to homecoming. You see so many friends you haven’t seen in a spell. You are seduced by the environment, the sentiments and the haunts — old and new — which you have come to treasure.
A platter of fried shrimp, wild from the sea which links up to the shores of another continent is to be savored and cherished. The ambience of the Frederica House is alluring, encores taking ongoing precedent. A walk on the beach or through the cozy neighborhoods lifts all spirits. And so does a dalliance among the shelves at G.J. Ford’s Book Shop. Laidback St. Simons has enticing variety.
While it is not incongruous that Southern Soul, a beer and barbecue place without peer, would hang out its shingle at 2020 Demere Road, you would think it more in place just off a black topped rural highway somewhere south of some place in Hinterland, U.S.A. Not two first downs from Southeast Georgia’s only roundabout; not just a stone’s throw from the Golden Isles Airport where corporate jets come to and fro to offer either disembarkation or embarkation for the social elite who hang out at Sea Island which is more than a stone’s throw away but well within the reach of any Lexus or Mercedes owner who wants to take 10 minutes to pick up an order so long as he is willing to park with pickup trucks, operated by beaded guys in baseball caps and tee shirts displaying the face of Uga, the famous mascot of the University of Georgia.
Southern Soul smells like a barbecue place ought to smell. It looks like a barbecue place ought to look, and, by Jehoshaphat, feels like a barbecue place ought to feel. If you have been here and relish the experience, please join me in asking the ownership not to franchise. You just can’t duplicate this place which is at its best in late spring and summer when its open air pavilion is not threatened by the elements. While I haven’t had the experience, I suspect that the ultimate pleasure might come from barbecue and a cold beer in the late afternoon with the rain descending unintimidating on the tin roof of this come-back-for-more place.
You are smitten by the flavor of the smoldering barbecue when you park and open your car doors. There are country music sounds wafting about as you see folks of all description enjoying an unforgettable meal. The neon Miller Lite and Budweiser signs are confirmation you have found the elixir of the simple life, the good life. Over the door, car tags from about every county in Georgia abound — some from New York and New Jersey evidence that if Southern Soul had been established in the mid-1860s, General Sherman would have laid down his arms and called for communion with beer and barbecue.
A palm tree stands peaceful sentry to Southern Soul’s environs. Nearby is a Lexus. Next to the Lexus is a Ford pickup and next to the pickup is a Harley-Davison motorcycle. A bearded guy rides up on his bicycle, parks it in the midst of that vehicular smorgasbord and soon emerges from inside with a longneck beer and a barbecue plate. He finds his way to an empty spot at one of the many picnic tables , his bearing reflecting contentment and peace in a world the evening news doesn’t know.
Garden and Gun knows about Southern Soul. And so does Southern Living and Georgia Trend. Fishermen and gardeners know it, too. Locals and transients. Blue jeans and Brooks Brothers attire, it doesn’t matter. Anybody who loves a good meal, offering the best barbecue west of Ossabaw.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.