Put food and flying together and you have an equation that raises the enjoyment of each. The only way to make the flying/eating marriage any better is to introduce barbecue to the wedding. It’s the Holy Grail of recreational weekend flying.
The criteria for greatness is simple—a friendly airport, a brief walk, and some authentic ‘cue. Finding the airport is the easy part. There are hundreds of great airports with accommodating FBOs, nice runways, and in a good location. The food is often the downfall.
Nowhere do these two things come together better than Malcolm McKinnon Airport on St. Simons Island, Georgia, home of AOPA’s seventh and final fly-in of 2014. St Simons is a gem of an airport. Two perfectly maintained runways; a fantastic FBO; stunning scenery; a supportive, active base of pilots; and it’s close enough for pilots along the East Coast.
The definition of great barbecue depends greatly on your departure airport. The Carolinas are known for tangy pork shoulder, Texas for brisket, and Memphis for ribs. You’ll find all this at Southern Soul. You’ll also find smokers burning hickory logs and billowing their signature smell all around the building.
The restaurant is in a converted gas station, which adds to the charm. Perhaps like no other food in America, barbecue has a certain theatre to it. The same piece of meat served on a paper plate in the hot Georgia sun in front of an old gas station is accepted as superior to one eaten at a tablecloth-lined restaurant in the city. Southern Soul knows this. The feel is retro cool, and the food is best taken outside on the picnic tables with your new friends.
In researching things to do in St. Simons prior to our visit, Southern Soul came up again and again. It’s been featured on the Food Network, in national travel magazines, in city regionals, and everywhere in between. It became the only must do on a list of maybes.
We weren’t disappointed. I had the pork shoulder, my barometer of ‘cue excellence. And excellent it was. Photographer Chris Rose had the ribs, which he raved about on the way home.
Southern Soul may not be the best barbecue I’ve ever had, but it’s the best I’ve had near an airport. We met other pilots who had flown in for lunch. One was in a light sport aircraft from Florida. He had brought along a neighbor’s kid who was interested in aviation. With a trip up the wild Atlantic coast and a stop at Southern Soul, he’s no doubt more interested than ever.
We’ll see you Nov. 8 at St. Simons for a day of fun, friends, food, and flying at AOPA’s last fly-in of the year.