For the past five years, Derrick Hayes watched lines snake outside the Shell gas station on Winters Chapel Road, full of people hoping to get a taste of his Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.
Hayes knew he had outgrown his space, which he first opened as Dave’s Philly Water Ice and soon renamed Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, in memory of his father. So he started making plans to move his operation into not just one, but two larger locations.
The first one, located in downtown Atlanta at 57 Forsyth St., soft opens today, with a grand opening planned for Sept. 15. A second location is slated to open in late September in the Peachtree Pavilion development at 6035 Peachtree Blvd. in Doraville.
Hayes, who grew up in West Philadelphia with a short stint in Athens for 10th and 11th grade before moving to Atlanta as an adult, said he’s keeping the same general menu at the downtown location, with a couple of additions.
The 3,330 square-foot space will feature a “green light” express line, similar to the “Hot Now” sign at Krispy Kreme. The light, which will turn on during lunch, lets customers know when the restaurant’s traditional Dave’s Way sandwich is hot to go, helping to cut down on long lines. The Dave’s Way, which Hayes said is the restaurant’s biggest seller, comes with three cheeses, mild banana and sweet peppers, mushrooms and onions.
Hayes is also adding a pescatarian option to the menu by way of a salmon cheesesteak.
Other menu items include traditional beef and chicken cheesesteaks, a variety of fries, cheesesteak egg rolls, chicken wings and water ice.
Another addition at the downtown eatery is a selection of beer and wine, plus a 14-seat private room.
Hayes said the Doraville location, located less than four miles from his original location, is a nod to the customers who sometimes waited hours in line for his sandwiches.
“The people in this neighborhood welcomed me, and it felt right to stay in this area,” he said.
Hayes, who ranked in the top 10 in the Best Sandwich category at the 2018 World Food Championships, said his goal is to create something to make his two young daughters proud.
“I want to go to top with this thing,” he said. “I want to leave them a legacy.”
Big Dave’s Atlanta location will be open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday.
Return to AJC.com for details on the opening date for the Doraville location.
57 Forsyth St. NW, Atlanta. 404-343-0259, thebigdavescheesesteaks.com