Chef Todd Ginsberg, Jennifer and Ben Johnson, and Shelley Sweet are the partners behind some of Atlanta’s most popular restaurants, including the General Muir, Fred’s Meat and Bread, Yalla, and the Canteen, and the bakery TGM Bread.
Last week, though, the big news was the opening of the foursome's long-awaited counter service barbecue concept, Wood's Chapel BBQ, with chef Wilson Gourley of 8Arm and the General Muir, and pitmaster Brian Keenan of Meating Street Barbecue joining the culinary team.
Located in the burgeoning Carter redevelopment on Georgia Avenue in Atlanta’s historic Summerhill neighborhood, Wood’s Chapel was named for one of the first churches established in the community after the Civil War.
A 1930s-era brick building houses the 5,000-plus-square-foot restaurant, which includes the main kitchen, a cinder-block order counter and bar, a spacious dining room with communal tables, and a private dining room and game room.
Outside, there’s a sprawling patio with umbrella-topped picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. Nearby, the free-standing smokehouse boasts an array of wood-fired smokers, including an Oyler Pit and a custom offset, plus a vented burn barrel, all fed from stacks of white oak logs.
The multiregional barbecue menu features North Carolina-style Riverview Farms whole hog pork, Texas-style CAB prime beef brisket, St. Louis-style pork ribs, smoked turkey breast and hot smoked salmon.
Most of the meats show up in sandwiches, too, such as the Whole Hog with pickles, slaw, crunchy bits, pasilla and guajillo sauce, and spicy sauce, and BBQ Cue-bano with smoked pork shoulder, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, cracklins’ and mustard sauce.
Sides are equally eclectic, with beet and jalapeño coleslaw, smoked pork belly fried rice, creamed corn with chile mayo, a take on Brunswick Stew with Carolina rice and scallions, and Wilson’s Salad of the Day.
Under the heading, “Other Stuff,” you’ll find the likes of deviled eggs, hot boiled peanuts, pork poppers with chile queso, smoked wings, and BBQ Dirty Mac mac and cheese. And for dessert, there are banana, peach, peanut butter, coconut cream, and lemon poppy chess pies.
The liquor license is still pending, but coming soon, look for a half-dozen beers on draft, including selections from nearby brewing neighbors Eventide and Halfway Crooks, as well as cans, bottles, and buckets. Cocktails include a Peach Whiskey Smash and a Cheerwine and whiskey slushy. The succinct wine list offers red, white and rosé by the glass or carafe.
Late last week, Ginsberg and Sweet took a short break from their work at Wood’s Chapel to show off the space and talk a bit about the menu.
“We really wanted to do our take on barbecue here,” Sweet said. “We’re very excited about Summerhill. And Todd and Jennifer and Ben and I are all really passionate about barbecue. We’ve all done a ton of research, really trying to find what barbecue means for us.
“This is a big building, much bigger than any of our other restaurants. But barbecue is one of those things where we can do a lot of people. So in the dining room, we can do somewhere between 90 and 100 folks, and 40 to 50 in the private dining room, plus the game room. Outdoors, we can seat 120 people.”
Speaking to the style of barbecue at Wood’s Chapel, Ginsberg called it “American.”
“I think the General Muir was a catalyst,” he said. “The idea was to try to build a modern American restaurant. Obviously, there was a specific region with New York. Here I think it was a lot more open, because barbecue has been around the South and the Southwest for so long.
“Texas-style brisket is just wonderful. Carolina whole hog is great. The New York-style kippered salmon that we do is wonderful, too. St. Louis-style ribs are the Chateaubriand cut of ribs. One of the things we decided to do is cook throughout the day, so we have salmon, turkey and ribs coming out fresh.”
Beyond smoked meats, Ginsberg pointed to the sides, pies and a welcoming atmosphere as key to the concept.
“Going into it, sides were what I concentrated on the most,” he said. “They were a very simple way of elevating a barbecue experience. And we’re making many of those throughout the day, too. Chris Marconi, our pastry chef at the General Muir, developed the pies specially for this place, and they are amazing. I can’t say enough about them. They’re selling out early every day. I want to hang out here. We wanted a place where people don’t just come for lunch, but come to be with their family and friends.”
85 Georgia Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-522-3000, woodschapelbbq.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Wood’s Chapel BBQ in Summerhill
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