Recently, chefs Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere opened King Barbecue in Alpharetta. The new concept replaces the Avalon location of Bantam + Biddy, the business partners’ casual Southern chicken restaurant.
The move follows the closing of Bantam + Biddy at Lenox Square, which Doty and Gummere transformed in January with another new concept, ATL Taco.
While the build-out at Avalon wasn’t radical — preserving the Bantam + Biddy booths and tables and the basic open configuration of the space — the “chicken coop” decor is a bit more rustic, and there’s a new stage in back, with live music several nights a week.
Carey Wise, a Georgia native, longtime Atlanta chef and veteran of kitchens at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q and Grand Champion BBQ, is the managing partner and pitmaster at King Barbecue.
Wise also is the founder of the Southern Links BBQ sauce and blended spice business, with products in around 400 stores in the Southeast.
Like Bantam + Biddy, the King Barbecue menu features fresh sides, including gluten-free and vegetarian offerings, and snacks and starters such as boiled peanuts cooked in collard green pot liquor, black-eyed pea hummus, and pimento cheese.
Of course, when it comes to barbecue, it is all about the smoked meat. Wise has said that if he had to declare a style, it would be Georgia, because the state is a mix of many different styles.
But his offerings are decidedly eclectic, with Texas-influenced brisket, North Carolina-influenced pulled pork, and baby back ribs, instead of St. Louis-style, because that’s what the guests in Alpharetta wanted.
Last week, Doty and Wise sat down at a table at King Barbecue to talk about the changeover and how the menu evolved.
“We’re really excited about this now, and happy with what’s been happening, so far,” Doty said. “It all started when we acquired the commercial smoker from JR Manufacturing in Mesquite, Texas. That thing is like the Rolls-Royce of smokers.”
“Of course, there was a learning curve with it, being a stick burner, with no gas,” Wise said. “So I had to find the hot spots, and learn how to rotate things properly in it. But now it’s cooking really nice and we’re having no problems. We’re using oak and pecan, and the flavor is being very well received.”
Getting back to the menu, Wise said it was important to have a variety of dishes and listen to what people wanted.
“We kept the appetizers very simple,” he said. “We went very large with the salads. It’s a very generous portion, and you can choose the meat that you want to go on it. So you can get the smoked chicken, you can get the smoked turkey, or you can get the lean brisket, which are all healthy choices. Half of our sides are vegetarian and/or gluten-free. Our cornbread and crackers are gluten-free.
“With the sandwiches, we went with a larger portion. All the sandwiches are a half-pound of meat. And we’re serving that on a Martin’s potato bun with house-made bread-and-butter pickles. You can get a sandwich and a side, and you’re not going to leave hungry by any means.”
Wise said it was important to keep the prices reasonable for the portion size.
“We brought the value to Avalon,” he said. “At lunch, you can get a third-pound sandwich, a side and a drink for $12. You’re gonna leave full, and you’re gonna leave happy, and we’re not going to empty your wallet. Having that sense of value was something I really wanted to focus on from the beginning, and I think we nailed that right on the head.
“And no matter what your dietary restrictions, you’re always going to be able to come in and find something to eat.”
4195 Avalon Blvd., Alpharetta. 678-248-5159, https://www.kingbarbecueatl.com
More images from a First Look at King Barbecue
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