In early May, shortly before the official debut of its first Atlanta restaurant on Howell Mill Road, Nashville-based Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria offered area teachers a sneak peek, along with the promise of free pizza.
Founded by three childhood friends and Tennessee State University grads, Clint Gray, Derrick Moore and E.J. Reed, that kind of outreach is representative of the business they describe as an “artisan pizza shop with a love for hip-hop culture, locally sourced ingredients and building community.”
In 2017, after selling their initial partnership, an eco-friendly moving and storage company, Gray, Moore and Reed opened the first Slim & Husky’s in North Nashville — a historically black neighborhood, where both gentrification and a lack of dining options epitomized the dynamics of a rapidly developing urban area.
In addition to the current West Midtown location, a second Atlanta location is in the works on Metropolitan Parkway in Adair Park. And with the recent hiring of restaurant business veteran Betty Marshall as CEO, Slim & Husky’s will continue to expand, with new locations planned for Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham, Houston, Dallas and Austin.
The mainstay of the fast-casual concept is signature and build-your-own pizzas in two sizes — the “slim” 10-inch for $12, and the “husky” 16-inch for $15. Signature pies, such as Got 5 On It, Rony, Roni, Rone!, and Cee No Green, are named for the founders’ favorite jams and hip-hop and ’90s R&B artists.
Beyond that, there’s the “Hotboy” salad with a choice of cooked toppings, and flavored cinnamon rolls, like Sticky Fingaz with caramel sauce, bacon, Uncle Nearest 1856 Whiskey and glazed pecans.
The beverage offerings range from self-serve iced tea and soft drinks, including Stubborn Soda brand Agave Vanilla, and Citrus Hibiscus Orange, to wine, cider and adult slushies. The list of 10-plus rotating local beers on tap is being curated by Atlanta hip-hop beer aficionado Ale Sharpton.
But hip-hop culture may be most evident in the high-volume beats pumping from the sound system, and the works that were commissioned to line the walls of the former One Rooster space, including murals by Atlanta artists Dizzy, Quake and Xmaine.
Last week, Gray, who serves as Slim & Husky’s chief marketing officer, sat down at a table on the patio to talk about the story behind the business.
“I can’t talk about me without talking about my two best friends, Derrick and E.J.,” Gray said. “Slim & Husky’s is the story of one skinny dude and two heavy guys as kids. E.J. was the skinny one. We were all college roommates at Tennessee State, and we all had visions of having our own business.
“Our theme is ‘Pizza. Art. Music.’ And we like to highlight our culture because the media doesn’t always do the best job of showing success stories in African American neighborhoods. So we want to put out a product that’s excellent and kind of change the narrative where it needs to be changed.”
Gray said the decision to bring the first Slim & Husky’s outside of Nashville to Atlanta was a natural one.
“Being from Nashville, Atlanta was always that big city away from home. When you turned 18, it was the first place you wanted to go with your friends because you knew it was a good time,” he said. “And at Tennessee State, we always played in the 100 Black Men of Atlanta Celebration Bowl down here. With the entertainment and the music scene, and the movie scene growing, we felt like our concept could really fit in.
“We grew up listening to hip-hop and R&B. That’s why we play it super loud. When people ask us to turn it down, we tell them, ‘No. It goes with the whole story. It’s our culture. It’s who we are.’ And we all love art. We feel like art enhances all experiences, and we want to use it to connect with people when they come in our spaces. Right now, we have a mix of local Atlanta artists, and we also brought down a couple of pieces from Nashville artists. We’re in the process of starting our Slim & Husky’s collective, with local artists going from city to city and doing art shows.”
Along with the art and music, Slim & Husky’s is still obviously a restaurant, and as such, Gray said the goal is to make it user-friendly.
“We have the build-your-own concept, but you can still order like Domino’s,” he said. “You can get takeout. You can order online through our app or our website or go to Uber Eats or DoorDash or Postmates. We just want to sell as many pizzas as possible, and make it convenient for you. P.R.E.A.M. is a signature pizza, but it also is our hashtag and our tagline. Pizza Rules Everything Around Me. P.R.E.A.M. team. Everything P.R.E.A.M.”
1016 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-458-3327, slimandhuskys.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Slim and Husky’s in West Midtown