Award-winning Georgia pitmaster keeps putting out fires during pandemic

William Latimer is co-owner of Bub-Ba-Q, with locations in Jasper and Woodstock. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
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William Latimer is co-owner of Bub-Ba-Q, with locations in Jasper and Woodstock. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Bub-Ba-Q offers championship barbecue for takeout in Woodstock and Jasper

As you navigate life during a pandemic, I’ll wager you’re making a lot of decisions based on trust. When it comes to barbecue, I trust Bubba.

His real name is William Latimer, but Bubba sounds more fitting for an award-winning pitmaster. I met Bubba a few years ago when a barbecue-loving pal drove me around greater Atlanta to meet some notable names in barbecue.

The pork rinds at Bub-Ba-Q in Woodstock are addictively seasoned, not too oily, crunchy and fresh. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
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The pork rinds at Bub-Ba-Q in Woodstock are addictively seasoned, not too oily, crunchy and fresh. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

His Bub-Ba-Q has locations in Jasper and Woodstock. On my first visit to the Woodstock barbecue joint in 2017, I was struck by the trophies displayed. I felt out of my league asking a highly decorated barbecue champion about his ways with smoked meats. Yet, his laid-back, unassuming manner put me at ease. And, his barbecue had me groaning with pleasure.

I left with a brown paper sack filled with pork rinds dusted with an addictive, salty-sweet seasoning, the same dry rub used on Bub-Ba-Q's ribs, pork and chicken. They are barely oily, uber-fresh, crunchy and mammoth-sized — the best in greater Atlanta.

Bub-Ba-Q offers championship barbecue. Pictured, clockwise from left: wings with sweet and spicy sauce, a pint of potato salad, Bubba Penos, pork rinds, half-rack of baby back ribs with collards and coleslaw, half-pound of smoked brisket. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Caption
Bub-Ba-Q offers championship barbecue. Pictured, clockwise from left: wings with sweet and spicy sauce, a pint of potato salad, Bubba Penos, pork rinds, half-rack of baby back ribs with collards and coleslaw, half-pound of smoked brisket. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

In normal times, Bubba would be splitting his time between the restaurants and the competition circuit. But, for the past seven weeks, he’s clocked 12- to 14-hour days smoking, wrapping and selling meat.

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The challenges have been plenty, from furloughing 80% of his staff — about half of the 52 employees now have been rehired — to applying for an SBA loan. “People took pay cuts, and they are working three times more than they normally would,” Bubba lamented.

Dining editor Ligaya Figueras highly recommends starting your meal with an order of Bubba Penos. Wrapped in smoked bacon and stuffed with pulled pork, these are some meaty poppers. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
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Dining editor Ligaya Figueras highly recommends starting your meal with an order of Bubba Penos. Wrapped in smoked bacon and stuffed with pulled pork, these are some meaty poppers. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Bubba now has more fires to extinguish. A beef shortage is his top concern. With the scarcity, beef prices may skyrocket, he said. He also noted that, in the past week, the price of pork butts increased by 50% and baby back ribs by 30%. Pulled pork and ribs are among his bestsellers.

William “Bubba” Latimer is the owner and pitmaster at Bub-Ba-Q, with locations in Jasper and Woodstock. LIGAYA FIGUERAS/LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Caption
William “Bubba” Latimer is the owner and pitmaster at Bub-Ba-Q, with locations in Jasper and Woodstock. LIGAYA FIGUERAS/LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

The question facing Bubba is whether to apply surcharges to cover the increased cost, “or do you remove them from menu? If you raise prices to cover the cost, do you lose business because of that? That’s a tough spot to be in.”

The baby back ribs from Bub-Ba-Q are as good as they get. They offer fabulous smoke and a slight bit of tug. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Caption
The baby back ribs from Bub-Ba-Q are as good as they get. They offer fabulous smoke and a slight bit of tug. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Another tough spot: deciding whether and when to open for on-premises dining. Currently, guests can eat in the outdoor spaces at both Bub-Ba-Q locations, but there is no wait service, and social distancing is enforced.

He expressed frustration with the latest state guidelines. "How is it we could operate this whole time doing curbside and takeout not wearing masks? Now, all employees must wear masks, even if they don't open dining rooms. I don't understand that logic."

An order of wings comes with the standard celery sticks and Ranch dressing. For a carbo load, order the potato salad. LIGAYA FIGUERAS/ LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
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An order of wings comes with the standard celery sticks and Ranch dressing. For a carbo load, order the potato salad. LIGAYA FIGUERAS/ LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

However, what has made perfect sense to Bubba is continuing to feed folks throughout this public health crisis. “Part of our company morals are to support the community,” he said. “We’ve fed hospitals, local people in need of food. To date, we’ve fed over 2,000 people.

“We have to be involved in the community; they have supported us over the years.”

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

BUB-BA-Q

Menu: full menu of barbecue, appetizers and sides, including family packs, with periodic specials.

Alcohol: domestic bottled beer

What I ordered: Bubba Penos; wings with sweet and spicy sauce; 1/2 pound beef brisket; 1/2 rack wet baby back ribs; pint potato salad; pork rinds. I highly recommend the Bubba Penos. Wrapped in smoked bacon and stuffed with pulled pork, these are some meaty poppers. The ribs are as good as they get. They offer fabulous smoke and a slight bit of tug. My husband likes his wet, so that's how I ordered them, but dry is mighty fine, too. For sides, I picked coleslaw and collards. The former are standard when it comes to creaminess, tang and the chop size of the veggies. The collards — even stems — were meltingly tender. When I placed my order, I was advised to get the wings with sweet and spicy sauce. They were sticky, meaty wings, but I expected more heat. The chunky potato salad was a satisfying carb choice. Everything traveled well except the brisket, which needed to be reheated. The pork rinds aren't always available; if they are, don't miss out.

Service options: carryout, including curbside pickup; order via phone; third-party delivery

Safety protocols: follows standard CDC protocols and state guidelines; contact-free curbside transactions; separate entrance and exit for those who enter the restaurant; constant cleaning and sanitizing.

Address, phone: 1976 Highway 53 W., Jasper, 706-692-7929; 10020 Highway 92, Woodstock, 678-402-1662

Hours: noon-8 p.m. daily (11 a.m.-9 p.m. beginning May 13)

Website: bub-ba-q.com

created on Thursday 5/7/2020 at 11:35:18 am by Ligaya Figueras
modified on Friday 5/8/2020 at 12:35:00 pm by Lea Holland

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