Fighting to survive is nothing new for D.B.A. Barbecue

‘Somehow, this seems easier,’ owner Matt Coggin says
D.B.A. Barbecue owner Matt Coggin carries an order for pickup. “We ll get through it,” Coggin said of keeping the business afloat during the current pandemic. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

D.B.A. Barbecue owner Matt Coggin carries an order for pickup. “We ll get through it,” Coggin said of keeping the business afloat during the current pandemic. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

You might say that Matt Coggin has seen it all since opening D.B.A. Barbecue in 2009. The Virginia-Highland restaurant debuted in the height of the recession. It weathered Snowpocalypse, the 2014 snowstorm that crippled metro Atlanta for almost a week.

Oh, and then, just a few months ago, the building literally crumbled.

“The facade of the building fell down on New Year’s Eve,” Coggin said. “That is how our year started. We were already scrambling going into this.”

“This,” of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nothing is normal anymore,” Coggin said, though he’s taking the surreal situation in stride. “I’m good. I’m not quarantined yet. I’m good.”

D.B.A. Barbecue offers a changing lineup of family-style meals, including the buttermilk fried chicken dinner. Priced at $45, it easily feeds a family of four. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

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Having faced enough challenges over the past decade, he feels positioned to get though the latest crisis.

“Somehow, this seems a little easier,” he said.

It’s manageable, Coggin said, because he’s got a seasoned staff. The D.B.A. menu, too, is tried and true. “The food is what it’s supposed to be; it’s not a work in progress,” he said. “Guests have an expectation of us that we are able to meet.”

They are meeting those expectations with half of the usual 26-person staff.

“I stood in the middle of the restaurant and said, ‘Who wants to stay and work and who wants to not work?’” he recounted. “Some people couldn’t stay because of children; they have to be as safe as they can.”

Coggin attempts to divvy up the limited number of shifts equally. “I’m struggling to make sure it’s fair for everybody. If they ask, ‘Can I get one more shift?’ I don’t have it.” He doesn’t like having to tell that to staffers.

D.B.A. Barbecue sells wine, cocktail kits and beer, including gallons of draft beer. Pictured is the aptly named Lay Low, an IPA from Monday Night Brewing. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

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One reason Coggin is offering his entire menu for takeout and delivery is because that enabled him to put one more staffer on the line. The other reason is because Coggin feels it best represents the D.B.A. concept. “We might as well be who we are,” he said.

Besides all the D.B.A. meaty delights, the restaurant has launched prepared family-style meals. Although that menu changes every few days, items like chicken pot pie and the buttermilk fried chicken dinner (a generous portion that comes with a pair of sides and a half-dozen corn muffins) have been so popular, they’ll stick around for a while.

He also added a community market. “It came about because I don’t really want to go to the grocery store. I’d rather go to something smaller and more controlled,” Coggin said. As customers, especially nearby residents, come to pick up dinner, they’ll add to their order such items as fresh eggs, fruit, vegetables, paper supplies and cleaning products.

D.B.A. has added a community market to its website. Customers can order fresh eggs, fruit, vegetables, paper supplies, cleaning products and other grocery items. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

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“We’ll get through it,” Coggin said. “Being that we survived 2009, this isn’t easy, but parts of it are easier. We can make educated decisions.”

One of the best educated decisions I made was to add to my D.B.A. takeout order a gallon of Monday Night Brewing’s aptly named Lay Low IPA for my husband. Nothin’ like 128 ounces of draft beer to help him lay low.

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Menu: entire regular menu; selection of prepared family-style meals that changes every few days

What's new: family-style meals, community market

Alcohol: wine, beer (including gallons of draft beer), cocktail kits

What I ordered: buttermilk fried chicken family-style meal; selection of fresh produce from the community market (avocados, potatoes, cauliflower, vine-ripe tomatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, spinach); 1 gallon of Monday Night Brewing Lay Low IPA. The fried chicken dinner ($45) was comfort food heaven. It easily feeds a family of four. It also traveled well, with the chicken placed in a large, lidded aluminum tray, and the sides — mashed potatoes and gravy, and coleslaw (creamy, crunchy, nicely seasoned) — in quart containers. Prices for some community market items may seem high, but you are paying for the convenience. The lid for the gallon of cold beer was sealed, ensuring spill-free transport.

Service options: delivery via ChowNow for regular D.B.A. menu only (not family-style meals or community market orders). D.B.A. offers delivery using its own drivers within a 5-mile radius of restaurant. Order via phone or on D.B.A. website (preferred). Pickup tent in parking lot, or call upon arrival for curbside service.

Safety protocols: front and back of house follow all recommended precautions; staff wears gloves and masks; customers not permitted inside.

Address, phone: 1190 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta, 404-249-5000

Hours: 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays



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