First Look: Smokebelly BBQ, Buckhead

Smokebelly BBQ, the new concept from the team behind Tin Lizzy’s, Big Ketch, Saltwater Grill and Milton’s, recently opened in Buckhead with executive chef Darrell Rice in the kitchen. The menu features barbecue inspired by multiple regions of the country, 20 craft beers on draft and classic and specialty cocktails.

The look: Located in the East Andrews space once occupied by Tavern 99, the free-standing building has been renovated to resemble a wild style roadhouse. Rustic wood and metal materials meet decorative knickknacks, long communal tables and red tuck and roll Naugahyde booths. Two distinct bar areas appear destined to accommodate the weekend crowds, and garage doors open to a world of outdoor seating.

The scene: Early one weeknight, the dining room was nearly full with a diverse gathering of families with children, large parties and couples scattered at booths and the bar. In spite of some earlier rain and clouds, a few folks made it out to the deck for drinks.

The food: Rice’s offerings begin with snacks like spiced pecans and smoked almonds ($3.75) and jarred pimento cheese with house-made crackers ($4.25). Starters come as “Belly Bites” — think fried pickled okra ($5) and cherry cola sauced baby back ribs ($10.75) — or healthier “Skinny Fixin’s” like watermelon smoked feta salad ($4.75). Smoked meats are served as sandwiches with one side ($8.50-$12.25) or plates with two sides ($12.25-$24.50). Look for turkey breast, pulled pork, sausage, brisket and ribs, plus salmon and trout. Sides ($3) range from fries and mac-n-cheese to smoky braised kale and chilled sweet corn and edamame.

The drinks: On the cocktail menu, the Southern Pina ($10) mixes mezcal, pineapple, jalapeno, agave syrup and lime juice, while a take on the Liberal ($9) uses bourbon with amaro, sweet vermouth and orange bitters. On the recent draft list, Lagunitas IPA ($4) was the big bargain.

The extras: Daily lunch hours begin at 11:30 a.m. on June 9. Look for live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and a Sunday gospel brunch coming soon.

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