Atlanta Order In: Fox Bros. adapts to the realities of selling smoked meats during a pandemic

Fox Bros. BBQ "Que"Osk favorites
Caption
Fox Bros. BBQ "Que"Osk favorites

Credit: C. W. Cameron

Credit: C. W. Cameron

Popular Atlanta barbecue restaurant will close for Election Day

On Tuesday, no one will be manning the five phone lines at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q to take orders for brisket, ribs, pulled pork or wings. Like a handful of other Atlanta restaurants, Fox Bros. will be closed Nov. 3, so that employees can vote in the general election without worrying about missing a shift.

Jonathan Fox, who co-founded the local barbecue chain with twin brother Justin, said they made the decision to close for the general election after having watched the problems with long lines and voting machines in the June primary. “We didn’t want any of our staff to be stressed about it,” Fox said.

Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is known for its cue but try the wings! (photography by Renee Brock)
Caption
Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is known for its cue but try the wings! (photography by Renee Brock)

Credit: Renee Brock

Credit: Renee Brock

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The brothers from Texas have faced other stresses, which have piled up like a double order of smothered Tater Tots loaded with Brunswick stew or brisket chile — popular appetizers known as the Tomminator and the Lopez.

Just last week, an employee tested positive for COVID-19, and the DeKalb Avenue operation closed for cleaning and employee testing.

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Going forward, the restaurant will offer employees free testing every Friday, prior to opening for service. “We are reinforcing our protocols," Fox said. “We’re trying to keep our management team focused on making sure the business is functioning, and that our staff is safe.”

Regular patrons of the original location in Candler Park certainly have noticed a change from pre-pandemic times. It’s now counter service only. And, with a smaller kitchen staff, some of the most beloved menu items are limited (like the weekends-only beef short rib), or temporarily are unavailable (like the jalapeno poppers). The latter “is a super labor-intensive side (dish),” Fox said. “Two people, who worked 40 hours a week, their only job was to make jalapeno poppers.”

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Jonathan and Justin Fox have adapted their business to changes wrought by the pandemic. Courtesy of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
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Jonathan and Justin Fox have adapted their business to changes wrought by the pandemic. Courtesy of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

The brothers' Que-Osk on Ottley Drive in Midtown has seen changes, as well. There are no wings, Texas fries or tots. “It’s mainly straight-up barbecue, hot and cold sides and some specials,” Fox said. However, increased hours, and the added option of DoorDash delivery within 5-7 miles of that outpost, have seen sales double at the Que-Osk, compared with pre-pandemic days.

The brothers also got creative with catering. In late spring, they loaded up the truck on Friday nights and headed to a designated neighborhood, where they set up a tent and peddled smoked meats and sides to residents.

You can get Fox Bros. brisket chili as a meal, or as a layer of Frito pie. Courtesy of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
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You can get Fox Bros. brisket chili as a meal, or as a layer of Frito pie. Courtesy of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

There also was the chancy move of shipping a bologna sandwich to food personality Guy Fieri as part of a Zoom taping of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Hoping the program would attract TV viewers to Fox Bros., they stocked up on bologna. The risk paid off. “We sold a little over 100 units of that,” Fox said. “People were paying $60 for our bologna kit, and $130 in shipping fees just to get it.”

Even so, catering remains their hardest hit revenue stream, and only a third of the catering staff has been brought back. “You keep thinking maybe summer, maybe by football season,” he said.

The brothers have their fingers crossed for the holidays, estimating that their patrons will celebrate in smaller groups, with an increased taste for smaller cuts and package deals, rather than traditional whole hams and turkeys.

You can dine on a semi-covered patio at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q on DeKalb Avenue. Becky Stein for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
You can dine on a semi-covered patio at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q on DeKalb Avenue. Becky Stein for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Becky Stein

Credit: Becky Stein

But, even if catering dollars flow through New Year’s, Fox wonders what will happen in the traditionally slow months of January, February and March. More federal funding to assist restaurants “would be nice,” he said.

Despite the unknowns, the Fox brothers are forging ahead with plans to open a Westside location at the Works, an 80-acre adaptive mixed-use development on Chattahoochee Avenue.

Still, the continuing public health and economic crises have been stark reminders of the constant risks of owning a restaurant. “It doesn’t matter who you are, how successful you are,” Fox said. “The realization (is), you could lose everything in a heartbeat. Nothing is safe.”

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FOX BROS. BAR-B-Q

Menu: barbecue

Alcohol: full bar for on-premises dining; beer and wine to go

What I ordered: the Tomminator, beef brisket plate, and Montreal smoked meat sandwich special, with Fox-a-Roni side order

Service options: dine-in (counter order only), takeout and delivery; order in person, online or by phone; limited delivery (5-7 mile radius) via DoorDash

Outdoor dining: semi-covered, heated patio

Mask policy: employees wear masks at all times; guests must wear masks when not seated

Address, phone: 1238 DeKalb Ave. NE, Atlanta,

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Website: foxbrosbbq.com

ExploreDining in Atlanta in the age of COVID-19

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