First Look: Acclaimed pitmaster opens Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ

In March, his cookbook, “Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ” (Clarkson Potter, $29.99), was released to great acclaim. And last week, the third Rodney Scott’s BBQ restaurant opened at MET Atlanta on Metropolitan Parkway in southwest Atlanta.

The nearly 6,000-square-foot space, which was once a car repair shop, underwent an extensive adaptive reuse renovation. It features two spacious indoor dining areas, a full bar, a screened patio, and a walk-up window for carryout orders. The state-of-the-art kitchen includes an indoor pit room with four custom-designed wood-burning pits.

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Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Scott’s hard-won success story began when he was just 11 years old, cooking whole hogs over hardwood coals at his family’s Hemingway, South Carolina, restaurant, where he continued to work for some 25 years.

But in 2017, he partnered with Nick Pihakis founder of Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q and now CEO of Pihakis Restaurant Group, to open the first Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston, South Carolina, followed by a second Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Shortly before he cut the ribbon to open the Atlanta location for the first time, Scott sat down at a table on the patio and talked a bit about the newest venture.

“I had no idea about this side of Atlanta, and didn’t know a whole lot about the city, and then we came over here and I thought this place was perfect,” Scott said. “It was a huge garage and shop, and now it’s our biggest operation so far, and it’s the most advanced, yet.

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Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

“We care about our people, and we wanted to make sure the pit wasn’t as hot as it is at our other operations. The pits and firebox are inside, so it’s a lot more convenient. It’s cooler. It’s not as smoky. And it’s a lot more comfortable.”

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Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Asked for his take on the current emphasis on community-based and Black-owned businesses, Scott answered in personal terms.

“I’m Rodney Scott. I happen to be Black,” he said. “We’re in a neighborhood where obviously a lot of people look like me. But at the same time, we have room for everybody at our table.

“Barbecue for me is universal. It’s where people always come together. That’s the one time that nothing else matters, except what time is the food ready? We do have a multicultural partnership here, but to me, that makes it all the better.”

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

While Scott is best known for his way with whole hog barbecue, the menu has continued to grow over the years.

“The menu that you see here now is pretty much the menu that you see in the Charleston and Birmingham locations, but the menu has evolved since Hemingway,” Scott said. “When I was in Hemingway, I cooked hogs and chickens. That was it. Then we moved on to hogs, chickens, beans, coleslaw, and then we added sweet tea, and we did steaks on Saturdays.

“Now we’re at a point that we have catfish, burgers, turkey, brisket. But we put some things together that just complement the whole hog. We kind of centered the whole hog in all of our ingredients, and added sides and other dishes to the menu. We even added salads as an option.”

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Adding a full-service bar has been another important part of the evolution of the concept. Though the bar isn’t open in Atlanta, yet, the menu will have a focus on whiskey and agave-based spirits, and include cocktails, canned wine, and draft beer.

“Adding the bar was a big plus, because, again, that was something that I never knew a lot about in Hemingway,” Scott said. “We have a full bar in Birmingham, as well, so you can get your drinks at the bar, and you can order your food at the bar.”

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Scott’s motto is “Every Day Is a Good Day.” He said he believes barbecue will save the world. And opening in Atlanta is another part of that journey now.

“It’s humbling,” Scott said. “It’s a feeling of the next step, and it’s an accomplishment. I don’t think the dictionary has any words to tell you how good I feel, or to describe what I feel on the inside right now with this happening in a major city.

“But still, it’s kind of where I started, in an old gas station, where I grew up in the family business. And here we are again, in an old service station, creating the same thing all over again.”

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

DINING OUT

11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Sundays.

Dine-in, takeout.

668 Metropolitan Parkway, Atlanta. 678-855-7377, rodneyscottsbbq.com.

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