A little over two years since the fire that devastated B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue in Riverside, pitmaster Bryan Furman announced his return to the neighborhood with a new restaurant and a new name for his next smoked meats venture — his own.
After losing his second restaurant in four years to fire, then closing his barbecue counter at the Kroger on Ponce in 2019, a recently settled divorce, and the pandemic, Furman is moving forward again. This includes opening Bryan Furman BBQ next year around the corner from his former Main Street restaurant in a newly built structure on Bolton Road. What he’s not doing is leaving Riverside, a neighborhood which has supported him from the get go and helped him build a reputation as one of the best pitmasters in Georgia.
The existing house on the Bolton Road property will be torn down to make way for a new building and smokehouse. He isn’t ready to share all the final details about how the space is going to look, as he’s still working out plans with an architect. But he is sure about a few things.
“I want to keep it old school,” he says. “I want it to look like a South Carolina rib shack. Of course, we’ll have indoor and outdoor seating, and I want a bigger smoker. But I want it to symbolize me: simple, rustic, and real. Bryan Furman.”
The smokehouse will be located in the front of the restaurant, along with a patio. Furman says the smokehouse at B’s Cracklin’ was positioned high off the ground and hidden from public view. This time he wants the place where the meats are smoked to be the focus of his new restaurant. He’s also bringing along something from the former restaurant to symbolize his journey since 2019.
“My old smoker, which burned the restaurant, we’ll have that plexiglassed in front of the patio,” Furman tells Eater. “It even has the old hog bones. I didn’t have it cleaned up. I want people to see where I came from, what I went through, and how I came back.”
Furman’s friends from all over are pitching in to support him and make sure his new barbecue brand is set up for success. After conversations with friend and James Beard award-winning Texas pitmaster Aaron Franklin, Bryan Furman BBQ will seat somewhere around 40 people. He says Franklin focused on building space for more smokers, not more people, in order to “pump out more product.”
Friend and fellow South Carolina native Dr. Howard Conyers is donating photographs that will connect Bryan Furman BBQ to a deeper understanding of identity. “It’s going to be about Black barbecue,” says Furman. “Howard is getting me pictures of old Black pitmasters who symbolize barbecue, so people can understand what I stand for.”
A pick-up window is also being planned to keep the flow of carryout and dine-in orders separate and keep the back of house as efficient as possible. Furman says this should decrease wait times, which he admits was a problem at B’s Cracklin’.
Reflection has given Furman a new view on life, his business, and the community. He says he’s been listening to Jay Z, eating less junk food, and listening to people, particularly when it comes to focusing on his strengths and trusting others to help him when it’s needed.
“I’ve grown a lot,” Furman says of the last two years. “It’s Bryan at 40 now. I’m a grown man. You have no choice but to grow or stay stagnant.”
That’s where family comes in for Furman. His father, whose 25 years of experience as an electrical engineer at a Fortune 500 company included writing corporate documentation on employee protocols, is creating the restaurant’s operations manual. His mother is not only cooking his side dishes, but will manage inventory for Bryan Furman BBQ. Furman’s aunt is coming in to manage the front of house, and he will be assisted in the pit by his son and his friend Greg Gates, a chef who worked for years at Reynoldstown butcher shop The Spotted Trotter.
This shift in business ethos allows Furman to put all of his energy into the pit house. “We’re breaking it down to a science, where I focus only on the meat, meeting customers, training, and being back there cooking.”
Of course, that’s what folks want to know more about than perhaps anything else related to Furman’s comeback early next year: Will Bryan Furman BBQ be everything people have been missing, and will there be changes to his barbecue?
The menu for the new restaurant will include the same recipes, but kept to just 15 items, including the whole hog barbecue for which Furman became known nationally. He’s sourcing his pigs from a Black farmer in North Carolina.
Furman’s popular brisket is also returning, and he plans to offer more beef dishes along with ribs and chicken on the menu. Expect new vegan options, too, aside from the vegetable plate once served at B’s Cracklin’. Furman says he’s become a big fan of oyster mushrooms and beet greens. The restaurant’s vegan options will be seasonal and prepared on the smoker, then chargrilled.
“It was really important to me to come back and own a property,” Furman says of opening a new restaurant. “Atlanta has always been a welcoming home for barbecue. I came in, and Atlanta welcomed me.”
That big, bright smile on Instagram announcing the closing on the Bolton Road property wasn’t for show, he insists. “I’m on Cloud Nine man. I’m a little more free. I just feel better. And I don’t feel like anything’s going to stop what I’ve got going.”
2102 Bolton Road, Atlanta.