Located across from Kimball House, and between Kelly’s Market and Opo Coffee, the diminutive barbecue joint closed July 30 after three years serving slow-smoked meats and Southern sides rooted in recipes from Mississippi. An email sent to regulars of the restaurant by the owners indicates the decision to close came down to relocations away from the Atlanta area and plans to retire in the near future.
BBQ Cafe, owned by longtime friends Lewis Johnson, John Peeples, and Lloyd Solomon, opened in September 2020 during the height of pandemic, taking over the former Doggy Dogg hot dog shack on East Howard Avenue. The restaurant served as a dream realized for the trio, who had spent years prior cooking barbecue at other restaurants and for family and friends.
Despite opening during the first year of the global health crisis, BBQ Cafe was able to endure many of the initial service challenges facing restaurants at the time, as it was takeout only, with people ordering from a walk-up window in the front of the building. All of the seating for BBQ Cafe was also outdoors.
Johnson, Peeples, and Solomon often opened up the tiny kitchen to pop-ups and Atlanta chefs on days the restaurant was closed and hosted community events, including live music, low country boils, and pumpkin carving contests.
In January, Taproom Coffee owner Jonathan Pascual opened Opo Coffee next door to BBQ Cafe in the former Ammazza space on East Howard Avenue. Opo Coffee features a coffee bar with indoor seating and a large patio behind the building, a roastery and retail shop, and a coffee and barista training center.