Barbecue restaurant ready to compete for hungry Atlantans

city_BBQ-16 by Travis Hudgons

As Ohio-based City Barbeque opens its first Georgia restaurant this month in Decatur it faces serious competition. The 404 and 770 area codes alone list more than 100 barbecue restaurants, according to restaurantguideatlanta.com.

In addition, the booming Suburban Plaza development along North Decatur Road and Scott Boulevard in which the new restaurant is located now offers a wealth of dining choices.

Still, Cierra More, regional marketing manager with City Barbeque, said the restaurant is up to the challenge. “We are dedicated to hospitality. We want every customer who comes in to have not just great food, but a great experience.’

Frank Pizzo, a partner and director of training at City Barbeque, said the concept is people getting together to have a great time enjoying “America’s food.”

“That’s why we named it City Barbeque. We think of the community of people we serve as a city. It is a place where the community can gather together and enjoy barbecue. We know that there are lots of barbecue options out there, but we believe we stand up to anybody’s. It not our job to tell people what’s good; it’s our job to be good at what we do. What we do is authentic craft barbecue done the right way with no shortcuts.”

The City Barbeque that is to open soon in Decatur gave locals a chance to decide for themselves at a pre-opening VIP event that offered invitation-only free meals on Sept. 15.

“I stopped by last week to try their barbecue and they told me they weren’t open yet, but they gave me an invitation to the VIP event,” said guest Karyn Wise, who lives in Stone Mountain, but often drives through Decatur en route from work.

An employee of a bank in Kennesaw, Wise said she rarely has time to cook for her family and is always on the lookout for good restaurant options. Barbecue, she said, is among her favorites. She approved the food at City Barbeque, adding that she likes to try restaurants several times to be sure the quality is consistent before deciding whether to become a regular.

Americans take barbecue so seriously that the United States Department of Agriculture in 1984 created an official definition. Still, barbecue aficionados debate which region produces the best and argue the authenticity of techniques, seasoning and cuts of meat.

City Barbeque’s website says the founders sampled styles around the country before developing their own products, adding, “As artisans ourselves, we have also added our own creativity to the process. No doubt, folks get pretty riled up when you mention which region has the best barbecue. We’d rather not get into that fight. You’ll certainly catch hints of Texas, Kansas City, North Carolina, and Memphis in our ‘que.”

“We don’t think great barbecue should be limited by geography. We bring the best of all the regional favorites,” Pizzo said.

There’s no beef-or-pork debate since City Barbeque offers both as well as chicken, turkey and sausages. Barbecue sauces also can vary greatly with some sweet, some hot and spicy, some mustardy with a seemingly infinite range of combinations.

City Barbeque also doesn’t play favorites among sauces, offering approximately 10 types, including a vinegary concoction called swine wine.

At a sauce bar, customers can choose or combine sauces. “For us,” Pizzo said, “sauce is just a condiment. It’s the way we prepare the meat that makes the difference.” Each restaurant has a “pit boss” responsible for quality of its offerings.

Meats, he said, are smoked on-site at each restaurant and hand rubbed with spices in a process that can take more than 18 hours. “We give our food the same attention we would give it if we were preparing it for our own family. Everything is made from scratch, including chicken stock and the whipped cream in our desserts.”

Pizzo said every restaurant is company owned to assure consistent standards. “I know you should never say ‘never,’ but I can’t imagine us ever deciding to franchise.”

In addition to the new eatery in Decatur, there are 36 City Barbeque restaurants in Ohio, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Indiana. “We plan to open others in the Atlanta area, but there’s no schedule,” Pizzo said. “We take our time and make a move when it feels right.”

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