Grand Champion BBQ owners Robert Owens and Gregory Vivier finally squared away all the issues that had been delaying their Crabapple store’s opening for months and began dishing up the same excellent ‘cue they serve at their flagship unit in the small slice of Roswell just over the Cobb County line.
Of course there were first-day bugs. The brand new Southern Pride smoker, located right up front where everyone can see the meats coming out, functioned just fine. But the computer system and the printer almost immediately started giving the owners fits.
“This is why we didn’t really tell anyone we were opening today,” Owens said. “We want to be sure the first time guest’s experience is a good one. If we lose a little bit of revenue because of that, it’s worth it.”
Still, it was evident that the neighborhood had been keeping a close eye on GC’s progress. Though it was never crowded, lunch sales had been surprisingly good, Owens said.
The sterling reputation of the food at the Roswell GCBBQ has grown by leaps and bounds since it opened midsummer of 2011. In February of this year, Vivier and Owens began searching for a second location. In March, they settled on the storefront at 12635 Crabapple Road in Milton, just south of the Crossroads in the same strip center as Sip Wine and Tapas.
“This area really was attractive to both of us. We like the direction it’s going,” Owens said.
“There’s something about it that’s clean and fresh. And boy, do they need barbecue,” Vivier said with a grin.
They signed the lease for the 1,480-square-foot space in June and set about remodeling it to accommodate their needs. The gleaming new smoker, the first of its kind in Milton, drew close scrutiny from the city’s fire marshal, who asked for a series of extra safety precautions for its installation.
Then there were the miscommunications between the contractor and Milton’s building department that prolonged inspection times. Finally, the health department mandated some last-minute revisions to the protective shield between customers and the food preparation line.
Now that it is all finally behind them, Vivier, a Roswell resident, and Owens, who lives in east Cobb, plan to be in the Crabapple store almost constantly as it builds momentum. In addition to pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, and sausage, GCBBQ has some of the most amazing baby back ribs in the metro area. Huge and meaty, they manage to be both lean and moist and are smoked just enough to be intensely flavorful without being overdone.
Both trained chefs, Owens and Vivier have concocted side dishes that are head and shoulders above normal barbecue joint fare. Collards, for example, are cooked in the drippings from the smoked chicken with smoked ham hocks, garlic and onions.
Made with multiple cheeses, including smoked Gouda, GCBBQ’s creamy mac and cheese is second to none. Even the potato salad is exceptional.
Seating here is limited, with room for 19 diners indoors and 24 on the outside patio. Owens said their plan has always been to be primarily take-out.
“There are so many residential neighborhoods close by and when kids come home from school and have homework or other activities, families don’t go out to eat as much,” he said. “This way, they can run over here and grab dinner, or better yet, we’ll deliver it within a four-mile radius.”
Information: (770) 993-4227, www.gcbbq.net.