Summer means road trips, and the best part of long drives in the South is that there's probably a solid smoked meat joint along the way. For Eater Barbecue Week, contributor Robert Donovan explores some of the establishments tucked around South Carolina and states closely surrounding the region. Today, it's a closer look at B's Cracklin' BBQ at 12409 White Bluff Rd. in Savannah. For more hidden gems, check out True BBQ, Big T's, and Scott's Bar-B-Que.
In June of 2015, a faulty Coca-Cola machine caught fire and destroyed the Savannah building B's Cracklin' BBQ had operated out of since it opened in fall 2014. In those short months, Bryan and Nikki Furman's restaurant garnered national recognition with an article in Garden & Gun and was mentioned as one of the top 50 BBQ restaurants in America by Southern Living. All of that attention turned into immediate huge crowds for B's — crowds the Furmans were understandably not prepared for.
"We had people lining up outside the restaurant", Bryan recalls "and even when we ran out of food, and told them it would be three hours, they still waited. We couldn't believe people were waiting three hours." Within a few weeks of the Southern Living accolade and accompanying crowds, the fire destroyed everything. Everything including thousands of dollars in newly purchased freezers and extra food to accommodate the increased business.
The barbecue community in the South, for the most part, is a big family. Immediately following the fire, restaurants like Southern Soul BBQ on Saint Simons Island, Georgia and Home Team BBQ in Charleston were trucking their portable pits to Savannah to help the Furmans cook and serve barbecue in the park near the burned building.
There were benefits at restaurants in Asheville, Savannah, and Charleston and a GoFundMe page, all of which helped B's reopen again in October of 2015. Now with a larger crew and a bigger space to seat the crowds, B's still serves up the barbecue that brought all that initial attention.
Bryan started in the smoked meat business while working as a welder. After cooking a hog for a birthday party, he moved into catering and then he and Nikki eventually decided to take the plunge and open their own place. Bryan did double duty until it was clear he could focus full time on the restaurant. Their goal was to stand out by focusing on heritage breed hogs, like Mulefoots (some of which he initially raised himself), and house-made sides with local ingredients. All the meats come off a custom-built Lang smoker housed in a smoke-stained, screened-in "pit house" behind the new restaurant.
Now in a strip mall, not far from the old location in south Savannah, B's shares parking lot space with a Subway that advertises "Applewood Smoked BBQ" in their window — the window right next to B's. You have to wonder who is going to order whatever it is they are calling "BBQ" from Subway when B's serves nationally-recognized whole hog barbecue, chicken, ribs, and brisket right next door.
Good news for Atlanta barbecue fans, the Furmans are in the process of opening a second restaurant not far from the new Braves baseball stadium. Bryan plans to start with two new Lang smokers and will expand with more over time. They hope to be open by the fall.