In barbecue circles, the student sometimes becomes the master. Such is the case with Robert Owens. He worked as general manager of Sam’s BBQ-1 in Marietta for five years, learning the trade, before finding a partner, Gregory Vivier (with whom Owens previously worked at One Midtown Kitchen and other Concentrics restaurants), and opening Grand Champion in Roswell in 2011. A second location in Milton followed last year. As at Sam’s, the duo keep their menu straightforward, but to my palate they’re pulling out superior, hickory-imbued meats from their shiny Southern Pride SPK-500 smokers. The pulled pork, no sauce required, is particularly noteworthy: a jumble of meat, silky as pudding, with a sheath of burnt, candied surface—it’s the barbecue equivalent of crème brûlée. The attention to detail seems slightly sharper at the original Grand Champion. I’ve had crumbly brisket and bland chicken that tasted reheated at the Milton outpost; its sunny room holds more appeal, though. Don’t miss the homemade pies at either spot. 4401 Shallowford Road, Roswell, 770-587-4227; 12635 Crabapple Road, Milton, 770-993-4227; gcbbq.net
This article originally appeared in our May 2013 issue.