The first thing that strikes you when you meet Bryan Furman, the owner of B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue, is his passion and confidence. The first-generation pitmaster carries himself with the kind of self-assuredness and restaurant smarts you’d expect to find in someone with many more years under their belt.
But the 35-year-old has every reason to be confident. His Savannah restaurant opened in 2014 and quickly earned praise from Garden & Gun and Southern Living. When faulty equipment sparked a fire that burned the restaurant to the ground, the entire Savannah community rallied behind Furman to help get the restaurant back up and running.
When Furman made the decision to open a second B’s location in Atlanta last year, his wife Nikki, then a property manager, found the perfect location in a cozy red house in Riverside. Furman and Nikki moved to Atlanta, along with several members of his Savannah team, and opened the restaurant in September.
“A lot of people feel barbecue is supposed to be secret. I am like the total opposite,” Furman says. “I believe in training. Barbecue is an art. If you train someone else to do it, you can grow, and you can get bigger. It won’t just be one awesome place to get barbecue.”
With barbecue, a pitmaster’s point of view needs to appear clearly in every piece of meat—that’s where good training comes into play. Furman’s view is to stick to his roots and cook meat and sides the way he likes to eat them.
“My flavors are what I’ve grown up with,” he says. “I was always told ‘You can’t please everybody.’ As long as you cook the food for yourself, and as long as it tastes like what you would eat, that’s what you serve.”
Furman grew up in Cassatt, South Carolina, and learned to raise pigs on his grandparents’ farm. After taking a welding job in Savannah, he met a pig farmer who offered to keep hogs for Furman if he fed the other pigs on the property. Furman started bringing fresh pork dishes to his coworkers, which quickly lead a catering business. He soon realized a career change was in order.
When you walk into the Riverside location, a chalkboard proudly displays where the day’s meats were sourced. Furman developed relationships with local heritage farms, such as Hunter Cattle Company and Gum Creek Farms, before he even opened his first restaurant. A chatty guy, Furman likes to come out and see how people are enjoying his cooking. Catch his ear and he’ll launch into full food-nerd mode on pork, barbecue, and Southern cooking. His favorite meats (and mine) are the ribs and chicken. He also serves a brisket with a bark as black as night and chopped pork that serves as an excellent vehicle for the sauces. Although he sources most of his meat from farmers, he does get the ribs from a distributor, due to the large quantity sold. Furman also doesn’t sauce his meat; he says he views sauce as a condiment.
Furman doesn’t classify his cooking as any one style of barbecue. He is the modern sort of pitmaster who borrows from many different sources. The restaurant’s two signature barbecue sauces—one mustard-based and one vinegar-based—are both made with peaches. “I didn’t want to come to Georgia with slap-in-the-face South Carolina barbecue,” Furman said. “So, I was like, let me put peaches in my sauce.”
Many of the sides at B’s, which Furman says are just as important as the meat, are classic Southern recipes from his upbringing, such as hash over rice (a barbecued meat sauce poured over white rice), a hoecake that arrives with each order, and complex greens loaded with shredded meat.
“Everything I’m bringing is stuff that was brought up with me when I was younger,” Furman said. “It seems like all the old-fashioned ways are going away. I want to keep it old-fashioned. I’m 35, and people are like, ‘Man, you couldn’t cook that food. What do you know about hoecakes?’ What do you mean? My grandma cooked it!”
Furman has plans to roll out a breakfast service (after all, he’s already cooking at the restaurant every morning) that features his grandmother’s specialty—fresh pork sausage and fried medallions of thinly sliced pork loin, stuffed into freshly baked biscuits.
With his Savannah store handled by his “family” of staff and his relocation here, Atlanta has gained an enthusiastic addition to our culinary landscape. And, from the looks of it, this is just the beginning of Furman’s likely ascent to legendary pitmaster status.