B's Cracklin BBQ: A Brand New Old-School Joint
On a recent swing through Savannah, I headed south of town to check out B's Cracklin BBQ. I had debated whether it was worth making the drive, since the restaurant had been open less than two months, and I've been underwhelmed by a lot of the fusiony "nouveau ‘cue" joints that have been popping up lately.
It would have been worth making the trip even if I had to walk. The restaurant may be new, and its pitmaster may be a youthful 33 years old, but you wouldn't know it from the style of cooking.
The "B" in B's Cracklin BBQ is Bryan Furman, who opened the restaurant in October with his wife, Nikki. It's a fairly bare-bones operation: take-out only, serving pork, ribs, and chicken and a slim slate of sides. The low wood-sided building had housed a barbecue joint previously, so it already had a big ceramic brick pit with two sliding metal doors. Furman modified it to add a sort of firebox on the back.
"I use all wood," Furman says. "Hickory and cherry, because cherry wood gives it that color." He burns the logs down to coals outside the restaurant and shovels them into the pit through a door in the back.
Finding a new place that cooks over all wood is rare enough these days, but Furman takes it a good bit further than that. Much of the meat comes from heritage breed pigs like Mulefoots that he raises himself on a farm in Statesboro. He cooks the whole hog, splitting it into manageable-size quarters for loading on the pit.
"I like the heritage breed hogs," Furman says, "because they have a lot of fat, which means they have a lot of flavor."
Do they ever. The pork is chopped into big smoky chunks, and the chicken is splendidly flavorful, too. My favorite, though, are the ribs, which have just the right texture—smoky and tender but not so tender that the meat falls off the bone on its own.
Furman was born in Camden, South Carolina, where his grandparents raised hogs and cooked plenty of barbecue. The sauce—a sweet, tangy yellow mustard-based variety brisk with pepper—is a classic Midlands South Carolina style, and the delightfully thick, rich hash and rice is made the old school way with hogs heads. Furman has added a few Georgia touches, too. "A lot of my stuff is peach infused," he says. "My barbecue sauce, my coleslaw."
For now, B's is open just three days a week so they can focus on making everything fresh. The side dishes are made from scratch using produce from the local farmers market, like collards from Walker Organics. "All my sides come from my mom and my grandmother," he says, "even though I twist them a bit."
All the plates come with two sides and a piece of fried cornbread, and it's a good idea to shell out the fifty extra cents to get the cracklin variety."My grandmother always made cracklin cornbread when they killed the pigs," Furman says. "She would take the pork skin and boil and fry it and put it in the oven."
Furman modified the recipe slightly for the restaurant, cooking them pancake-style on a flat-top griddle. The result is a thick, round cake with rich corn flavor and wonderful bursts of pork richness from the chopped up bits of soft but chewy skin embedded inside.
It's always exciting to stumble upon places like B's Cracklin BBQ, where a new generation of cooks is carrying on the ways of the past while adding a few touches of their own. It's an encouraging sign that the South's barbecue traditions will stay rich and vibrant for many more years to come.
B's Cracklin BBQ 57 Coffee Bluff Villa Rd. Savannah, GA www.bscracklinbbq.com (912) 330-6921 Open Friday through Sunday, 11:00 am to 8:00 pm