Sweet Auburn Barbecue (BBQ) proudly announces its new Poncey-Highland location is now open for business at 656 North Highland Avenue NE. The restaurant is the third concept in owner Howard Hsu’s Sweet Auburn BBQ brand, following the wildly successful food truck and retail counter placement at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
With Sweet Auburn BBQ’s first full-service destination, Hsu continues to draw upon a storied generational tradition of owning and operating Thai, Chinese and Malaysian restaurants alongside his parents, sister and brother Ronald Hsu, a classically trained chef and former consultant of renowned chef Eric Ripert. With each new iteration of the Sweet Auburn BBQ brand, Hsu seeks to further interweave his rich Asian heritage with his love for Atlanta and Southern food.
“Opening Sweet Auburn BBQ’s first full-service location is a dream come true for my family as a natural progression of our experience as entrepreneurs in Atlanta’s culinary community,” notes Hsu. “Atlanta is home for me and Poncey-Highland’s strong sense of community and pedestrian-friendly culture made it clear that this was the perfect location.”
Influenced largely by the Malaysian-Chinese cuisine of his childhood and inspired his Atlanta upbringing, Hsu distinguishes his culinary style by actively seeking opportunities to utilize the techniques and spices of Asian cooking when preparing Southern fare. As such, executive chef Marshall Rogers was hand-picked to contribute his noted dedication to using fresh, local ingredients with simple preparation to Hsu’s growing vision of developing Asian-inspired Southern cuisine and fusion barbecue.
Sweet Auburn BBQ’s menu pays homage to this notion with traditional options such as chopped chicken, pulled pork and beef brisket, along with distinctive features including pimento cheese wontons and the southern Seoul sandwich, which features Korean-style short ribs, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro and jalapeño. Additional flair-filled signature items include:
- Award-winning “Chomp and Stomp” chili with sour cream and scallions
- Carolina pulled pork bowl with stone-ground cheddar grits and scallions
- Coconut lemongrass pork spare ribs
- Maple Glazed Smoked Peking Duck with hoecakes, peanut hoisin and Asian slaw
- Sweet Auburn blues burger featuring house-ground beef blended with smoked bacon, caramelized onions, whipped bleu cheese, tomato-bacon jam and bread and butter pickles
- Delectable sides including pear coleslaw, BBQ whipped mash, mac and cheese, bacon-roasted sprouts, Sweetwater 420 borracho beans, jerk-spiced collard greens and Brunswick stew
- Desserts include mint tea sorbet; bourbon pecan pie with High Road Craft Ice Cream’s bourbon burnt sugar ice cream; and fried Asian pear pie featuring cinnamon, sugar and buttermilk ice cream.
Bartender Reuben Victor was recruited from Holeman & Finch to develop the beverage program which includes an assortment of thoughtfully selected spirits to complement the hearty fare. Guests can expect to indulge in a menu dedicated to craft Absinthe service, fine whiskies, local craft beers and a number of rotating seasonal cocktail creations at an expansive 16-seat bar.
“We are making cocktails approachable again,” says Victor. “Our cocktails, much like the food, rely on simple, fresh and familiar ingredients to produce a pure experience, but also instill a fresh edge to keep our guests intrigued. To me, that’s what keeps our city incredibly exciting.”
Located in the space once home to Pura Vida, the newly renovated restaurant offers a comfortable and approachable dining experience created by Hart Customs Design Group. Warm, wood-plank walls create a welcome juxtaposition alongside modern white subway tile and concrete floors. Accents such as chicken coop wire, white-wood distressed chairs and industrial lighting complete the thoughtfully curated interior, while the matte, powder blue exterior, brickwork and a natural color palate add the Southern charm synonymous with an Atlanta dining establishment.
Additional entertaining highlights include ping pong tables, multiple televisions and a unique community-style dining table that seats eight people, perfect for group celebrations. Special event catering is available, and a forthcoming private dining space will soon be complete for larger scale event needs. Plans are also in the works for a late-night, pop-up menu series Thursday through Sunday nights featuring Asian-Southern fusions created by Ronald Hsu and inspired by family recipes and traditions.