Bbq with a Beer Garden Vibe: Highlands Smokehouse
New Highlands Smokehouse owner Bryan Lewis takes the reins of what’s quickly become a treasured Highlands institution.
By any measure, 2020 was a challenging year for restaurants.
So I was cheered to learn of the ease with which Highlands Smokehouse owners JT Fields, Don Reynolds, and Tom Goldacker, were able to sell their business a few months ago to Bryan Lewis.
Co-owner of Coastal Crust in Greenville, South Carolina, Lewis got his start in the restaurant business in Charleston and, for the last several years has spent his time directing an Atlanta restaurant for Garden and Gun Magazine.
I loved the Smokehouse in its earlier phase of life; an inviting spot where the management succeeded in paying homage to the classic barbecue joint without falling prey to gimmick. It was a place I, as did many others, find it hard to stay away from.
Still, despite its success, the owners felt the time was right for them to step aside and retire. Lewis met JT and his partner Glenn several years ago through mutual friends, beginning a dialog about Highlands that had been ongoing.
Then, three years ago, Lewis purchased a home on the Plateau. He had been impressed with what JT and his partners had accomplished at Mountain Fresh, and was delighted when JT called about the prospect.
As JT explained, “When Don and I bought the building, the plan was to open a supper club, but after we sold the store, the goal shifted to finding a barbecue owner-operator, and restore the building to its original use. We had spoken with Bryan Lewis a couple years earlier, but the timing wasn’t right. We reconnected and everything fell into place.”
Lewis realized that he could “live up here full time and have an exciting business that would connect me more with this great community.”
He imagines “building a business and growing on the good foundation the former owners left.”
Also, as he says “ I really love barbecue!”
The Smokehouse may have a new owner, but this Highlands favorite has not missed a beat delivering enthusiastic, friendly service and exceptionally scrumptious and delicious pit-smoked barbecue. The kitchen team has been working diligently to perfect recipes and techniques to assure the delivery of irreproachable barbecue and quality fare. While the menu will remain true to the classics, a new Chef has been hired and new barbecue delicacies forecast.
Lewis speaks with enthusiasm about forthcoming changes to the building. “We are building a large outdoor deck which will give us room for 50 additional outside seats. My goal is to make this a fun atmosphere to hang out and enjoy some casual food and beverage – sort of a beer garden vibe with live music on weekend and in season.”
As owner-operator, Lewis plans to be very hands on; “You will find me in the kitchen, front of the house, bar and smoke pit on any given days. It has been important for me to get my hands dirty and learn every aspect of the business.”
Visit highlandssmokehouse.com for more information.