A restaurant that delivers on its promise
Downtown Alpharetta doesn’t look like it did a decade ago. In the past five years, the city has undergone a transformation.
What used to be a nondescript, small town with an ordinary town hall is now an impressive, walkable city with new government buildings, mixed used housing, upscale retail stores, and a variety of restaurants.
A lot of the old businesses didn’t survive the facelift, but one restaurant stands out as an exception. Smokejack, which opened its doors in December 2004, is still going strong.
The barbecue restaurant, which sits in the heart of the historical district in a 180-year-old building, has faced challenges. The town grew up and changed around it. But not to be left behind, Smokejack expanded, renovated, and improved without abandoning the two things locals know it for: outstanding food and great customer service.
I stopped by Smokejack last Sunday for the first time since the pandemic, and was pleasantly surprised at the brighter, more open interior.
“We took advantage of time during the pandemic to remodel,” the server explained, adding that Smokejack has also begun delivering through Uber Eats.
Despite an interior redo, the menu still featured the restaurant’s famous burnt ends. Although I opted for a pulled pork sandwich, my 3 friends ordered the burnt ends, described as “brisket that has been smoked overnight, cubed, wood grill charred sauteed in Smokejack’s KC sauce.”
A burnt ends sandwich wasn’t on the menu, but our server cheerfully complied with my friend’s request to turn the dinner item into a sandwich.
“You want it loaded?” She asked, which meant did he want cheese, pickles, onion, tomato and whatever else goes on a “loaded” sandwich.
When I asked him what some of his other Smokejack favorites were, he was quick to mention the macaroni and cheese and sweet potato casserole.
I ordered a side of collard greens, which were just sweet enough and just tangy enough to make a person forget collards could ever be considered bitter.
I had eaten at Smokejack for several years before I discovered Jack’s Attic, the restaurant’s private events facility. I was searching for a reasonably priced venue for my anniversary party when somebody recommended it.
Jack’s Attic is a rustic upstairs area accessed through a stairway in back of the restaurant. It features a full bar with space enough to accommodate 80 to 90 people and room enough left over for dancing, which was perfect for my party.
On the day of the event, we were able to come a couple of hours early to decorate. As long as you don’t try to move the furniture out, you’re encouraged to bring in your own decorations and give your creativity free reign.
My husband and I opted for full-service bar, a buffet with three entrees, and I hired a guitar player for some live music. All in all, a great party. The staff was attentive throughout the evening, and accommodating when we wanted to move some tables around to make room for dancing.
Like every other restaurant during the pandemic, Smokejack was challenged by the shutdown. But the owner, Dave Filipowicz, remained flexible and proactive.
Smokejack was one of the first restaurants in our area during the lockdown to advertise a takeout menu and provide weekly updates and specials. The restaurant's daily emails were a reminder that while while I couldn't eat out, I could bring good food home.
The restaurant sold gift cards and also worked closely with school partners to address the issue of children who no longer had access to subsidized meals.
Making curbside pickup convenient and easy and moving rapidly toward online ordering meant they sometimes had as many as 120 pickup orders in one evening, according to one company employee.
Being flexible helped Smokejack weather the pandemic, but Filipowicz never lost sight of his initial vision to “do something different than your regular old BBQ.” His solution was to open a “great Southern grill and BBQ restaurant with regional cuisine.”
Filpowicz was well-prepared to launch a successful restaurant. He studied Business Administration at the University of Tennessee of Chattanooga from 1984-1986, then finished his education at Georgia State University with a degree in Hotel/Restaurant management.
He advertises his mission as taking "fresh, high quality ingredients and preparing them with care and respect, resulting in unique and delicious food."
In addition to restaurant dining, takeout, and Jack's Attic, Smokejack offers professional catering services for all types of events. They have a mobile BBQ Rig, available for your place or theirs.
And once you've had a good meal, you can always play a little cornhole on the sidewalk outside.