Sweet Auburn BBQ started with a trailer in Atlanta and continued growing in popularity to now two restaurants, one on North Highland Avenue in Atlanta and one at 1828 Jonesboro Road in McDonough. The McDonough location, co-owned by David Maiolo, celebrated its one-year anniversary in December and is building a solid reputation among area foodies and BBQ aficionados.
“We take traditional pit BBQ cooking and combine it with a little Asian fire,” said Maiolo. “It’s the perfect pairing.”
When Maiolo talks about “fire,” he doesn’t mean overpowering heat but rather flavor. The Nam Jim Jaew sauce, featured on items like the Brisket Tostadas, is a chili dipping sauce with a pesto-like consistency. It has made the item one of the most popular on the menu and complements the star of the show, Maiolo’s brisket.
“I’ve been working on my brisket cooking process for about ten years,” said Maiolo, who has a dedicated smokehouse on the premises with two offset smokers and a traditional smoker. “We start with a daily trimming process, followed by eight to ten hours of smoking and three or four hours of rest before serving. I love the entire cooking process, from the fire management to the season rubs.”
Maiolo finishes each brisket, ensuring quality control and the right temperatures. He has hired a full-time Pitmaster and is training a few others on the smoking process. He needs all the help he can get because he has to cook dozens of briskets a week just for the restaurant’s top selling Brisket Egg Rolls. Brisket is also featured in several sandwiches, including a Wagyu Brisket Burger and the Crying Tiger Brisket Sandwich.
Sweet Auburn BBQ made its way to McDonough after Maiolo met Howard Hsu in 2020. Maiolo was looking for a food truck to operate, and a friend introduced him to the Atlanta restaurateur. Maiolo began working with Hsu at Atlanta Curb Market, and a year later, the pair partnered on bringing Sweet Auburn BBQ to Maiolo’s home county.
“I moved here from Rome, New York, in 1993 and really wanted to bring something I felt was needed to the community,” said Maiolo. “It was a big project. We started renovating in April of 2022 and opened on my daughter’s birthday in December.”
Prior to opening the restaurant, Maiolo worked in cable television and IT. He also owned a landscaping business but sold it when the restaurant got serious. In addition to working with his daughter, Erin, and her boyfriend, Maiolo also works with his head chef, Maria. The group works hard, and Maiolo is at Sweet Auburn BBQ every day, even though the restaurant is closed on Mondays.
“We have a really great atmosphere that people seem to enjoy,” said Maiolo, adding that they have entertainment on Friday nights, a full bar, and a selection of local craft beers that always provide diners something new to discover.
Sweet Auburn BBQ also has numerous catering options, including full service, drop off, or bringing out a private Pitmaster for your event or party.
Maiolo has big plans for the future of the restaurant, including a Ramen Night and the addition of a Char Siu Pork Belly Bowl. While both of those items are exciting, the brisket and the Beef Short Rib, described as a slow-smoked dinosaur bone, will always be the dishes that get people talking and spreading the word.
For more information on Sweet Auburn BBQ, visit sweetauburnbbq.com or call 470-885-5004.
By Mike Boylan