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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Update: Harold’s Barbecue to remain open

Brunswick Stew at Harold's Barbecue top pick in Atlanta. (AJC Staff Photo/Joey Ivansco)

Brunswick Stew at Harold's Barbecue top pick in Atlanta. (AJC Staff Photo/Joey Ivansco)

At this time last week, it looked like Harold’s Barbecue would close its doors permanently. Since the closing was reported, Harold’s has experienced a surge in business with folks rushing to eat there one last time before it would close tomorrow on the anniversary of its 65th year in business.

This afternoon, owner Billy Banyon told me me, “We sold out today before 2 p.m., just like the old days. We have sold out every day since last Friday.” Apparently, customers are traveling as many as three hours to get a last taste of Harold’s Barbecue.

Banyon says, “people are begging us to stay open.” Customers have told him that they believed Harold’s closed a year ago. He believes the confusion began with the closing of the Jonesboro and McDonough Harold’s Barbecue locations. The remaining (original) location sits near the Jonesboro Road and McDonough Boulevard intersection, an unfortunate coincidence.

While Banyon understands that the restaurant may be unable to sustain quite the same level of business that it’s had over the past few days, he says, “We will try to go on through the rest of this year. Keep supporting us and we can stay open.”

–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

26 comments Add your comment

PTC DAWG

May 2nd, 2012
5:27 pm

I’ve eaten there two or three times in the last year….pork was dry, no chips, and the service was lacking to say the least. Harold’s has seen better days, UNLESS they make big changes.

A nice start would be to keep the RATS out of the backroom, at least while folks are trying to eat. :)

Vicky

May 2nd, 2012
5:56 pm

I was there today for lunch at 1:15. It was packed. They sold out of everything-meat, slaw, stew & cornbread. Needless to say, I didn’t get to eat lunch and I had my tasters set for their brunswick stew. I spoke with Johnny (he is the one that chops the pork). He told me they didn’t want to close. He added “if it was packed like this everyday like the old days, they wouldn’t be closing”. Maybe they can turn things around, I certainly hope so!

bill

May 2nd, 2012
11:51 pm

“Keep supporting us and we can stay open”…heck, if it were that simple nobody’d go outta business! I would rather hear from this owner “we’ve made mistakes and i take full responsibility but this is my pledge from this day forward, we’re going to earn your business every day! We’re going back to the template my family created 65 years ago and our customers will experience the ‘old Harold’s’ each and every visit – great bbq with great service!”

LarryR

May 3rd, 2012
7:21 am

So glad to hear Harold’s isn’t closing. I grew up eating here. Wish the owner would update the restrooms though. They haven’t changed since the 50’s. Also, the guys chopping the meat and placing it on the bread should wear plastic gloves. We know more about germs these days and most restaurants require those directly handling the food to wear plastic gloves. I watched one day as the guy blew his nose, wiped his hand in a rag, the scooped up a handful of chopped meat and put it on a sandwich. I made sure it wasn’t mine. Other than that, I love Harold’s and the unique atmosphere.

Typical Redneck

May 3rd, 2012
10:23 am

What Bill said.

Norton

May 3rd, 2012
10:37 am

Doesn’t a candle burn brightest right before it goes out? Just sayin’…

extended family

May 3rd, 2012
2:23 pm

I totally agree with what “bill” said and I can tell you that “Billy”, who is not the “owner”, but a grandchild that doesn’t want to see his grandparent’s business close agrees as well. There has been a lot of changes and mishaps since Harold Jr. passed he was the rock behind the business. Many lessons have been learned and IF the legacy is to continue they realize that the business must get back to the way Mama Hugh intended it to be.

Doc

May 3rd, 2012
3:18 pm

Its just the typical family bbq restaurant lifecycle. When the first generation (Pappy Red) or sometimes second (Sprayberry’s) passes away, the kids can’t run it and it lives on reputation for awhile and then finally, mercifully, closes.

Joan

May 3rd, 2012
3:38 pm

How about some cracklins in the cornbread again. I saw a mouse in the back room on one visit that acted like it had been there more than the customers. He was quite at home around people.. Letting the pork dry out really turned me off… I don’t trust pork or brunswick stew that isn’t hot..I really hope they can make the improvements needed to keep it going, but I am seeing some of the same problems I saw at the one that was on 42 in Stockbridge before it closed. I really wanted that one to make it because it was so close to me, but it just wasn’t up to par. It can’t be handled like that one and make it. If things get better and I start to hear good things again from friends I will return, but until then I will pass..

James Allen

May 3rd, 2012
7:18 pm

If you are going to stay open, do it right. Get back to the things that made Harold’s great. Start puting cracklins in the cornbread for example. Put the original menu items back. Get back to the basics that kept us coming over the years.

S S Truth be told

May 3rd, 2012
7:48 pm

#1- The sigh on the door says you are open till 4:00. Have enough food to serve till then! #2 OK the coke fountain is out of order. If you are serious about keeping your customers why haven’t one of you taken the time to stop at the grocery store to pick up a few cases or is that too much trouble? #3- The next time your staff gets into an argurment that the customers can hear, kick them out, kin folk or not. #4- Put the cracklings back in the cornbread. #5-I could keep this list going on and on The key to a successful business is to cater to the customers needs and wants not what you want. As painful as it may be get out amoung your customers, talk to them and really listen to them. and finally heed what Bill has posted if you are serious in wanting to keep Harolds going.

Baltisraul

May 4th, 2012
8:37 am

If the mind set does not change 180 degrees, it’s over! But I hope they get it right with some serious soul searching.

Blanche

May 4th, 2012
9:14 am

Dreadful. The food, that is.

Tech Guy

May 4th, 2012
9:33 am

I like Sonny’s!

Baltisraul

May 4th, 2012
11:12 am

Blanche……food is dreadful now but it was never like that before.

Tech Guy……….you are not serious are you? Thats like saying Waffle House serves a great steak!

Wanda Thomas

May 4th, 2012
4:27 pm

It is great that Jarold’s is staying open. I had planned to go for lunch one last time this week but did not get around to it. I used to eat lunch there 2-3 time per month when I worked down town. I will be there very soon, while you are still open.
Thanks for being there.

Tracy Ryan

May 5th, 2012
3:32 pm

I tried for many weeks to eat there on Saturdays. Everytime they had run out of ribs! Not good. I quit going.

Baltisraul

May 6th, 2012
10:11 am

Tracy Ryan…..I just wonder if they can’t afford to pay their vendors for enough food for their customers, how in the world do they plan to turn around this place? If you don’t have enough and what you do have is ill-prepared, what do you have that is positive? It is not atmosphere and clean appearance.

Ronald T.

May 6th, 2012
5:53 pm

“we sold out befor 2:00 just like the old days”. Where have you been kid under a rock? Thats a fairy tale and you know it. That may be the way it has been in your “old days” since you have been involved. Harold never sold out by 2;00.He always had enough food to serve the last customer till closing time even when he stayed open for dinner service. There is still too many of us old Harolds customers out here that will not let you get away with that fabrication. Its like SS Truth Be Told said, get out aumong us and find out what we want. It sounds like the chip man and the coke man has cut you off. Thats two of the staples that go with BBQ. You can go to any of the food distributers every day if you have to and pick up just those two items on a cash and carry basis. You are the owner now step up to the plate.

Scott

May 6th, 2012
8:39 pm

Ronald, right on. Mr Harold never ran out and took care of the joint. I have I am not eating crap food while sitting in a porta john.

PCNOT

May 7th, 2012
7:49 am

Harolds is in trouble because they don’t serve food illegal mexicans will eat. Thats is why the Junior Varsity closed. That is why Sonny’s BBQ, Bojangles Chicken and a Publix grocery in my area all closed. Everywhere they infest a neighborhood businesses close. Call me racist, I don’t care, your eyes don’t lie. Empty businesses where they sette is not a coincidence. They go in and get state and federal funding to start their own businesses that natural citizens can’t get because of the liberal PC agenda of our politicians. I am glad to hear that Harolds is safe for now.

Ed Norton

May 7th, 2012
10:26 am

Racist? Maybe, leaning towards probably. Looney tunes? Most definitely.

Baltisraul

May 7th, 2012
11:18 am

PCNOT…….Why don’t you keep those thoughts to yourself. We don’t care about what you think about demographics in your neighborhood!

Bored of Health

May 7th, 2012
3:40 pm

“I watched one day as the guy blew his nose, wiped his hand in a rag, the scooped up a handful of chopped meat and put it on a sandwich….” I seen the same guy do the same thing WITH GLOVES ON, so go figure…..

Baltisraul

May 8th, 2012
9:18 am

Ronald T………the problem with the Harold’s mgt folks, they don’t have the cash to pay a food dist. c.o.d. Once you get on that list you better turn it around fast. Many times they will go to a lesser product and a small vendor. That is the last nail in the cross!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

bill

May 8th, 2012
12:31 pm

yes they had problems last week but im glad they are trying to stay open. Ill go back. Would have really missed it if it closed.