The Restaurateur: Daniel's Briar Patch
IN THE KITCHEN
Daniel's Briar Patch in Marietta
Daniel Dobbs ties his beard back when the time comes for serious work in the kitchen. Well, if you can call manning a smoker while dancing and singing to Motown classics serious.
You might say that Dobbs is an entrepreneur in the vein of Duck Dynasty. He looks uncannily like one of the Robertson fellas—with scraggly whiskers, ball cap and all; acts a bit eccentric at times, uploading bug-eyed selfies to his restaurant’s Facebook page; and makes success look easy, even fun.
The comparison holds up, too, because his venture is an unusual one. He’s the proverbial duck call maker of Slater-Marietta, a small, one-stoplight sort of place located five miles northwest of downtown Travelers Rest.
Dobbs and his wife Jennifer opened Daniel’s Briar Patch—a family-style restaurant that’s heavy on smoked meats—in the center of Marietta this past May. And while a meat-and-three in mountain country may sound trite, this casual eatery is anything but.
Sure, they have the red-and-white checkered tablecloths, chalkboards with today’s offerings and kitschy pig-themed decor you’d expect to find at a traditional meat-and-three. And the side dishes even feature macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and green beans, like you had hoped for.
But how do you explain the rotating specials like rabbit tacos, elk burgers and wild boar? Frog legs and waffles are expected to make an appearance soon, assures Dobbs.
And what can you make of the real star at front and center of the menu, the so-called “Smoking Section”? It offers your choice of pulled pork shoulder, chopped chicken, catfish, Gulf shrimp or seasonal veggies fresh off the hickory wood-burning Johnson smoker and slathered in Dobbs’ famed secret rub.
Long before the restaurant opened its doors, Dobbs was honing the recipe and craft for his namesake “DoBBieQ,” his own personal “gastro-cue” concept that sets itself apart with quality ingredients.
“Out of college, I started smoking butts in the backyard to make ends meet,” says Dobbs. “We used to call it black market barbecue, ‘cause we would take orders, pack a cooler full and drive around all over the Upstate selling people barbecue.”
The team passed on opportunities to set up shop in Greer and even Greenville, both larger and more affluent than most of the communities in northern Greenville County. But they had the “right gut feeling” about a neglected Marietta building, the former Doris’ Family Kitchen on Geer Highway.
“Being this close to the mountains that I grew up loving so much was majorly important to us. We had the willingness to come to this area and try our style of food,” Dobbs says, admitting it was an unconventional business decision. “We said, ‘Screw it; we’re gonna do it!’”
Their new permanent location helps them stay grounded, both physically and otherwise; it’s forced them to reevaluate their cooking and, at times, add tastes more familiar to the local palate while still maintaining high standards for their ingredients.
“The community, as a whole, wanted a meat-and-three,” says Dobbs. “We’ve looked at this as a chance to expound on what we were doing. Instead of just doing all our awesome smoked products, which are really my passion, we’re able to cross-utilize our existing ingredients and try pork chops and fried chicken.”
(The fried chicken is so good, in fact, that one day, Dobbs got locked in the refrigerator and didn’t even try to escape. When another employee opened the door an hour later, Dobbs—wrapped in cardboard boxes—was helping himself to a pan of that fried chicken.)
Shrimp and grits, club sandwiches and cheeseburgers also hold down the home-style base menu, which stays the same, at Daniel’s Briar Patch.
But the blue-plate special changes regularly, allowing the team to try adventurous dishes that also make use of real, recognizable ingredients, sourced from as close by as Beechwood Farms and Vaughn Meat Packing.
“Simplicity is key to our success with food,” Dobbs says.
The food is simple, not because it’s baked beans from a can or instant mashed potatoes from a box. It’s simple because, whatever’s on your plate at Daniel’s Briar Patch, you can bet they made it from scratch with honest and often local products.
Oh, and probably a dash of “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” too.