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Although Gwinnett County is dappled with dedicated barbecue restaurants, only four are smoking meats within Buford town lines. The fifth iteration of ‘Cue, opening at 3350 Buford Drive next month, will increase the area’s ratio of ribs to hungry mouths and bring the brand’s “fresh, homemade and hands-on” philosophy to town.
‘Cue co-owner Paul Doster told What Now Atlanta that he met Buford franchisee Jay Gaines when the latter party worked across the street from ‘Cue’s flagship Milton location, wandering over to chew the fat when Doster’s staff would smoke turkeys outside during the holidays. Retired after working with Dominoes for 30 years, franchising over 115 locations in three states in his heyday, Gaines thought of ‘Cue first when he circled back to the restaurant industry.
“I looked at ‘Cue, because I love the product,” said Gaines. “If you’re going to open a franchise, you have to love the product. Everything is made fresh, even the bread, the only thing they have a freezer for is ice cream at ‘Cue… it’s nothing you can buy out of a box.”
To this end, the menu at ‘Cue changes frequently. Doster said that sides offered to customers rotate based on which vegetables from their vendors are at their freshest: “whatever looks fresh out there is what we serve to people.” Their beer and wine lists are also fluid, trending toward darker beers and redder wines in the colder months and pinot grigios and chardonnay in the summer. When you go to ‘Cue’s, Doster said, “it’s never going to be the same beers and it’s never going to be the same wines.”
Every ‘Cue location has an open kitchen, allowing customers to hear cleavers hit cutting boards and to literally see the sausage get made — however, rather than a cutout in the wall like the other ‘Cues, the Buford kitchen will be entirely open, with no walls separating customers and kitchen staff.
“Open kitchens are imperative,” said Doster. “We’ve always felt like the restaurants that you go in where you can’t see anything prepared aren’t as fun… if it’s not fun, we’re not coming, that’s our whole thing.”
Buford ‘Cue will be half the size of its sister eateries, holding 2,500 square feet to the average 4,000 of the Milton, Cumming, Lawrenceville and Peachtree Corners sites. The choice was intentional on the owners’ behalf — the building was just big enough.
“This store seats probably 60 people or so, maybe 70, something like that,” said Doster. “It’s got room enough to have a little bar in there and we like to do live music too, which a lot of these more ‘corporate-y’ kinds of places don’t engage in.”
Although they have expanded significantly since their outset in 2008, Doster said that he “want[s] to make sure that when you come in there, you think it’s the only [‘Cue] in the world. Each location maintains a thickly-scheduled menu of live music; amid the pandemic, though, delivery, curbside pickup and carry-out are more relevant features of the new ‘Cue’s operations.
Gaines said he hopes to open additional ‘Cue locations in the future, telling What Now Atlanta that “[his] goal is to have a few of these” and that he wants to “continue to grow with Paul and his brand.”
For now, until he designates a manager for the Buford establishment, Gaines will be at the restaurant every day upon opening.
“I think it’s a great location, I think the whole Buford area is in dire need of some good, fresh barbecue,” said Gaines. “I just want a place where people can sit down, enjoy some fresh barbecue, have a beer and some wine and enjoy themselves.”