Brad Stewart entered the world of professional barbecue with a bang more than 15 years ago, and he’s been going strong ever since.
Stewart had worked in the restaurant business since he was 15, but his first time cooking barbecue on a commercial scale was the Deep Roots festival in Milledgeville, where he, his wife and his brother served freshly made barbecue to more than 3,000 festival goers.
Soon after that foray, the three Stewarts opened up a full-time restaurant, Bradley’s Bar-B-Que in Conyers in 1999. This year they celebrated a decade of success by expanding into Covington, opening a store just off the square in June.
Stewart said the store is set apart by its family owned feel, including hand-made wood benches, and of course a home-made sauce, ketchup-based with a healthy amount of vinegar, and a full, home-made menu.
"We don’t have to fit that big box pattern. We cook everything in house; there’s not a lot of that heat-and-eat here," Stewart said.
Barbecue has always been a family favorite, and all three Stewarts have a knack for cooking.
"All three of us have cooked all of our lives, and we love it, both professionally and recreationally. Cooking barbecue at home with a group of friends is one of the most fun things you can do," Stewart said.
He opened up the Covington location because the business was growing and because he’s always loved the city.
"I’ve always loved the square. I like to shop there, and I like the feel and decorations. We looked around at different cities, and Covington was the best fit," he said. "I just like the small town feel and talking to the customers."
And the customers have responded. Bradley said business has been solid, with his pulled pork, ribs, smoked chicken and Brunswick stew among the local favorites. He said Bradley’s also serves a unique Reuben sandwich, with smoked corned beef and local rye bread fresh from Town Center Breads.
Bradley’s does a large catering business, including bulk pick-up, bulk delivery and actual catering. He said many families choose Bradley’s catering every year for their holiday events.
Steward said he’s looking forward to celebrating his next 10-year anniversary in Covington.
"Some people are surprised when a small business manages to last a year," he said." Don’t be surprised, because we plan to be here for a long time."