Harold's Barbecue continues legacy –– in McDonough

Kevin Fisher, of McDonough, sat at a table at Harold's Barbecue in McDonough, munching on fried pickles, while anxiously awaiting a plate of ribs.

"I've never had fried pickles before," said the 47-year-old real-estate appraiser. "They're great. You can't mess up frying stuff."

Thursday marked Fisher's first time at the restaurant, which opened on March 3. He said he had heard great things about the Harold's chain, which were backed up when he took the first bite of his entree. "I can confirm it's delicious," said Fisher.

Billy Branyon, 35, is the owner Harold's Barbecue, at 2054 Ga. Highway 42 North in McDonough. He said running the restaurant is his way of honoring the legacy of his late grandparents, Harold and Hugh Hembree.

"I lived with my grandmother for half my life, and she taught me everything I know now about the barbecue business," said Branyon. "With our family, we're born into working at Harold's Barbecue. It's just a family tradition. To me, it's the only thing I have left that reminds me of my grandmother."

The story of Harold's Barbecue began in 1947, when Harold and Hugh Hembree opened a location in what is now the Lakewood area of Atlanta. Over the years, Harold's has had locations in Morrow, Jonesboro, McDonough and Eatonton.

A prior Harold's location was open in McDonough on Jonesboro Road, from 2007 to 2008. Branyon said his restaurant and the original location, are the two remaining spots in the chain.

Longtime fans of the restaurant, according to Branyon, have visited his eatery to rekindle their love of open-pit barbecue, Brunswick Stew and cracklin' cornbread.

"We have been extremely busy," he said. "We get people that eat every day at Harold's, at the original location and here. We still have people that come back to the original location on their anniversary, because that's where they met."

Branyon hopes Henry residents will create similar memories in McDonough, as those which were built at the original Harold's.

One person who has fond memories of eating at the original Harold's is Karen Drescher, of Morrow. The 50-year-old accountant said she came to the McDonough location Thursday, for the second day in a row, on a quest for her favorite item, a pork sandwich.

"I'm a groupie," she said. "It's always consistently good. You know you're going to get a good meal when you come. It's the best barbecue, ever."

Jeanie Holt, 22, waited tables at the restaurant's Atlanta location prior to transferring to Harold's in McDonough. She said she appreciates the history of the business, and enjoys talking with longtime customers, who reminisce about its past.

"People have told me they were eating there before I was even born," said Holt. "It's really neat to hear their stories about the one at Lakewood."

Ronnie Chester, 59, of McDonough, came to Harold's with 40 of his co-workers at Georgia Power, to celebrate 40 years of service with his company. As he finished off a pork plate, and prepared to pay his bill, he said the future is bright for Harold's in Henry.

"It's gonna be good," he said. "Harold's has got a tradition, and it'll be good for McDonough."