Smoked chicken, a fiery grill, and a soulful playlist—BBQ’s are one of the many delights of summer. The new Black-owned Harwood restaurant THE BBQ opened on May 27 and is bringing the smoky backyard tradition to 2602 Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore.

(Photo by Nakia Brown)

The restaurant is bringing the BBQ trend to the area with the charcoal classics—wet or dry ribs, pulled pork, pit turkey, baked beans, THE BBQ Sandwich, and more. How did the marinated meats come to be? “It began with the idea of my dad. This is what he wanted to retire doing,” said owner Marcus Bradford, 32.

“I want to take people back to when families used to sit together in their grandmother’s house,” owner Maurice Bradford Sr., 59, told The AFRO. Maurice’s sons—Marcus Bradford and Maurice Bradford Jr., 34— used their backgrounds in business, photography, and graphic design to bring their father’s dream alive. However, since opening, Maurice Jr. has relocated to Florida, leaving Marcus and Maurice Sr. as the primary owners.

Originally from South Carolina, the Bradford family moved to Baltimore in the 1970’s. “I grew up on homemade pork rinds. I grew up on smokin’ whole hogs. My dad always did this stuff. He always had huge cookouts and gave it all away…that’s just what he did. He did that for the last 16-17 years,” said Marcus.

THE BBQ owners, Maurice Bradford Sr. (left) and his son Marcus Bradford Jr. (Photo by Nakia Brown)

Prior to opening the restaurant, the family operated a well-known light company, B&B Lighting Supply, for over 30 years. In the legacy of his family’s lighting business, Marcus then opened Max Supply about 4 years ago. “I do commercial and wholesale sales,” Marcus said. His company has worked with Pier Six Pavilion, Verizon Center, Royal Farms Arena, and many others. The success of the lighting business allowed him to finance about $117,000 to open the family’s first restaurant business. It took about 1 year and 2 months to open the 900 sq ft restaurant due to zoning hurdles, Marcus said.

Since opening earlier this year, the restaurant has served over 2,000 customers and has 13 employees. The restaurant is bringing back a sense of liveliness to Greenmount Avenue with a steady flow of patrons, outdoor seating, and a playlist of blues rockin’ from speaker to soul. Why Greenmount Avenue? “Convenience,” Marcus reasons as the lighting company is right next door. “It’s been a food dessert since I moved here.” His father, Maurice Sr., expands on why they chose this location, “I want to try to attract other businesses.”

For Maurice Sr., the ritual of cookin’ BBQ started with his dad. “He is defiantly the same way. My father used to be a cook in the army. He was a cook for over 30 years,” said Maurice Sr. Maurice’s father died in 1995, but he said his father also wanted to open up a restaurant.

There may be more than one restaurant for the Bradford family. Marcus said he’s been working so hard on the build out of the restaurant—from the branding to standard operating procedure—for other locations. “I’m trying to lay it out for franchise,” Marcus said. “I am accepting partnerships.”

THE BBQ might just be the clearing the smoke for Greenmount Avenue and pioneering for other businesses to come to the area. This could be the beginning of a new Greenmount Avenue with thriving restaurants, bars, clubs, and theaters—can’t we imagine? It’s all a process just like the tender meat at THE BBQ.

“We marinade it for about 24 hours and it has to smoke in the smoker for 10-12 hours. You can’t rush the process.” Maurice Sr. nods humbly with a gentle smile. “Can’t rush the process.”