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Dillon Faulkner, who runs Butt Hutt BBQ on Macon Highway, poses for a portrait on Oct, 19, 2020. Faulkner's father opened the barbecue's first location on Baxter Street in 2009. 

Butt Hutt BBQ, one of Athens’ handful of barbecue restaurants, got its start connected to a Baxter Street gas station in 2009. The same spot housed a few barbecue restaurants following Butt Hutt’s departure, but none seemed to stick.

Restaurant owner Dillon Faulkner said fans of the spot can trace its name to these origins, when his father served Boston butt in a building that looked like a hut.

The Butt Hutt soon outgrew its original location, and his father relocated the business to the larger Macon Highway location in 2011 where it now stands, Faulkner said. A recent University of Georgia graduate, Faulkner took over operation of the restaurant four years ago.

Faulkner said he is “carrying on a family tradition.” Since his father opened the first restaurant 11 years ago, they’ve been using recipes passed down from Faulkner’s grandfather.

Faulkner’s sister, Allie Faulkner, is working at the restaurant, too. Allie Faulkner is taking college courses online while her brother teaches her the restaurant business. 

“My goal is to have something of my own one day that is also a part of our family legacy,” Allie Faulkner said. Perhaps, a second location of the Butt Hutt, she said. 

Her favorite item at the restaurant is not on the menu — it's a buffalo chicken taco, and customers have to ask for it directly.

Craig Sell, the kitchen manager, has been with the restaurant since its opening. The secret to the barbecue’s taste is the rub, which is a dry seasoning they put on the meat, he said.

After seasoning, he said he lets “the smoker do the rest.” Patience is key. Depending on the cut of meat — pork butt or brisket — the smoker slow-cooks for 10-14 hours to get that signature tender consistency, he said. There are several sauces, which are vinegar and ketchup-based. 

During the pandemic, the Butt Hutt changed to curbside pickup, which “added a new dimension to the restaurant,” Dillon Faulkner said. Long-time customers have helped the restaurant get through a year with big changes, he said.

Once restrictions eased in July, Butt Hutt opened back up for service. The restaurant hosts a trivia night on Thursdays, and on many Friday nights it features live music. Faulkner is also planning to host “open mic” nights, where budding musicians can play for tips, he said.

Along with traditional barbecue offerings such as potato salad, macaroni and cheese and baked beans, the restaurant features a side item that prompts the question — what is chicken mull?

“We get that all the time,” Faulkner said. It’s from his grandfather’s recipe for a white-based stew, including chicken, soda crackers, milk and butter, he said.

“My grandpa actually passed away a few years ago,” Faulkner said. “I’m hoping he is looking down and proud of what I’ve done so far.”