Sherry’s Bait and Barbecue
When: Restaurant, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; Bait, 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday
Where: 2807 Dawsonville Highway, Gainesville
More info: 678-971-5607, www.sherrysbaitandbbq.com
When Terry Richards decided to retire from corporate life, he and wife Sherry knew they wanted to begin their new chapter on Lake Lanier. However, instead of simply moving from Vinings to Gainesville, the couple decided to take the two things they love — fishing and food — and start a business near the water.
Now entering its second summer, Sherry’s Bait and Barbecue on Dawsonville Highway offers fishermen, boaters and residents alike a unique experience that provides everything needed for a day on the lake.
“We have fishermen (who) will come in and get bait and grab lunch before they head out,” Terry Richards said. “Then, we have people from the neighborhood across the street (who) will just come by to get dinner.”
For hungry customers, Sherry’s has every option from house-smoked pulled pork, brisket and chicken to roast turkey sandwiches and chicken salad. All of the rubs, sauces and sides are original recipes. The couple created the barbecue, sauces and sides together.
“We get our meat from local suppliers, and the pork or brisket smokes for about 18 hours,” Terry said. “We are careful about how much we cook each day because if we run out, it’s not something we can easily get more of.”
Sherry’s Bait and Barbecue has run out of product before, including on a memorable opening day.
“We were so busy, we had run out of pork and brisket by about 3 p.m.,” said Sherry, who takes the orders inside the restaurant. “We loved the business but hated telling people that they only had certain options.”
Now, Terry smokes more than 100 pounds of meat for a day’s lunch and dinner. He cooks chicken and turkey throughout the day since they only take about four hours. Sherry makes fresh sides almost every morning. Baked beans and cole slaw are the classic and most popular side options.
“I just did a lot of research when I came up with the sides,” Sherry said. “I would find recipes online and then change them to fit what I wanted, or try it and then find something different.”
The couple also experienced some trial-and-error when it came to creating sauces, but they have almost perfected the art.
“We knew we wanted a classic Kansas City (sweet) barbecue sauce, and a more Carolina-style vinegar-based sauce,” Sherry said. “Now, we have those two sauces along with a mustard-based barbecue sauce and a sweet and hot sauce for people who like some spice.”
Although she enjoys all of the sauces on the menu, Sherry doesn’t have a favorite.
“Most of the time, I eat my barbecue with no sauce at all because it already has so much flavor,” she said.
Sherry’s is also different from some barbecue places because they automatically put the sauce on the side. It allows customers to choose how to douse their meat. They also searched for months before opening to find the perfect buns because they wanted to offer customers a larger sandwich.
“We ask customers if they want the sauce on the sandwich or on the side, and I’ve had a lot of customers confused,” Sherry said. “They’ll look at me and say ‘I want barbecue,’ because they are used to it being on the sandwich.”
Complementing the barbecue sandwich, Sherry’s Bait and Barbecue serves convenience items such as ice, chips, gum and candy. But to quench customers’ thirst, the store sells soda and beer.
“We are also unique in that we sell beer and other items for people to take out with them to the lake,” Terry said, noting the shop also serves breakfast for early morning fishermen. “It’s really the sum of all of the parts that makes us work. We couldn’t survive with just one element.”
Along with the restaurant’s vast menu, the couple hopes to create specials for the summer season. One special people have asked for, however, is still not going to be a staple at Sherry’s Bait and Barbecue.
“We have people that see the fish on our sign and come in and ask what kind of fish we have. We don’t serve fish,” Terry said. “The only fish we have are the bait fish.”
For the fisherman, the store carries cold-water bait in the winter and warmer-water bait in the summer. A supply of minnows, herring and more in the tanks provide fresh options for fishermen. Other fishing supplies such as lures, line and bobbers are available inside the restaurant.
Their location and early morning hours are key to fishermen casting off Lake Lanier and its feeder rivers.
“We are located between the bridges, which is great because people can come to us from either side and get any tackle they need,” Terry said. “We also have a cul-de-sac so trucks pulling boats can turn around and pull their boats right up to the shed.”