Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen
Where: 2200 Sparta Way, Buford
Hours: 6 a.m to 2 p.m. and 4:30-8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday
After being closed for a week, South Hall’s Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen will reopen Monday in a new location with double the space of its former building, less waiting time, more menu options and a new private meeting room for groups.
“This is more for the customers,” said owner Bill Mays, who started Papa Jack’s just across Spout Springs Road from his new location 12 years ago. “A lot of people were worried about us and said, ‘Oh, you’re going to go to that fancy new place and we’re not going to have the hometown feel anymore.’ But it’s the same people, the same food, just more efficient. It’s just something I can give back. My customers built Papa Jack’s.”
Mays said returning customers to the cafeteria-style restaurant will first notice they are served and seated more quickly. The 8,000-square-foot building will seat at least 150 customers at once compared to the seating of 70-75 in the old facility.
“On weekends, I would probably lose 50 people a day,” he said. “They would drive by, see the long line inside and see the long line at the drive-thru and say, ‘We love you, Bill, but we gotta keep going.’”
The extra space in the kitchen and serving area will also add a wider variety of options.
“Now, we have the ability to have several hot items, do more things. It’s going to be good,” Mays said. “Over there, (former location), we only did mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans — those three everyday. Now, we can mix it up — cabbage, beets, squash, a lot of things. We can load it up.”
“We’re going to try to do something that’s baked or grilled in every shift,” he added. “We’re also going to have a salad bar. That’s probably the biggest new thing.”
The new kitchen also has waffle irons, and Papa Jack’s has added Belgian waffles to the breakfast menu.
“Over there we just did pancakes; here we’re going to waffles,” Mays said. “If I’m on vacation somewhere and they have pancakes and waffles, I’m going to get a Belgian waffle every time.”
Mays said the kitchen will help cut waits in the drive-thru line, as well as improve the catering service at Papa Jack’s. He does catering for a minimum of 25 people and has provided for groups of 1,500.
“It’s an unbelieveable kitchen; now we’ve got the firepower to do whatever,” he said. “We had to turn away (catering) stuff at Christmas because we couldn’t get it done. We’re trying to make everything more efficient. My drive-thru over there on Saturday and Sunday, the wait was 4-5 minutes. Now, we should be able to go within 2 minutes.”
Mays is also excited about his Southern Pride smoker, which is new to the restaurant.
“It’s a haus,” he said. “A lot of guys show a picture of their hot car or their new girlfriend. What does Bill Mays show? I show my Southern Pride smoker. Now, we can do hams and turkeys at Christmas and have smoked prime rib nights.”
The meeting room is also a new feature for the restaurant, with space to seat “80 people easy” at tables, according to Mays.
“This is something that we’ve got special this time,” he said of the meeting room. “We can open it up if we’re extra busy, but I can close it down for private meetings. I have rented out one night for a Saturday and have one booking that is seven Mondays in a row. I think three other parties are also booked.”
Mays has been in the restaurant business for 36 years, owning a couple of sandwich shops and a seafood restaurant in the past before starting his country cooking restaurant in 2005.
The name Papa Jack’s is in honor of his father, Charles Wesley Mays, who died in 1999. His father never ran a restaurant himself, but he encouraged his son. Mays said having a successful restaurant named for his father is “beyond my wildest dreams.” There are pictures and other memorabilia as customers walk to the serving line along framed writing telling customers about the original Papa Jack.
“He loved barbecue and he loved country cooking,” Mays said of his dad. “I get called Papa Jack a lot more than I do Bill now. I wish I could fill up those shoes.”