Editor's Note: Our Sunday restaurant feature "Dining in Douglas" this week spotlights Da Spot in Villa Rica, which opened in 2014 and is run by a Douglasville family.
You can’t miss it. Although it is located next to a gas station, it is the several grills smoking pounds of meat that catch people’s attention. Smoke rises up and wafts the smell of delicious barbecue onto the highway.
Da Spot head chef and founder Israel Robinson used to cook on the main grill, which he would attach to the back of his pickup truck, set up on location and sell his meat.
“I started using my skills on the side of the street in Douglasville,” said Robinson. “At the car wash, at the gas station, everywhere. From there, a friend of mine who lived by here in Carrollton told me about this building that was available. I came out here and met the landlord and before you know it, Da Spot was born.”
Before that, though, Robinson learned how to cook in New Orleans where he worked at a family restaurant with his mother and aunt. When he got older, he joined the Army as a cook for the service personnel. Robinson would spend the next 22 years cooking in the military. When he retired, Robinson was a sergeant first class, E7.
Robinson's love and pride for the military is reflected in his several military flags that hang outside the front of the restaurant. A couple of picnic tables offer outside dining. Active duty, retired and disabled military receive a 10 percent discount with a valid military I.D. as well.
Once inside, the vibrant blue, yellow and white wallpapers along with the comfortable booths, tables and half-booths provide an intimate persona and resembles Southern cooking.
A bar top with four seats allows customers to eat at the counter. A total of 13 tables for 45 customers are open and available. Wide windows provide a scenic look onto the highway.
A few TVs are scattered throughout to provide news and entertainment to guests.
Robinson's family is present inside the restaurant as well. His son Isiah Robinson takes over the business side while his father cooks.
“I was a business minor [at Georgia State] so he called me in,” said Isiah. “Once he got the opportunity to have this location presented to us, he called me in and I pretty much handle the front end and all the business aspects of it.”
The family resides in Douglasville, where they have been since 2005 after moving from New Orleans. Isiah went to Lithia Springs High School.
There is no shortage of barbeque items on Da Spot’s menu.
Sandwiches, chicken, wings, ribs, platters and sides provide guests a variety of options. A kid’s menu is perfect for little customers.
“We got a variety,” said Israel. “You have briskets, pulled pork, turkey ribs. On the fish side, we have catfish and whiting. A little bit of everything.”
Most of the menu was created from Israel's love for cooking as well as customer feedback.
"A lot of the stuff was inspired by him," said Isiah. "It's a hobby of his. We go by what the customers around the local area were saying. A lot of the other things were added based on customer feedback based on different popular items that we tweaked."
Israel serves as the head chef in the kitchen.
However, the family run establishment is evident since Israel’s wife Rhonda makes most of the sides and a few desserts.
“I am the main man in the kitchen and my son and my wife Rhonda are my supporters,” said Israel. “My wife does all the sides.”
And does she! Some of her contributions include homemade macaroni and cheese, collard greens, red beans and rice, green beans, sweet potato pie and lemon pound cake.
Da Spot does offer specials but there isn’t a set time on how long the special will last.
“It’s more by the chef’s will,” said Isiah. “It depends on how he feels. He might wake up one day and want to to throw something up there. It’s sporadic. It’s not a set schedule. Sometimes we may not have any at all.”
One significant factor about the meat is that everything is smoked. Da Spot gets its wood from a custom remodeler named Stanley Hulsey.
“We smoke everything,” explained Israel. “All of our meat is smoked. We use red oak and hickory wood.”
Although there is no alcohol, the sweet tea and lemonade are perfect replacements as cold drinks on a hot day.
Da Spot caters and does to-go orders. They are working on getting a delivery system set up.
No matter what, Israel’s passion for cooking is evident in his love for food and his determination to give customers a treat.
“I enjoy cooking,” said Israel. “I love being creative. We have our own twist. I love giving people the opportunity to taste something different."