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A pulled pork trio from SlowBones Modern BBQ

Steven Kolow, who co-founded Boston Chicken in 1985, is entering the barbecue fray with SlowBones Modern BBQ, which he plans to open in late October in Burlington, Mass.

The open-kitchen, fast-casual concept will offer pulled pork, smoked brisket and chicken, as well as char-grilled shrimp burgers. Sides will range from healthful to indulgent, including honey-lemon Greek yogurt with crumbled candied walnuts, maple quinoa, spoon cornbread and better-for-you black beans. Naan bread and lettuce will be available for customers to make wraps, letting guests “honor their diet or their values for the way they eat, without sacrificing their cravings,” Kolow said.

The chickens are cage-free, the brisket is certified black Angus, and the pork is all-natural. Twelve sauces, all free of high-fructose corn syrup, will be offered.

Kolow’s vision is ambitious. He plans to build eight- to 12-unit “pods” fed by central commissaries. The first, centered around metropolitan Boston, will be fed by a commissary in Eliot, Maine. Beans and some of the meat will be cooked there, then reheated at each location. Fresh, seasonal vegetables will be cooked on-premise, as well chicken, cooked in smokers visible to the public.

Kolow said the restaurant’s layout is similar to the original Boston Chicken, only with smokers instead of rotisseries. Three cutting areas will let customers see brisket and chickens being carved.

The first unit will have 28 seats and one smoker in 1,630 square feet. Subsequent units will have two smokers in 2,200-3,000 square feet.

“I think everyone loves barbecue, and although barbecue is notoriously regionalized in the way people expect it … right now, people are just looking for great food and familiar food, presented in a way that they can honor the way they like to eat,” he said.

Opening in Boston, an area without a strong barbecue heritage, lowers the barrier to entry, he said, because potential patrons aren’t “holding on so passionately to their area’s preference.”

Kolow said he plans to run the first location for six to nine months before expanding, but he said he has partners in southern California and southern Florida with whom he plans to work to open in those areas. The California locations would be company owned; in south Florida they would be company owned or a joint venture.

“I am not a fan of franchising until it’s completely ready — systematized and refined,” Kolow said.

Update: Oct. 24, 2013 A previous version of this story has been updated with an image of 4 Rivers Smokehouse's 18-hour smoked angus brisket.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
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