Bancroft's forthcoming Texas smokehouse-meets-Alabama potluck opens in Auburn on November 5. 

Full Tray
Credit: Stephen DeVries

The chef at the acclaimed Auburn, Alabama fine-dining restaurant Acre is pivoting to something a bit more casual. On November 5, David Bancroft opens Bow & Arrow, a playful cafeteria-style concept that brings his South Texas roots to the forefront while showcasing his passion for large-format smoked meats. Where Acre was Alabama-driven with Texas flare, Bow & Arrow will flip that on its head, centering Texas-style BBQ with uniquely Southern accents.

"It's going to be Texas-driven with nuances of Alabama, so now I'm just reversing the rules," says the 2018 James Beard Award Best Chef: South semifinalist, who was born in Alabama but grew up in Texas. "I didn’t train at culinary school. I was trained by barbecue."

Credit: Stephen DeVries

The Auburn restaurant will serve a variety of smoked meats cooked over live-fire Kudu grills, all on display for diners to select before heading to a service line featuring Southern sides—think tater tot casserole, butter beans, mac and cheese, collards, and cream corn—that would fit right in at an Alabama potluck. As you walk through the line, you fill up your butcher-paper-lined tray with meats by the pound and containers of sides.

The building is wrapped in Texas limestone and accented with cactuses around the landscape. When you walk in, you won't be able to miss the "giant tortilla machine," another nod to Bancroft's childhood. ("Growing up, bread service was tortillas and butter," he says. "At the Alamo café, that’s what they put on the table. Most of them were grandmothers.") The hardest decision you'll ever have to make at Bow & Arrow is: Do you choose white bread or tortillas?

"Are you going pot luck, or are you going to build some tacos? Whatever device you need to transport to your face, you have to make that decision," says Bancroft.

Mac and Cheese
Credit: Stephen DeVries

Bow & Arrow has a giant fire pit—"a grill grate that’s like a six-foot Wheel of Fortune"—and above hangs an iron chandelier, from which all the house-piped sausages dangle. It's going to be pretty spectacular.

"When you swing the handle bar, the sausages swing," says Bancroft. "The butcher is standing next to it carving on a giant five-foot bucher block, and he’s slicing up smoked turkey, Texas hotlinks, brisket, pork..."

Beef, however, will be the star. Bancroft has already found distributors to ship in Texas wagyu and certified Akaushi beef from Texas. But the chef will also be serving some "accepted Alabama stuff," including the state's signature white sauce. At the condiment area, you'll also find "straight Texas BBQ," housemade hot sauces, an assortment of pickles, chow chows, relishes, and taquiera-style hot sauces, because selecting accoutrements is half the fun.

"Every time you come through – the first thing you see is Texas," he says ."And then you have this very comforting potluck finish as you’re walking through. And then you finish on your bread and vessel. It gives you the opportunity to be hyper creative. Here’s your chance."

Bow & Arrow, 1977 East Samford Avenue. Auburn, Alabama 36830.