The two 12 Bones Smokehouse restaurants in Asheville, N.C., were already hugely successful when Bryan and Angela King purchased them in 2013. The barbecue served at the restaurants had a devoted local following and a big enough profile to get President Obama to drop in during two separate visits to the area.
The previous owners had their own ways of doing things, some by design and some out of necessity. King says they weren’t interested in franchising, and expansion of their existing sites wasn’t an option. Neither restaurant is open for dinner, and one of the locations is closed on the weekends. The Kings spent several months working in the restaurants before finalizing their purchase to make sure they shared the vision of the restaurants’ original owners.
They did, and so both sides went ahead with the purchase. But the Kings still saw opportunities to build on the success the restaurants had achieved.
“We want to grow the business, but in a way that keeps in mind the core, what really got us to where we are,” he says.
The Kings have expanded their catering business, renting out the restaurants at night for rehearsal dinners and corporate gatherings. They have started selling some of their sauces, such as their popular blueberry chipotle barbecue sauce, at grocery stores and specialty food stores throughout the southeast. King says he thinks 12 Bones sauce is even sold in Taiwan.
Their latest venture has been a cookbook filled with recipes for dishes served in the restaurant. King says the book, 12 Bones Smokehouse: A Mountain BBQ Cookbook, has been much more popular than he expected.
“Part of me would have been happy to have books in the restaurant for sale,” he says. “But there’s been such an outpouring of support for it.”
The book was written by the Kings, Shane Heavner, the head chef at 12 Bones, and Asheville journalist Mackensy Lunsford. It is among the top-selling cookbooks on Amazon.com and is available nationally in Barnes & Noble. King was flown out to Los Angeles to promote the cookbook and prepare the restaurant’s brown sugar baby back ribs on Hallmark’s Home & Family show.
“It’s been great,” King says. “It’s been selling really well, selling like hotcakes.”
King says the cookbook may also be bringing some new fans to the restaurant. Most of the people who came out for an appearance King made at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh this summer indicated they had never been to the restaurant before — but are likely to stop by on their next visit to Asheville.
King gives much of the credit for the cookbook’s success to Lunsford and Heavner. “She was the driving force that Shane and I both needed to compile and write it,” he says. “We were so busy trying to run the restaurant while compiling recipes for the book. Mackensy was very beneficial in directing us.”
While most home cooks can’t replicate the time and process that 12 Bones goes through in smoking their meats, King says the cookbook provides some tricks that can be used to give home cooks “a close approximation” of the food prepared at the restaurant.
“We even have a recipe for someone who doesn’t have a smoker, a city person so to speak, who is looking to cook some ribs and have some smoky flavor,” King says. “If you sprinkle some smoked sea salt underneath a rack of ribs, then cook the ribs in foil in the oven, it will give you a slight smoky flavor.”