Uncle Jack’s Meat House owner Willie Degel is coming to Lawrenceville and Peachtree Corners — and neighborhoods throughout the rest of Gwinnett County.
The news that Degel is planning to open a second Uncle Jack’s Meat House location in Gwinnett County, which would be the third location overall in the chain, has been around for awhile. What Gwinnettians may not know is that he’s also coming to Lawrenceville.
Degel announced over the weekend that he will be opening a new restaurant concept, called Jack’s Tavern, in Lawrenceville. The 200-seat restaurant will have indoor and outdoor seating, and be located in Lawrenceville’s Southlawn development.
“Future home to ‘Jack’s Tavern’ in Lawrenceville, GA,” Degel posted on Facebook, alongside photos of the outside of his new restaurant location and a floor plan, on Saturday.
The new restaurant in Lawrenceville is part of a big Gwinnett expansion of Degel’s dining empire. Degel may be New York-born-and-bred, but it appears his heart is firmly planted in Gwinnett County.
The self-described “Queens-raised boy,” who is perhaps best known nationally as the host of the long-running Food Network series “Restaurant Stakeout,” opened Uncle Jack’s Meat House three years ago in Duluth and has additional plans to grow his brand in Gwinnett.
“I love Georgia,” Degel said during a recent telephone interview. “It’s beautiful and it’s a conservative state. It’s more pro-business. I’ve been in New York for years and I’ve gone through its ups and downs. I love New York. I’m a Queens-raised boy, but I’m 52 and I see opportunity going to the South.
“I’m going to open a bunch more locations in Georgia, North and South Carolina, (and) Florida, and then I’m looking to take my company and merge with a publicly-traded company or look to go public myself down the road.”
Opening Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse in New York some 25 years ago, Degel plans to debut a second Uncle Jack’s Meat House (a 220-seat indoor/outdoor establishment) later this year at Town Center Boulevard in Peachtree Corners, in addition to Jack’s Tavern in Lawrenceville.
“It’s a more casual thing than Uncle Jack’s Meat House, even more affordable and simpler on the décor,” said Degel about Jack’s Tavern. “A more working-class, college-y, everyday people location…I have the price range to cover every customer base in all of Georgia. The ultimate goal is to get five to seven locations in Georgia open in the next three years and have different food trailers.”
The public announcement about Jack’s Tavern coming to Lawrenceville was embraced by City Manager Chuck Warbington, who shared Degel’s Facebook post while calling it, “#HomeofHangingBacon.”
But new restaurants in Lawrenceville and Peachtree Corners are not all Degel has planned for Gwinnett.
For the first time in his celebrated career, Degel is going all-out into the food truck business, with plans to have Jack Shack Food Trailers “in the parking lot” at both Jack’s Meat House locations. It’s likely, however, that they won’t spend much time in the parking lot as Degel has big ideas for rolling the movable feast along.
“We do a lot of events now and we do a lot in the community and a lot with schools and any town event with tastings,” he said. “So now I want to run the tastings out of (the food trucks) and do a lot of complimentary things, and we’ll also be booking for parties, back-yard events, birthdays, holidays, celebrations by rolling that out as well.”
He sees his food trucks — which he said would serve “organic, all-natural” food — as yet another way to entice consumers to give his cuisine a try.
“When you have restaurants open and you have great teamwork and great working partners and you have places where you can do the prep and you’ve already got a fan base built in the community, this is just an extension of the brand,” Degel said. “And you need the right people to run it. I’m all about building opportunities with people.”
Degel said he found out about Gwinnett County “by chance” but added he’s delighted to be part of the community fabric and to meet transplants from the Atlantic coast.
“My in-laws moved there, my brother-in-law moved there, my wife’s uncles (moved there), a lot of friends and family (live there), and when I built the Duluth restaurant three years ago and I was in the store, the door kept getting knocked off before we were open,” he said.
“Everybody knocking on the door was from the east coast – from Philadelphia, from New Jersey, from Pittsburgh, from Connecticut, from Boston, from New York, from Chicago. There are a lot of transients in the South and they were looking for a New York operator with a sense of feel and that same difference in quality, so I had to come to the South, I had to adapt, I had to get the Southern charm atmosphere and I had to see what the South does.”
While Degel oversees an ambitious expansion, he looks forward to continuing the local relationships he’s fostered and to making new friends.
“You never stop trying to be better…and you build your brand,” he said. “In Gwinnett County, we have a lot of contacts there and I’m so happy about Peachtree Corners coming on and I’m working with more developers. They’re all coming to me.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity in Georgia, not only for me but for the people involved with me. I’m into changing lives. I always want to build willionaires – that’s millionaires within my system. If they’re willing to dig in and do what it takes, we’ll get there.
For more information, visit www.williedegel.com.