By Matt Kollmansperger
Having been in Richmond for more than twenty-five years, Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue has made quite name for itself on the restaurant scene. Being that Richmond has such a thriving food scene, this southern-style attraction was met with stiff competition when they first opened in 1992 on Boulevard near The Diamond, but they quickly filled a niche. Since then, they have received much publicity from multiple sources, including recently retired Adam Richman from the TV show Man v. Food and the Food Network. In a cooking contest in the spare ribs category, Buz and Ned’s beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay on his show Throwdown with Bobby Flay.
Just down the street from Tropical Smoothie and PT Hastings Famous Seafoods lies their second location, a warehouse-style restaurant with a very southern feel, seemingly out of place among the bustling shopping centers and car dealerships of West Broad Street. Whether they’re drawn to the artificially rusted building or the smokey smell of home cooked barbecue, those who venture inside can expect an experience like no other.
As I passed through the double glass doors under the “EAT REAL BBQ” sign hanging off of the building, my nose was filled with appetizing smells wafting from the kitchen directly in front of me. Hanging over the bustling cooks and pit masters was a menu covering all bases of traditional barbeque. One of the first appealing factors I noticed was the plethora of different meals and quantities. Including multiple combinations, complete dinners and complete platters, this ordering style allows the customer to immerse themselves in the food and experience all of the quality Buz and Ned’s has to offer. The different styles and meat selections and cuts add to the experience even more. From their broad selection, customers can pick and choose their options to create the perfect meal catered just to them.
As I read over the vast options, I decided to settle on one of my all time favorites: the extra heavy baby back ribs. With this entree, I was given a choice of two sides, so I chose fries, some of the best in Richmond, in my opinion; and macaroni and three cheeses, a premium side for just 99 cents. I brought two other critics along with me, Clair Cortright and Kelli Gillespie, both seniors at D. F. Freeman High School. Cortright ordered a pulled pork barbecue sandwich with chips and hush puppies. Gillespie tried a shredded chicken sandwich with hush puppies and potato salad. Each meal came with Buz n Ned’s house coleslaw. The food was reasonably priced for the quantity and quality of the meal.
The seating options consist of booths and tables, as well as a bar, all furnished with a homey, almost western style. As we sat at our table awaiting our food, we noticed many interior features that added flavor and entertainment to the restaurant. Some of these features included old brick and metal interior as well as weathered signs and decorations for the walls. A bathtub converted into a sink sat at the entrance of the restaurant, and a carnival-style pig shooting game ran back and forth above the bar for patrons to pass the time. Everything from the tables and chairs to authentic feeding troughs placed throughout the seating area added to the restaurant’s style.
Our waitress soon arrived and brought us our three baskets of barbecue and ribs. As I began to prepare my meal, I noticed how well cooked the ribs were. One very important aspect of a good rack of ribs is the “fall off the bone” factor, but also maintaining moisture as you add the smokey flavor. Buzz and Ned’s had no issues with this aspect, as my meal was cooked to perfection. Cortright and Gillespie felt that their barbecue was also exemplary. With chicken barbecue, it is often difficult to keep it from drying out while also making sure it’s not just drowning in sauce and served as stew on a bun. Typically, you’d see one of these two, but Buz and Ned’s has found the perfect balance. The pork was delectable, but even as one of the easier dishes, it still included a Buz and Ned’s twist on it. Something about how the bun was not too soaked with juice from the barbeque, mixed with the perfect consistency of the pork, put this dish high above all the others. “I’m impressed,” said Gillespie, “I’m not gonna lie, this is all actually pretty good for my first time being here.”
Following my main course, I ate the fries and mac ‘n’ cheese, both expertly created behind the swinging saloon doors. The fries maintained a very crispy outer coat while staying light and fluffy on the inside. “They’re crisp, I like those,” Gillespie elaborated after stealing one from my basket. I was allowed a taste from the other sides at the table as well. The hush puppies had a perfect consistency, and the potato salad was at an optimal balance of ingredients: not too much mayonnaise, but also not too thin to be watery. I got a thumbs up from Cortright as she finished the last of her chips before I had a chance to grab one.
As we were finishing up our meal, we were asked multiple times if all of our needs were catered to by the extremely accommodating staff weaving between tables. We were also given the opportunity to fill out a guest response form. In the midst of this, Cortright said “that kind of service is not something you’d see at a small barbecue place like this.”
Between their two locations, Buz and Ned’s certainly fills a need for a high-quality barbecue joint in town. Having been a regular customer for years, as well as having eaten at other barbecue establishments, I have experienced almost everything on their menu and can say with certainty it puts itself above all others in customer experience, quality, and value. Amongst other competitors such as Alamo, Q Barbecue , Mission, and Alexander’s, Buz and Ned’s has distanced itself by specializing in a higher quality and excellent restaurant service. Most others are much more grab-and-go, but I think the attention to detail and service adds character and value to the total experience.
Photos by Matt Kollmansperger unless otherwise noted. Featured image courtesy of Buz and Ned’s.