Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue, Richmond, Va.
I’ve always been one to want to try great restaurants, but when I first made the move to Idaho in 2009, Man vs. Food was a new show that hadn’t yet attracted my attention. Its second season began the week after I arrived in the Gem State, and it didn’t show an episode in my part of the country until that second season.
As a result, despite spending 17 years of my life in Virginia, it took me until this past May on a visit to my family to finally visit a famous restaurant in the Old Dominion State. That’s appropriate for Buz and Ned’s, because the restaurant itself is a result of a guy traveling the country before winding up in Virginia with the knowledge he’d acquired.
Buz and Ned’s gets its name from restaurant founder Buz Grossberg, who learned the art of barbecue in meccas for the delicacy, such as Texas, Kansas City, Memphis and North Carolina, which all have their own styles of successful barbecue. Some point before opening his restaurant, Buz’s and Ned’s site claims Buz met Ned in the mountains of southwest Virginia, discovering the best barbecue he’d tasted. Ned has apparently passed on, but Buz said that before doing so, Ned passed on his recipes and made Buz promise to keep the tradition of great barbecue alive.
If that’s true, Ned knew what he was doing. Buz and Ned’s calls itself the only real barbecue restaurant around for 100 miles (which basically means the entire corridor between DC and North Carolina), and although I can’t verify that claim, I can confirm that this is very real barbecue. What makes Buz and Ned’s barbecue worth the visit is that the sauce works perfectly with its meat.
Few people realize it until they have a bad pairing, but a sauce can make or break a barbecue meal. Too much of a sweetness in the sauce can overwhelm the meat and mask its taste. Too much vinegar can make the taste acidic rather than complementing the meat the way sauce is supposed to do.
Buz and Ned’s sauce, however, is a great combination. It has to be, because unlike Jethro’s, Buz and Ned’s only uses one sauce, made with over 20 secret ingredients. Given that they cook and smoke multiple meats, the sauce has to be able to work with the taste of pork, beef and chicken, which are three very different meats.
However, the sauce manages to work well. It’s not too sweet, it’s not too sour, it’s not too acidic, it’s not overwhelming. It’s not quite as good as a specialty sauce would be, but it works very well. You get the taste of the meat with flavor added, and that’s what really good barbecue is supposed to be. Clearly, Buz has learned well. My pork sandwich was moist, juicy, flavorful and had the right amount of sauce. Absolutely a wonderful meal.
His knowledge also shows in the side dishes available. Standards such as baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw and a three-cheese macaroni dot the menu. I can’t speak to the first three, but the three cheeses in the pasta work great, and it’s cooked very well.
But the real jewel among the sides is the cinnamon bourbon apples. These are also found at barbecue places across the country, but Buz and Ned’s really knows how to do these well. The taste of cinnamon permeates each bite, and the apples stay together, keeping a firm texture despite the infusion of the cinnamon-bourbon glaze. It’s sweet, and works great as a contrast to the barbecue.
It took me a while to find a place to review in my home state, but it’s a pretty nice debut. I’m not sure if Virginia has any other places that really know barbecue, but Buz and Ned’s certainly does.
Time to go: Lunch or dinner. I would not advise going before a Richmond Flying Squirrels game, as this place is very near the ballpark and likely gets crowded.
Wait during my visit: Minimal. The line moves quickly, and there is an ample amount of seating, because Buz and Ned’s provides a tent for people wanting the picnic feel along with their space in the building.
Location: Buz and Ned’s can be found at 1119 N. Boulevard in Richmond. There’s a second location on Broad Street in the suburb of Henrico, though it has a Richmond address.
Cost: Most meals are going to be around $12.
Parking: Challenging. The lot is not big enough to hold all the cars. You might have to find street parking, which is available.
Website: Buz and Ned’s
Specialty items: Barbecue