Here’s the headline: Buz and Ned’s has the best pork barbecue I have tasted so far in the State of Virginia. It was delicious, with that wonderful flavor of hickory-smoked pork. And it’s only 100 miles away.
The coronavirus lockdown has seriously hampered my barbecue research. It scotched a couple of planned Virginia trips as well as a trips to Kansas City, upland South Carolina, and Eastern North Carolina for (sniff) the Annual Beer Snob Pig Picking (and five or seven places along the way). I’ve solaced myself nicely with 2fifty Texas and Sloppy Mama’s here in the DC metro area, but that pioneer spirit (word is I’m a direct descendant of Daniel Boone as are, by now, untold thousands of other people) always has me looking over the next mountain for the next barbecue place.
Over the next mountain — well, over some hills — I spotted Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue. Nancy and I drove down to Richmond for lunch one hot Tuesday so I could continue my Campaign for Real Barbecue search for places that cook only with wood: True ‘Cue. You may well have heard of Buz and Ned’s. Buz started out selling lunch sandwiches from a hand cart downtown. (Ned seems to be a composite of a number of barbecue mavens.) Buz did well enough to graduate to a brick and mortar place on The Boulevard that gained local fame, and soon, Buz was on Man v. Food. He then beat Bobby Flay in a ribs Throwdown. Fame and fortune followed — at least enough fortune to open a large second place on Broad Street in Henrico County. Thither we went.
I usually choose the original location of a barbecue chain, but here I chose the Broad Street/Henrico Buz and Ned’s for the simple reason that they were doing all their cooking there under the straitened circumstances of the lockdown.
Faye Wootton, who is very nice, greeted us and got us situated at a nicely shaded outdoor table, and took our order. Nancy ordered the chicken skewers with potato salad and cole slaw as her sides.
The chicken arrived with good caramelization and a sweetish sauce. Underneath the chicken you may glimpse a small piece of artisan bread that has absorbed sauce and drippings. Nancy loved it. She also gave a big thumbs up to the potato salad, nicely dressed with some celery and parsley, and to the fresh and crisp cole slaw. The slaw, too, was well dressed with just the right amount of a thin sauce that had an interesting flavor — interesting in that good “How did they do it?” way, not in that “Hmm, interesting” way you use when the cook is standing there and you can barely stand it. I meant to ask about the seasoning. Next trip.
I ordered pork, unsauced;
greens (which Faye, who usually doesn’t like greens, said were delicious); and potato salad.
I’ll repeat: this was the best pork I’ve tasted in all of Virginia. It was tender, moist, and had that great hickory flavor. In Washington, pork takes a back seat to brisket, and everything gets cooked with oak. Buz cooks with hickory. Indeed, Buz can wax poetic on the subject of wood. He is very picky. He only accepts hickory, and only green hickory: the dry lacks flavor. He is particular about the color. the hickory should be white. Brown in the wood indicates that the flavor is going, and a purple color shows incipient rot. Buz knows wood.
The sauce for pork at Buz and Ned’s is vinegar based with a sweet hit. It’s nicely spiced, a good sauce, but the meat is fine without it. I felt it would gild the lily.
Oh — On a last-minute whim, I also ordered a smoked sausage.
The sausage came on a bun, as you can see, with side containers of mustard and a very good jalapeño and onion relish. You could order the sausage just for the relish, but the sausage itself is great. Buz gets it from Texas, which is a good place to get sausage. And by cooking it over hickory he adds a nice layer to the oak smoking it gets in Texas. It’s outstanding.
And the greens were as advertised — excellent. They’re cooked with chopped side meat and a little onion. The greens are delicious, and there’s a lot of pot likker.
I was happy to present Buz — very safely — with a certificate that Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue cooks Tru ‘Cue.
The certificate got me a tour of the facility. The Broad Street location is state of the art. Rather than a refrigerator to store the meat, Buz and Ned’s has a separate refrigerator room — maybe 12 by 12 — for meat storage. Next to it is a refrigerated prep room. The temperature and freshness of the meat are maintained until it goes into the cookers, of which there are three: one for large meat, one for ribs, one for chicken. The genius at the pit is Juan Lovo.
He’s been at Buz and Ned’s for 17 years, and can play the three cookers like a cello. All of the cookers are fired exclusively with hickory, with one for the big pieces of meat — shoulders and briskets, one for chicken, and one for ribs. That’s important, because the various meats require different temperatures for cooking.
Either the True ‘Cue certificate or my charm also got me some complimentary ribs, of which Buz is justifiably proud. Remember that he beat Bobby Flay? I can see why. The ribs had great flavor and texture, and I’m only surprised that Flay had the temerity to challenge Buz. They looked good enough that I failed to take a picture before I ate, and you don’t take pictures after eating a rib.
Buz and Ned’s has a lot to offer. They make and sell Real Barbecue, and very good barbecue at that — as I say, the best pork I’ve ever eaten in Virginia to date. It was well worth the 200 mile round trip on (shudder) I-95 for lunch. For those traveling on 95, it’s conveniently situated only a few miles off the highway. You really should head straight to Buz and Ned’s.
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