When writing about barbecue in Richmond, soliciting expert opinions is like wandering through a minefield. Every pit master thinks his barbecue is the city's best, and that he too could kick Bobby Flay's smoked butt if given the chance. The egos in this city's que-munity are admirable, but it's a difficult and fast fact that only one has video proof of a Flay slaying: Buz Grossberg, owner of Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue.
For the last 19 years, Buz has been serving Ned's family recipe out of a small location on the Boulevard, where long waits and mysteriously inadequate seating are all too familiar. Responding to the plea for more room to get messy, Buz opened a behemoth of a second location earlier this year in the former Fuddrucker's on West Broad Street near Parham Road. The exterior is new barn meets rustic industrial. The interior boasts a gargantuan Big Ass Fan — yes, that's a brand name — that stirs aromas above a large dining room. There's another dining area to the side as well as an outdoor eating space. Eighteen taps, heavy on local options, run the length of a smallish side bar with quiet flat screens. A tiny souvenir shop is in the front.
The menu hasn't changed. Pedestrian appetizers such as chicken tenders and fried shrimp ($4.99) should be dismissed; the real reasons to sit under the monster propeller are pulled pork and beef, pork baby back and spare ribs and jumbo beef ribs. If Buz's ribs were athletes, baby backs would be sumo wrestlers, thick and meaty ($15.95/half rack, $26.95/full) and spares ($13.95/half rack, $23.95/full) would be sprinters — longer, thinner and faster off the bone. Both are bewitchingly tender and easy to dismantle, yielding a mix of char, salt and spice with an undertone of molasses and tomato.
Sandwiches come as singles or meals with one or two buns jam-packed with meat. The chicken barbecue ($4.99) is a bit on the fatty side, while the beef brisket ($7.65) is a thinly sliced revelation. Hours upon hours of cooking time are visibly and tastefully apparent. Pulled pork ($5.50) further embraces the vinegar with a rising piquancy from bite to bite.
Because it's obvious how much time is invested in the meat at Buz's, it's also easy to identify the sides that seem like afterthoughts. A cucumber and onion salad ($1.49) is too heavy on the vinegar. Bagged onion rings ($3.99) and fries ($2.49) are sad. Coleslaw ($1.69) is merely adequate. The baked beans ($1.89), however, are a toothsome combo of pinto, great northern and kidney beans fraught with smoky swine. Country greens also are a worthy pairing.
The ordering process presents a conundrum. Standing in line for food and a seat (unless it's after 4 p.m.; then there are servers to bring you your meal once you're seated) lends itself to, well … lines and impatience. A better, quicker option is to take a seat at the bar if you're of age. Food can be ordered directly from a bartender, bypassing the chalkboard and the confusion.
Customers don't seem to be discouraged by the lines, though. The place bustles with energy and the kitchen stays busy cranking out hunks and slabs every day. You may believe the best smoked meat in town lies elsewhere, but a trip to this new location will certainly put Buz and Ned's higher on your list. S
Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue
8205 W. Broad St.
Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
(Original location: 1119 N. Boulevard, 355-6055)