This Wednesday, I was invited to a “food blogger” tasting at the town’s favorite fried foods joint, Uncle Buzzy’s. I got to hang out and eat a ton of food with my foodie friends Michael Hastings (food editor at Winston-Salem Journal, who you’ll hear me talk about on the podcast a good bit), Tim Clodfelter (also a WSJ guy), Nikki Miller-Ka (WSNC’s very first food blogger) and Carroll Leggett (food hype man extraordinaire also mentioned on the podcast some).
We passed around a lot of food. We sat around a small round table and they had to pull another table just to stage the stuff because we went through so much. I joked at the end about someone putting me in a wheelbarrow to get me to my car. We “tasted” 10-12 items and these weren’t small portions. I didn’t eat again until midday Thursday. I can keep telling you it was a lot, but I can also show you what I’m talking about.
We started with two different kinds of roast beef sandwiches. First was the Buzzy’s Super Roast Beef, which is rare roast beef, Memphis BBQ sauce, lettuce tomato and onion (lto) and American cheese. It was a great starter. It was at this point that we realized we needed to cut down the portions as we were going to get full right quick, fast and in a hurry. The rare roast beef which was seasoned in a house rub melted in your mouth. It juicy but I didn’t notice if it had soaked through the bun, so that’s a good thing, I believe.
Next came what Dave Hillman, owner of Uncle Buzzy’s, calls their best seller which is the Beef on Weck. Carroll kept trying to ask what Weck was and I don’t know if he actually got his answer but it seems that Beef on Weck is a Buffalo-area thing popular up north. Weck is short for Kimmelweck, which is a kaiser roll that is topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds. Traditionally, the sandwich is served with an au jus and spread with horseradish. Uncle Buzzy’s is dipped in seasoned au jus, horseradish whipped cream and on a salt crusted caraway roll. Dave says he gets heck from a friend of his who is from Buffalo that says it’s not the same. But, Dave says this is their spin on that Buffalo classic, adding the horseradish cream instead of straight horseradish. I had never had it and the bun was a great compliment to the beef and the horseradish cream. Not too spicy but enough that it made the roast beef pop. I liked it a lot.
The new fashion statement in food lately, as far as I can tell is this “Nashville” hot chicken sandwich. Uncle Buzzy’s Hot Chicken Sandwich is chicken thigh meat, not breast, slathered in Buzzy’s Burn sauce (a proprietary blend of hot sauces and sriracha, etc.), pickles, lto, mayo. The mayo, to me, kind of cooled it down, which is good, I don’t need spicy to get me through the day. Good flavor with just enough burn. While I’m not usually a fan of chicken thigh (I’m more of a white meat chicken kind of guy), I have to say this had some great dark meat flavor to accentuate the spiciness. I dug it. It’s better than many hot chicken sandwiches in this town. Dave also gave us a tasting of the house Fried Chicken Sandwich, which has Memphis bbq sauce, coleslaw and lto. I thought it was a honey bbq when I first tasted it because of the sweetness. I still think there was honey in it. I thought that was a great sandwich, too. My table compadres seemed to enjoy all we had at that point, as well.
Any ordinary tasting would probably have ended there. This was no ordinary tasting.
Next was The REAL Philly Cheesesteak. With shredded beef, onions, mushrooms, American and provolone on a sub roll. There are four slices of cheese in each sub and it’s piled onto a super-soft roll. I don’t like toasted or hard bread for my sandwiches and this bread was oh-so-soft. You could really taste the cheese in the sandwich. The ingredients all melded together for a glorious flavor combo. Add on the cherry peppers and you’ve yourself a treat. I loved that sandwich!
Next was the wings. Yes. Wings. Uncle Buzzy’s broils their wings, fries them and then runs them through a charbroiler to finish them off before bathing them in your favorite sauce. We tried two different wing flavors on that day, spicy garlic and Korean Thai bbq. These aren’t wimpy wings, either. There’s meat on these bones. I found it funny we had a “flats vs bulbs” discussion and it seemed that flats may be the winner although some really love their bulbs. I’m a flats-kind of dude, myself. I believe Nikki was, too. The spicy garlic was, well, garlicky. It looked odd to have a white sauce on the wing (as Carroll remarked) but the flavor was good. The bbq wing looked like it would be more along the lines of a honey bbq wing but it had some oomph to it. The flavor was thick. I know that’s a texture, but the sauce just tasted thick. Again, hefty wings are good wings. These are hefty wings.
Full yet? We’re not done.
Two footlong Hot Dogs were cut into fifths and we got to try two of them. One was a pimento cheese dog that is on the menu at all times and the other is a BLT dog that was on special for that day. I’ve had the hot dogs there and they are good dogs. The toasted bun (I said I didn’t like my bread toasted, didn’t I? This is an exception) wrapped its proverbial arms around the cased meet and a blanket of pimento cheese piled on top? Oh yeah! I liked both, but I have to say I’m a fan of the build-your-own and the Chicago-style dog Uncle Buzzy’s masterfully makes.
A Burger came next. This is something that I’ve had plenty of from Uncle Buzzy’s. It’s about a bi-weekly thing at this point. Dave said their “burger philosophy” is a thinner patty. That allows a more even sear/cook. I love the way the lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese, buzzy sauce all compliment the beef and don’t overpower it. The burger is served on a brioche bun. Their burger is one of my favorites in town. Top 5 definitely.
About this time some of us were starting to pass on food. My Beeman-Wastes-No-Food ideology was put to the test here. But, there was the “carney” aspect to veer into, so there we were…
The Smoked Mac n Cheese was next to come out and Dave had asked if we wanted it plain or with the four-pepper cheese sauce. We agreed “with.” I will go on record to say that “fried foods” themselves are not my thing. I don’t eat a lot of them, other than sauteed. That being said, these were good. Cheesy and I really liked the pepper-cheese sauce. But, I think I was running out of juice. I don’t know that I could give a fair review of them other than “good” or “cheesy.”
We all did give it one last hoorah for the Deep-Fried Desserts, though. We tried both the deep-fried Oreos and deep-fried Reese’s Cups. Each was served with a special “vanilla dip” which is malted soft serve ice cream. Decadent, to be sure. The batter was great and rich, a nice compliment to the prize inside and covering them in the malted dip was a delight. I’m going to say that while I really love Oreos, Reese’s Cups are some of my favorite “candy bars” so that wins for me, hands down.
One thing we discussed with Dave was that while Uncle Buzzy’s started off with more of a “carnival food” atmosphere, the deep-fried novelties aren’t where they are now. Yes, they have stuff like that, but it’s more about good food in plentiful portions. A good bit is fried but even more is grilled. I’ve talked about this on the podcast, it’s not who they are. It is just how they started marketing themselves. And, as far as I know, or am concerned, they have moved more into a good place to grab grub.
They have some seating and you’re welcome to hang out and eat, but to me, it isn’t a dine-in kind of place. Chef Brian Duffy (of TV’s Bar Rescue fame) helped devise a menu that foodies and Ordinary Joes can get behind. Sergio and Viery (pronounced Veer-E) prepare it and have been with Dave since the opening of Uncle Buzzy’s. They made our food and gave us a quick tour of the kitchen on Wednesday. They know what they’re doing.
Uncle Buzzy’s is located at 1510 W 1st Street, nestled between West End, West Highlands and Ardmore. You can order directly from them and pick it up, or go through many of the popular meal delivery services. I can’t speak for my friends in the tasting group but I loved the tasting, even if I did need help into my car after (I’m kidding). Thanks, Dave, Chef Duff, Sergio and Viery!!!