Bethany Clough

Eating Out: Uncle Buddy’s restaurant joins Clovis barbecue scene

A pig with wings is the mascot at newly opened Uncle Buddy’s Smokehouse N Grill on Pollasky.
A pig with wings is the mascot at newly opened Uncle Buddy’s Smokehouse N Grill on Pollasky. bclough@fresnobee.com

In the mood for meaty, juicy, smoky goodness?

If so, you’re in luck. It’s a good time to be a barbecue fan, particularly in Clovis.

Old Town Clovis got another big barbecue joint last week when Uncle Buddy’s Smokehouse N Grill opened. At 836 Pollasky Ave., it’s in a building that’s been empty for a couple years, but used to be home to Franco’s Restaurant and El Pueblito Restaurant.

Running the show at Uncle Buddy’s is the mother-son team of Johni and Brian Jennings, and Brian’s wife, Anna. The Buddy in the name is Brian: Uncle Buddy is what his niece used to call him because she couldn’t pronounce “Brian.”

Johni has run a catering business for years and Brian grew up in the food business, including working for her. He tried other jobs, like being a correctional officer and working on cars, but “just came back to food, always back to food.”

He started barbecuing for friends and family and it was so good they decided to open a restaurant, they say.

This is old-school, Texas-style barbecue, slow-cooked for 10 to 13 hours, he says. It’s made in smokers and charcoal grills using oak or applewood out back.

He starts that barbecue up at 2:30 in the morning.

Johni Jennings

The pair say they’re best known for their brisket, pulled pork and tri-tip. The restaurant also serves ribs, smoked sausage, chicken and turkey breast.

“The way he cuts it, it’s so tender, and it’s so juicy and it’s so good,” Johni Jennings says. “The tri-tip, the ribs, they just fall off the bones.”

Customers can order sandwiches with the meats or combo plates with one, two or three meats and two sides. Sides include slices of okra that are breaded and deep fried, mac and cheese, garlic bread, baked beans and corn bread.

Uncle Buddy’s also serves beer and wine and Fresno State ice cream.

Look for the pig with wings at Uncle Buddy’s. She’s the mascot.

The family has tweaked the restaurant itself, adding a bar facing the window that diners can sit at made from old scaffolding wood. The door handle and other fixtures are made from old iron gas pipes. And the new wooden wall in one half of the dining room is made from old fence posts and barnwood.

Todd’s Bar-B-Q

Of course, Uncle Buddy’s isn’t the only barbecue place in town.

The other biggie is Todd’s CookHouse Bar-B-Q, at 1414 Clovis Ave., which opened about nine months ago. It’s still serving its Southern barbecue with a Louisiana influence – like the popular pulled pork, brisket, baby back ribs and gumbo.

The restaurant owner recently decided to go full service, meaning waiters and waitresses take your order at your table. Before, customers ordered at a counter.

“It’s such a big restaurant, it just needed to be full service,” owner Todd Leaf says.

And there’s plenty of other barbecue restaurants in town. I don’t do reviews in this column, but instead focus on sharing restaurant news. A quick perusal of other diners’ reviews on Yelp.com can help you figure out where to go.

Clovis is also home to Grill Masters BBQ, Phil’s Corner Grill BBQ, and national chain Dickey’s Barbecue Pit with one location at 1610 Herndon Ave. and another coming soon to 1220 Shaw Ave.

And some of them have some wacky stuff going on.

Phil’s Corner Grill

Phil’s Corner Grill is inside the 76 station at Sunnyside Avenue and Tollhouse Road. It’s takeout only and serves breakfast (as in, breakfast burritos), lunch and dinner.

Tri-tip is popular here, but there’s also ribs, chicken – and X-rated macaroni and cheese.

Why X-rated?

“It’s not for kids,” says the man making it, Phillip Young. It’s got lots of herbs and pepper-jack cheese that make it quite different than what’s on your typical kids menu mac and cheese.

Grill Masters BBQ

Grill Masters BBQ at 2700 Clovis Ave. has all the regular barbecue favorites, but is known for something different: its mini Matty burger.

Between the buns is this impressive lineup: two hamburger patties, tri-tip, pork rib meat, bacon, cheese and a secret sauce. It’s called mini because it’s a small version of the Matty’s “ultimeat” challenge burger, which is a burger that has all those things, but in an even more ridiculous amounts.

The Matty burger is named after the owner’s friend Matt.

A hotel nearby often brings in European tourists on their way to Yosemite National Park who have found the restaurant via Yelp.com. They are quite impressed with the $11.50 mini Matty burger, says owner Jesse Cortez.

“They’ll take pictures because they’re so amazed ... they’ve never seen a burger like this,” he says.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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