From the Midway to Winston-Salem: Uncle Buzzy’s Fried Food
If you’re like me, the very best thing about a carnival or a local fair is the food. With its endless food trucks of fun and fried treats, both savory and sweet. Well, there’s some buzz about a concept in Winston-Salem that will satisfy your craving for more than just once a year. Uncle Buzzy’s Fried Food is banking on fair lovers’ fascination with carney cuisine. It might actually be a new thing by now. Uncle Buzzy’s is a collaboration of Dave Hillman, who owns Burke Street Pizza and Quiet Pint, and celebrity chef Brian Duffy, of Spike T.V.’s Bar Rescue. The two worked together previously when Duffy consulted Quiet Pint’s menu several years ago when it opened just a block away from Uncle Buzzy’s.
Uncle Buzzy’s is a take-out place chocked full of “creative carnival fare.” Funnel cakes, hot dogs, smoked turkey legs, and more fried fare than you can shake a battered stick at. But if you’re worried about all the heart-stopping fryer action, there’s no need. The restaurant is more than just fried items. You’ll find burgers and chicken wings, but Hillman likes to think the stars of the show are the roast beef and pork sandwiches. “The pork and roast beef cook all night in the smoker, and we slice the beef to order. Everything we do is something you love, but with a twist.”
I tried “The Meat Cone” in Carney Town. My choice was the porchetta, which was layered on top of hand-cut fries then drizzled with pepper gravy. I considered it a hand-held entrée or poutine, and it was superb. There are other meat cones as well, with chicken fingers and the aforementioned roast beef. Local podcaster, blogger and foodie, Tim Beeman, was one of several who checked out the menu early on. “I know the fried food is the draw, but it’s not my scene. I liked the foot-long Chicago Dog and the Italian Beef. The flavors were hearty and fresh. Chef Brian Duffy’s touch is definitely on it.”
Hillman is a native New Yorker, who moved to Winston-Salem in 1998 after working in Boston for some time. He’s enjoyed success as restaurateur after opening Burke Street Pizza on First Street 15 years ago. “I worked for a day trading firm, and after 9/11, the market changed,” he told me. “I had to figure to what I wanted to do, and I have a background in bars and restaurants. The only action was on Burke Street back then, and I wanted to open up a pizza place that stayed open late.”
Hillman said he did a little research, but he let his life experience guide him. “I am from New York, and I know what pizza is supposed to taste like.” (The original location just completed a renovation. A second Burke Street Pizza, located on Robinhood Road, will be undergoing a renovation soon.) Hillman opened Quiet Pint on First Street almost six years ago. “I wanted to build a place where I’d like to hang out,” he said. “A local neighborhood place that felt comfortable and inviting.” Hillman brought Chef Duffy in as a consultant on the menu which consists of a new spin on pub food. The gastro burgers, flatbreads, Wings-3-Ways, and the macaroni and cheese skillets remain popular items. And Chef Victor Ramirez is working on new items for the fall.
Hillman said he and Duffy have remained friends since the opening of QP, so when he approached him with the concept of Uncle Buzzy’s, the chef thought the idea was fun and came on board for a partnership. “I watch all the food shows. I love to try new things. People love to try crazy food at the fair and so do I. I wanted to open up a place to see how it flies.” Duffy, who returns every six to eight weeks, was just in town last weekend working on new menu items. He and Hillman were not unlike school kids battering just about anything to see how it would turn out. From a battered ice cream sandwich to fried cheesecake to deep fried giant gummy bunny? “What the mind can conceive, the fryer will achieve,” Hillman joked. Well almost… The bunny lost its head (it was only for fun anyway).
“You can’t be too gimmicky. You have to have real quality food. So I throw out ideas to Brian, and he makes it happen.” Popular items are the Philly Cheesesteak, and Hillman said he loves the smoked macaroni and cheese. Of course, any roast beef item is one he recommends, particularly the Beef on Weck, which is dipped in au jus, topped with horseradish whipped cream with a salt-crusted caraway roll. It’s not a day at the fair without an order of funnel cake or an ice cream waffle taco for a departure. Plans are in the works for themed nights such as taco night, a smoked meat night and even seafood night. Hillman has enjoyed taking advantage of a slow opening to work out any kinks. “So far, the response and feedback have been positive, and they can’t believe how good the food is,” he said. “And I’m really happy about that. I’m passionate about a quality product.”
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.