Buddy's Bar-b-q, Athens, TN. To begin with, let me go ahead and say this is a chain that is based in Knoxville. Buddy's has 12 locations in Tennessee, and straight up front that it really doesn't qualify as a joint, or at least the Athens location doesn't. This Buddy's is more of a fast food bbq diner, but when the bbq itch strikes, you'll do most anything to scratch it. My son, Jed and I, were headed from Cumming, GA to Knoxville for the GA/TN football game on this absolutely beautiful October 8, 2011 fall day. We had already sort of scheduled our agenda to include a stop along the way to check out a bbq joint. After we got on the road, we both agreed that we would wait until we got to Tennessee before stopping to both break up our trip as well as to check out a new bbq adventure. I was pretty sure that I wanted to avoid the Chattanooga area, so we exited I-75 in Cleveland, TN to find some joint call the BBQ Shack. After getting let down by my GPS, I was a bit annoyed and decided to head back to the interstate to do something else. We used both Google and the GPS to see if we could find another option, and within a few minutes we'd identified Buddy's as an option. Hey, with a name like Buddy's, Bubba's, or Buster's, you must be headed in the right direction.
We got off I-75 and headed east for about a mile to where we spotted Buddy's. I could immediately tell it was a bit more like stopping at Hardees than a real joint, but by this stage in our journey, I wasn't willing to do anymore scouting.... Upon walking in Buddy's I was again reminded that we were walking into a diner that was more akin to fast food than I liked, but we scouted the menu behind the walk up counter. We both immediately noticed that the menu was absent of Brunswick stew, but hey, this was Tennessee, what could you expect? I should have recognized that with the letter's colored "Gosh Aweful Orange" my expectations should not have been too high!
Jed ordered a sandwich and slaw while I ordered a sandwich and bbq beans. The food was placed on the tray right at the counter, and we proceeded for our bbq review. Actually, friends, what we experienced was some really surprisingly pleasing bbq! The sandwiches came out with a dab of the mild sauce already on them, but the portion size was excellent. I started my tasting with the bbq beans. They were actually very good, but if there were any bbq in them I couldn't detect it. I then tasted the sauces. The mild was good and slightly tangy and marginally on the sweet side. The hot sauce lived up to its name. I went easy on the hot variety. To the bbq...good stuff! Given the "appearances" of the diner, the bbq actually was very good. The meat was moist, clean, and very tasty. There was enough moisture that the bbq held together well. Jed had the same opinion, and for both this father and son to totally agree with little debate was a tribute to Buddy's. Overall, I'd give the Buddy's bbq a 4 out of 5, but if you are looking for a joint with a back in time feel, this one doesn't fit the bill.
The overall trip was awesome. 15 hours of time with a grown son, bbq, and a UGA win over TN....Priceless!!!