Two weeks ago, Jim Buchanan had grand plans. The pitmaster, who previously worked at Pappa Charlies Barbeque alongside owner Wesley Jurena, was preparing to open Buck’s Barbeque Co. at the White Oak Biergarten — a new twist on the space formerly known as Lucky’s Pub in the Heights.
Then the building flooded with 12-feet of water thanks to Hurricane Harvey, and those plans have been put on hold for a month or so.
Despite the setback, the U.S. Army Vet has begun introducing himself to the city’s barbecue fans. Until White Oak Beer Garden opens, diners can find Buchanan at the Great Heights Brewing Company on Friday nights starting at 6 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 11 am.
Of course, Buchanan has only nice things to say about Jurena, who, like Buchanan, started on the competition circuit before opening his acclaimed EaDo barbecue restaurant. Still, the chance to partner with the owners of Lucky’s was one Buchanan couldn’t pass on.
“It’s really about the opportunity to do something for myself, to start my own enterprise and partner with guys who have multiple locations and a track record of success in the service industry,” Buchanan tells CultureMap.
Anyone who’s dined at Pappa Charlies will recognize some overlap with what Buchanan is serving under the Buck’s brand, but he is putting his own spin on things, too. For example, Buchanan covers his ribs with an espresso rub that gives them a slightly bitter kick. It's a welcome break from the sometimes overly sweet flavors of other ribs around town.
“Wes and I cooked together for so long that there are things we learned from each other,” Buchanan says. “I obviously changed the recipes on some items, particularly the ribs, taking some of the 'goofy 'cue' — the more innovative things — and bringing them over here.”
Some of those “goofier” items, including the Blasted Bird sandwich with smoked turkey, cheese and bourbon-cranberry sauce, a pulled pork banh mi, and the house take on a brisket, covered in crushed Butterfinger candy, will have to wait until Buchanan regains access to a full kitchen.
Until then, his Central Texas-style smoked meats and creative sides will serve as a taste of what’s to come.