“I think I finally found it,” Dave Hillman says. “The perfect concept.”
His first Winston-Salem venture was a more intuitive piece of supply meeting demand: a pizza place on Burke Street, back when the strip held most of the city’s nightlife. He stayed open late, made a great pie and sold cold beer and that was pretty much that.
The Quiet Pint he envisioned as a neighborhood bar on a street that didn’t yet have one. As it flourished, Dave began to look seriously at the property down the road.
“I saw this building vacant for 20 years,” he says. “It’s a perfect location.”
After the concept for Uncle Buzzy’s came to him last year, he made his move.
Uncle Buzzy’s will specialize in carnival food: burgers, hot dogs, ice-cream tacos and the sort of deep-fried experimentation for which the genre is becoming famous: candy bars, cookies, butter itself.
1510 1st St. WS
“Everybody wants to go to the fair,” Dave says, “because they want to try crazy stuff.”
But behind the folly is a kitchen with serious ambition. Hillman partnered with Chef Brian Duffy, best known as the kitchen guy from the television show “Bar Rescue,” to flesh out the carnival-food concept and add classic American street food. A Nashville chicken sandwich. Disco fries. Poutine. There’s a smoker in the kitchen for pork shoulder and anything else the guys want to experiment with. Beef gets roasted in house and served four ways: Italian-style, a Chicago favorite with a jus-soaked bun; shaved into a Philly cheesesteak; served on a salty kummelweck roll for the Buffalo, NY favorite beef on weck; and done exactly like Dave remembers it from the original Buzzy’s in Boston, the First Street Bomber.
“The roast beef is going to be what people come here for first” Dave says.
Today Duffy’s prepared the pork in a porchetta style: slow-cooked with garlic and rosemary, and he piles some atop a bed of house-cut fries, a cheddar sauce and a bacon-ranch he makes with emulsified bacon fat. All the sauces, including ketchup, country gravy, aiolis and dressings are made in this kitchen, that’s also equipped with a couple deep-fryers, a flash-fryer, waffle iron, soft-serve machine and bathtub-sized griddle.
The two of them have been at it at the new spot on 1st Street for weeks — tweaking menu items, perfecting processes, training staff. The excitement is as palpable as if the carnival really was coming to town.
“I’ve done every kind of concept you can think of,” Duffy says. “Diner. Gastropub. Dive bar. Fine Dining. Pizza. Everything is getting so pretentious. This is just fun.”
He’s got a big tray of mac and cheese that’s been through the smoker. It’s cold now; Duffy shows a kitchen hand how to cut it into bricks that need to be doused with water and dipped in flour before being introduced to the deep fryer.
He shaves a few slices off a roast and slides them on the grill with some chopped mushrooms and onions, lays a couple slices of provolone atop and then a dip of jus before he flips it, chops it and places it in a buttered, grilled hoagie roll with a couple of sweet peppers.
For Duffy, who hails from Philadelphia, making a cheesesteak is second nature.
For now, Duffy is experimenting in the kitchen while Dave washes dishes and they shout ideas back and forth, sweating from the heat of the fryers and the smoker and the steam from the griddle, smiling like a couple of kids who are just about to get on the roller coaster.
It takes a lot of work to have this much fun.