Uncle Shug's now has two locations, the long-established Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn on U.S. Highway 301 South, and Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place in Brooklet.
For Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place, Uncle Shug's owner Stacy Underwood has brought in another experienced restaurateur, Ray Hammond, as what Underwood calls "consultant general manager."
Hammond previously operated Thee Bar-B-Q Place on Highway 301 North. After it burned a few years ago, he did not rebuild. But now in his 70s, Hammond and his sauce recipe came out of retirement for Uncle Shug's.
"I love the barbecue business, and I had an opportunity through Stacy and took advantage of it," Hammond said. "He asked me if I would come down and just check to make sure everything was like it should be and asked me if I would to use some of our recipes and incorporate them with his recipes."
The result, both of them observed, is a mix of traditions.
Hammond's grandson James Fraley, who worked at Thee Bar-B-Q Place from his early teen years, and granddaughter Katherine Fraley, who was a manager at Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn, are now managers at Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place.
The first items on the menu are barbecued chopped pork, ribs and chicken. Sides are those traditionally paired with barbecue, including Brunswick stew, potato salad, beans, slaw and french fries.
This Bar-B-Q Place also serves chicken fingers; sandwiches, including steak, sausage and chicken sandwiches as well as barbecue sandwiches; salads; and the same Angus burger that is offered at the Chicken Barn.
"We don't have microwaves. Everything is fresh," Underwood said. "Good food, good service. Those are two ingredients to a successful restaurant."
Uncle Shug's Bar-B-Q Place debuted the last week of February. Open Tuesday through Saturday, it employs nine people. The restaurant is across from Ken's IGA in the building formerly occupied by Red Boar Bar-B-Que, which moved to another location.
The Chicken Barn
One thing the Uncle Shug's in Brooklet does not serve is bone-in chicken. That's still a specialty of Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn, which does not serve pork barbecue.
Both places do catering, but the chicken-centered catering operates from the Highway 301 South, Statesboro, restaurant, while the Brooklet place will, of course, cater in barbecue.
Scott Haddon is general manager of Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn.
Now 51, he has worked in restaurants since he was 14, and was a manager at a couple of restaurants under national brands. He has now been at Uncle Shug's six years.
Haddon currently does most of the catering, with Underwood also cooking on occasional catering jobs.
At the Chicken Barn, the Angus beef hamburgers introduced several years ago are a popular item. Last year, the restaurant switched from crinkle-cut fries to hand-cutting its own fries from Idaho potatoes, sprinkled with Uncle Shug's seasoning salt, Haddon said. The same burgers and fries are now available at the Brooklet location as well.
Last summer, Uncle Shug's introduced hand-dipped milkshakes, and these, including a strawberry shake with real strawberries, remain a specialty of the Highway 301 South location.
"If anything has really added to our business, I would say it has been our breakfast," Haddon said. "We have fresh hand-breaded chicken fingers that we put on our biscuits."
Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn is open, including breakfast, seven days a week, but opening times are different Saturday and Sunday.
The restaurant employs about 20 people, after Haddon informed Underwood of three recent hires.
So Uncle Shug's has two current locations. But the Shug's name goes back more than 30 years, to when Underwood's father, Harold "Shug" Underwood opened a barbecue place in a trailer at the Statesboro Mall.
After a few years, the elder Underwood moved his business to Portal, where he operated a restaurant about five years.
Stacy Underwood then created Uncle Shug's Chicken Barn on West Main Street in Statesboro about 19 years ago. He moved it to the Highway 301 South location eight years ago.
Underwood also owns Ronnie's Restaurant on Dean Forest Road near Savannah.
He purchased Ronnie's, which has been around for almost 30 years and is known for its burgers, chicken fingers and shakes, 3½ years ago.
But if he opens more restaurants they will use the Uncle Shug's name, Underwood said.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.