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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - Treasuring traditions
Vandy's updates restaurants, honors past
Vandys Pit barbecue Web
Robert Smith has overseen the open pit at the Vandys downtown restaurant location in Statesboro for the past 11 years. - photo by DeWAYNE GRICE/Staff

             Downtown merchants can sometimes predict how busy their day is going to be based on how strong the aroma from the barbecue cooking pit at Vandy's.
        For 87 years, this mouthwatering aroma has filled the air welcoming newcomers and old timer's alike. There is no question Vandy's Bar-B-Q is as identifiable and steeped in Statesboro tradition as football, hunting and church on Sunday.
        A visit to the "pit" is a rite of passage of sorts for newcomers to Statesboro. Vandy's downtown is the one place in Statesboro where not much has changed. You will find some of the freshest and best barbecue you have ever eaten, served to you just a few steps from the open fire pit it was cooked in by some of the friendliest wait staff in town.
        You will enjoy this in a cinder block building that allows you to step back in time when things were simpler. It is a place that welcomes everyone with an appetite and appreciation for southern trraditions. All of this is served up with hot off the pit barbecue pork or chicken, homemade Brunswick stew and freshly made potato salad topped off with the most perfect Vandy's barbecue sauce.
        New owner Brandon O'Mahoney said Vandy's is one of only six restaurants in Georgia that is allowed to continue cooking on an open fire pit. Thanks to the continuous operation of the restaurant by four different owners, they have been "grandfathered in" to allow them to continue cooking in this authentic way.
        In addition to the downtown location, Vandy's has a second location inside the Statesboro Mall. Local entrepreneur O'Mahoney purchased the famed restaurant last year and has worked hard to ensure all of the Vandy's traditions continue.
        "This sale was a bit more complicated than most due to the structure of the lease with the Statesboro Mall location," O'Mahoney said. "I was able to acquire the downtown location first, then upon approval from the owners of the mall, I purchased that location about six months later. We immediately submitted plans to update and renovate the mall location.         It took several months to complete that process and begin the renovations which included a complete overhaul of the kitchen equipment, new ceiling tiles, reupholstering the booths, plus fresh paint and carpet. We have completed the renovations and would like to invite the community back in to see the improvements."
        O'Mahoney said he was careful not to adjust any of the recipes or deviate from any of the dishes that make Vandy's famous. With this in mind, he reached out to former owner Alan Tyson to ensure that the food quality and recipes are as close to original as possible. Also, O'Mahoney focused on increasing the quality of ingredients, including fresh vegetables for the popular blue plate specials.
        "One of the most difficult parts of operating a restaurant like Vandy's is many of the recipes are passed down from owner to owner," O'Mahoney said. "Through the years, adjustments are made. Robert Smith has been overseeing the pit for 11 years. Thanks to his commitment, I felt comfortable that traditions were being followed in the pit. However, I wanted to reach back as far as possible to ensure the integrity of all of our dishes matched the expectations of our clients.         "In addition to focusing on increasing quality and consistency, I lowered the prices on over half of the menu," he said. "This allows us to be more competitive not only in quality and taste but in price, as well."
        The only changes made downtown were updates to the kitchen equipment, which includes the addition of fryers and a new sign that includes the updated Vandy's logo. hese updates will allow them to expand the menu introducing fries, chicken fingers and burgers downtown.
        O'Mahoney has launched a new website, www.vandysbbq.com, and introduced a sweeter barbecue sauce. They have also expanded the distribution of their famous barbecue sauces to grocery stores throughout the region. They continue to get requests for their barbecue and Brunswick Stew outside of the market and are exploring options to ship the products overnight.
        It is great to see wonderful traditions like Vandys continue. If you haven't visited them lately, head on over. I predict you will be pleasantly surprised by all the wonderful cosmetic updates and thrilled with the always-great food.
        Please email DeWayne at dgrice@statesboroherald.com or give him a call at (912) 489-9499.

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