Valley Bounty: Bub’s Bar-B-Q
Published August 6, 2022 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
By Jacob Nelson
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the status of the transition of ownership at Bub’s Bar-B-Q from Andrea and Chris Moroney to Andrew Garlo. The deal has not been legally finalized, though both parties hope it will be soon.
Fingers sticky with barbecue sauce. Belly full. Smoky, spicy flavors lingering on your tongue as you lean back and sigh, the light fading on the fields around you. It’s a recipe for a summer night done right at Bub’s Bar-B-Q in Sunderland.
This summer Bub’s is transitioning as Andrea and Chris Moroney, owners since 2011, hope to pass the reins to longtime chef and restauranteur Andrew Garlo. Brimming with enthusiasm, Garlo hopes to put a locally influenced style of barbecue on the map, all while honoring the traditions and legacy of this community favorite.
“Bub’s is kind of like a time machine,” explains Garlo. “It’s been there since 1979, and very little has changed. When you walk in, the first thing you see is the big neon “Bar-B-Que” sign. The booths are original, and in the back there’s the old free juke box and a kids arcade game that costs a dollar.”
“All over the walls are accolades and knick-knacks that have been collected during the past 43 years,” he continues. The pig motif is prominent amid the decorations and large menu adorning the far wall.
Indoor seating is tight. You wouldn’t know there used to be a tiny dance floor where couples would dance to country western from the juke box. Outside, picnic tables under tents provide much more elbow room – a necessity in recent years and a great setting for their finger-licking food.
Garlo has worked his way up in the food service industry since he was 14, from dishwasher to executive chef and culinary school instructor. Him winding up at Bub’s is a case of aligning passion and circumstance.
“When I first moved right down the road in Sunderland,” “I told my fiancée, ‘If I ever own a restaurant, I want it to be just like Bub’s,’” he says. “Then last spring my friend who knew the current owners, Andrea and Chris, told me they were thinking of closing. The pandemic hit the restaurant hard, and they wanted to spend more time with family.”
“I didn’t want Bub’s to close,” says Garlo, “so I connected with them and started talking. Me stepping in seemed like a great match. I told them keeping the place going just required some energy, and I have plenty of energy to spare.”
As a style of cooking, modern American barbecue owes its roots to Indigenous cultures from the Caribbean. As the practice spread to the American south, distinct styles emerged as customs influenced by the availability of local ingredients in different locations. For example, Texas-style barbecue highlights beef and spicy dry rubs, while Memphis-style barbecue plays up pork and sweet and tangy sauces.
Where does Bub’s Bar-B-Q fall? “Right now, it draws from all over and doesn’t fit neatly into any prominent category,” says Garlo.
As they look to use more local ingredients, could Bub’s help grow a new branch of the barbecue family tree? Garlo sees the abundance of New England farms, forests, and fisheries as prime ingredients for a style unto itself.
“We could use more apples, maple syrup, and New England seafood,” he suggests. “I’ve also talked about doing our own kielbasa. My background is Polish – like many people around here – and I want to bring that into the equation too.”
“There’s so many local farms and suppliers to work with around here,” Garlo adds. “Already I’ve been in touch with Warner Farm in Sunderland, Apex Orchards in Shelburne Falls, Pekarski’s Sausage in South Deerfield, and Sutter Meats in Northampton. I’ve bought from Szawlowski Potato Farms in Hatfield in the past, and I’ll probably do that again. And I just had a phone call with Berkshore Seafood (who delivers directly from docks on the New England coast) about getting steamers and other local seafood.”
Cooking barbecue often produces heaps of food at once, suiting it perfectly for feeding large groups in backyards, restaurants, or community events. Watching the chef cook can be entertainment in itself. Bub’s Bar-B-Q has offered catering for many years, and Garlo has no shortage of dreams for how he might expand their repertoire and inspire celebrations of local food and culture if opportunities allow.
“I’ve always thought it would be a cool idea to work with one farm on a farm-to-table dinner on-site,” he says, “using all their own produce and meat to create a 3-4 course meal.”
Another dream: “A Summer Days in Sunderland festival day,” Garlo explains. “I could sell pulled pork and ribs. Warner Farm could show off their produce. Maybe Blue Heron Restaurant could make food too, and we could get some live music. Just bringing more people to enjoy the area – that’s the goal.”
For Garlo, ideas like this are seeds to sow and wait to see what grows in the future. Today he’s focused on hopefully run Bub’s Bar-B-Q much the way longtime customers have come to love it, with a few tweaks to keep the business afloat.
“A lot of customers tell me I can’t change a single thing,” he says. “But the world has changed a lot in the past few years, and Bub’s almost just closed for good. I will have to adjust some things, and I hope people understand why.”
The side bars are a good example. “For in-person dining, there’s always been a cold and hot bars of sides that come with any meal, and you can eat all you want,” he explains. “That’s pretty unique.” Those aren’t going away, but the menu of sides – which was set years ago – might shift to account for rising costs of different ingredients.
“Ultimately I hope we’re known for how good our food is, and how authentic our smoking is,” says Garlo. “You put hours and hours into seasoning things, getting the timing just right – I hope that people see and understand the love and effort that goes into this.”
Bub’s Bar-B-Q is located at 676 Amherst Rd. in Sunderland, open Wednesday to Friday, 4-8, Saturday 12-8 and Sunday 12-7.
Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). For examples of other restaurants cooking with local ingredients near you, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.