Buck’s Naked BBQ

One of the first things that’s immediately impressive about Buck’s Naked BBQ is the scope of the menu. No matter what your barbecue preference, from the sticky-sweet Kansas City style, to the mustardy, vinegary shores of South Carolina, Buck’s tries to ensure that if you’ve ever enjoyed barbecue, anywhere, you’ll find something to like on their menu.

Seven different kinds of wings. Deep fried pickles, sweet potato fries, baskets of brisket burnt ends, and, in total defiance of nature, something called “Buffalo Sausage Nuggets,” breaded, deep-fried slices of sausage tossed in Buffalo wing sauce and served with blue cheese dressing. Both baby back and St. Louis-cut ribs, huge beef ribs, pulled pork, and “cowboy” sausage. Brisket, jerk chicken, pulled chicken, and pit-roasted chicken. I couldn’t even consider the back-half of the menu, where I spied not just numerous sandwiches, tacos, and hamburgers but finally, just to round everything off, three different kinds of steak, which you can mix-and-match with seven different sauces.

Buck’s is also, as far as I can tell, a pioneer in the world of what they have labeled, somewhat unfortunately, “FOOZE.” As you may have guessed, it’s the glorious, inevitable combination of food and liquor. Remember when you got a boiled shrimp in your Bloody Mary that one time at brunch, and you weren’t sure what to do with it? Buck’s Naked BBQ takes that concept to its ultimate conclusion, featuring a whole column of specialty drinks that include some sort of food as a garnish. Like Bloody Marys? Buck’s bets you’ll like them even better with a baby back rib on top. And what tops off a Dark ‘n’ Stormy like a single, spicy jerked rib? I opted for the “Margarita Gone Wild” ($7.00), a full pint of margarita on the rocks, with salt on the rim…as well as still-steaming chili-lime baby back on top. Disgusting? Certainly. Awesome? Doubly-so.

Everything is smoked slow-and-low, and served without sauce (which is where the “Naked” in “Buck’s Naked” comes from). Sauces are served on the side, from plastic squeeze bottles on each table. There’s a blueberry BBQ sauce, which seems like a jokey, nod-to-Maine novelty, but turns out being fairly subtle with its blueberry flavoring, and therefore ended up being one of my favorites. There’s also a house BBQ, sweet with hints of chipotle, a Western North Carolina tomato-and-vinegar sauce, as well as a South Carolina mustard and vinegar sauce, that leaned a little too heavily on bright yellow mustard for my taste. In the end, it didn’t matter, as my carefully-separated puddles of sauce in the middle communal sauce plate all ran together, and I found myself swiping slices of sausage through all four.

We were determined, between the three of us, to sample as much as Buck’s had to offer as possible, in one sitting. We tried the “Choose Two Combo,” ($13.99) with pulled pork and brisket, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, and corn bread. Both the pork and the brisket were served pulled, resulting in an enormous pile of salty, still-moist meat, that stood up to the onslaught of sauces we threw at it. The sweet potato fries were a little bit soggy, as they tend to be, but were nicely seasoned with salt, pepper, and brown sugar. The coleslaw was pretty drab, dry stuff, which is probably a conscious choice; which so many other sweet, salty, sticky flavors and textures, having something that is a little plain is a bit of a relief for your mouth.

We ordered the “Kentucky Hot Brown,” ($10.99) a hungover-dream-come-true of a sandwich that combines pulled pork, piled high on a sandwich roll, topped with thin slices of tomato, bacon, and is then covered with a chipotle cheese sauce. It’s all of the goodness of a Welsh Rarebit with, um, pulled pork added for good measure. A side of stovetop mac & cheese, bitter collard greens, and more cornbread rounded out the plate.

We also tried the “1/2 Rack Combo,” ($18.99) including a half-slab of baby back ribs, sausage, corn bread, baked beans, and more coleslaw. I’m not sure why baby back ribs caught on in America the way they did; they’ve always struck me as incredibly boring little slivers of meat and bone, without a ton of flavor or excitement. St. Louis-cut ribs have so much more going on, with all of their fat and bark and tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. As baby backs go, these were good, with a ton of spicy, salty dry rub caked to the outside, a gorgeous pink smoke ring, and lots of heavy smoke flavor. If anything, they were a little tough, but this may owe to the limited amount of pork on each bone, which are probably quite easy to dry out. The baked beans were delicious, so thick that they could nearly stand up a spoon, mixed with more pulled pork and covered in a not-too-sweet sauce. My favorite of any of our choices, though, was the “Cowboy Sausage,” two huge links of smoked sausage with crispy-charred ends, an incredible snap, and a wonderful lip-coating, sausage fattiness that I really enjoyed.

What’s most impressive about Buck’s Naked BBQ is how well they manage to tackle so many styles of barbecue, spread across so many different cuts of meat, and spanning so many areas of the United States. Everything was slow-smoked until pink and nearly perfect; none of the pre-boiled, splashed on the grill nonsense that passes for barbecue in so many places. A nearly unlimited variety of sauces means that barbecue fans from all regions of the country will find something to like at Buck’s, even if they don’t find their horizons broadened and their lives changed forever. This is good, old-fashioned ‘cue, with a few over-the-top, creative twists that make Buck’s a fine place to visit for either a booze-soaked dinner made of “FOOZE,” or a heavy, coma-inducing weekend lunch. It’s once-a-day-eating done right, and when I want to scratch my barbecue itch, it’s where I’ll be returning.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as Brocavore, a blog focusing on street food culture, and the junk food-centric "Spork & Barrel." His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.


  1. Worst BBQ I’ve had in Maine or anywhere, give me a chain like Famous Daves before a plateoff their slop..sorry, I love my BBQ and this place needs to focus on the food, maybe worry less about a dozen sauces.

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    1. The worst barbecue you’ve had anywhere? I think that’s overstating it a bit. As I mentioned, it may not convert anyone who isn’t already a fan. And while I haven’t yet tried, Famous Dave’s, I have had much, much worse barbecue, both in Maine and elsewhere.

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      1. Perhaps I was a victim of expectations set by others, lol, you’re right, I overstated things. I’ve had BBQ in Texas, Carolina, KC as well as New England states and would honestly rank this as the bottom of my list.

        I’ve been there 3 times and each time left wishing I had spent my money at another BBQ establishment.

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        1. I’ve had plenty of southern barbecue as well, Dan, and this certainly isn’t that. But I think I am having the same problem, in reverse…my last two rib-eating experiences are coming off of “Sista’s BBQ” in Brunswick, and the Bonanza Restaurant in Presque Isle, so perhaps my expectations are unusually low right this minute.

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  2. I have been there a few times in the past six months and I find the place to be just “ok”. The Chili they serve, however, is outstanding. Probably the best chili I have ever eaten.

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  3. I’m guessing you two don’t have kids. You may want to tell people with kids that they have a good sized play area so that parents with young kids can have a few minutes of quality adult time while the kids are off playing. It’s definitely a big reason we go there.

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    1. Ring your bell wings is my favorite thing on the menu. I agree, perfect blend of heat and flavor if your used to hot food. I don’t dare to try the Slap Your Mama sauce though. Smoking the wings just puts them over the top.

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  4. As a native Texan, presently living in Maryland, with a second home in North Carolina, my wife, Doctor E., and I visit Maine at least three times a year. After all, it is a relatively short drive away, and we are true Lobstah Lovers whose favorite weekend getaway is Bah Hawbah.

    However, I must tell you (from our Texas and NC heritage) that on a recent weekend adventure down Route 1, we spotted and visited Buck’s.

    Unlike YOU, rest assured that my wife and I will not be returning for a second helping of what you call BBQ (disgusting actually).

    BUT, on the other hand, we WILL be returning (weather permitting) for food that you Maine folks know how to do BETTER than anyone else on the planet: Chowdah and Steamed Lobster dinners.

    Carrion, please.

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      1. You’re very welcome, Malcolm.

        Short answer is: I don’t travel (“grace you”) to Maine for “barbecue.”

        We travel to Maine for seafood and scenery, although on an impulsive, albeit a regretted decision along Route 1, we stopped at Buck’s.

        If we desire to enjoy barbecue, we enjoy it (pork) in North Carolina, (beef) in Texas, or in Maryland (pit barbecue).

        If my Maine friends like the Que at “Buck’s” then that is cool. I didn’t. I don’t. But that’s just me.

        Let me assure you that our frequent stays at the Bar Harbor Inn have never disappointed.

        And my wife, Doctor E., truly treasures her collection of plastic drink glasses collected over the years from Stewman’s.

        Carrion, please.

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  5. It’s funny how when we speak of BBQ everyone becomes an expert….and simply perhaps because of where they were born. Do you inherently become an expert in a particular type of food just because your from that region…I don’t think so! These guys Dan & Joe must be awesome at everything they do…I’d like to follow them around for a day at work and put them in the spot light for a critique… legends in their own minds. Oh well , sorry for venting, I just always find it really lame that people can write such harsh nasty words about a business they truly know nothing about. This business not only serves great food , has a wonderful staff of folks that they employ year round at two locations and also contribute heavily to their communities. So before you go slamming places so harshly maybe you should do some homework first. You guys are what I’m going to call……”Q less” Happy bbqin to all at Bucks, you guys Rock!!! By the way the original review was very nicely written…great job!

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  6. I grew up in Portland, but currently reside in Kansas. We’ll be in Maine next month on vacation, but we are not going there for barbeque, either. You don’t go to Kansas City for great lobstah, and you don’t go to Maine for great barbeque. I have been to the mountain, the Vatican of BBQ. It’s called Arthur Bryant’s.

    That being said, AJC is absolutely right! Trashing a business on the internet isn’t cool. If nothing else, you must consider the people who depend on that business to pay their families’ bills. If you’re happy with a restaurant, put that on the net. If you’re not happy, tell the owner or the manager. If he or she is a professional, your honest feedback will be appreciated and many of them will use the criticism to try to improve.

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  7. I’ve had Texas BBQ and it’s what made me fall in love with BBQ. Does Bucks taste like Texas BBQ? No. Is it good food? Heck yeah. I go to Maine every year and always end the trip with a meal at Bucks. I’m always lobstered out at the end of my trip and Bucks always hits the spot. While I don’t love anyone of the their BBQ sauces, I love mixing a few to create a flavor that I enjoy. The service is great and the food is consistent.

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