Buck’s is Best: Local BBQ joint named top 10 in the nation

Savannah Vasquez
Mike Buckingham, center, is pictured with his wife, Michele, and Capt. Ben Marler, who was the first customer to be served when Buck's Smokehouse opened last year.

Buck’s Smokehouse made national news this week as the Destin restaurant placed 8th on TripAdvisor’s list of best barbecue joints in the country. The travel website judged customer reviews based on volume and limited the qualifying restaurants to those with less than 10 locations and a minimum of 100 recent reviews.

“That’s really cool,” Buck’s Smokehouse owner Mike Buckingham said when he heard the news. “That’s huge, that’s an honor, that’s great.”

Buckingham, who celebrated the restaurant’s first year in business this month, said he has been blown away by the ratings and believes the success stems from his focus on keeping it simple.

“We are just keeping it simple and small and listening to the locals,” he said. “I think it is pretty darn neat for our first year of business. We work hard to try to please everybody and do the right thing and it’s starting to show.”

In keeping it simple, Buckingham said he made a promise when he opened the restaurant to always honor local business by keeping fair prices, and he intends to keep it that way.

“We have not raised our prices since we opened, and we will not raise our prices just because the tourists are here,” he said. “We want the locals to enjoy it, and it’s a locals place so we are keeping the local prices.”

When it comes to what put his food on the map, Buckingham had one answer.

“It’s definitely the rubs and the sauces,” he said. “We dry rub everything. We do not put sauces on our meats because we want our customers to taste the flavors of our meats and then put on the sauces.”

When asked what sets Buck’s apart from other barbecue joints in the nation, Buckingham said hands down it is his specialty smoked fish.

“We do smoked mullet and smoked tuna and every once in awhile, when I can get my hands on it, I do some smoked mahi,” he said. “That’s why we are mostly a smokehouse and more than just a barbecue joint.”

Buckingham also praised his employees, his wife and his loyal customers, and said he never imagined the restaurant to be this popular.

“It’s phenomenal, it’s amazing,” he said. “If you look at our reviews it’s not just the locals, but the tourists and they are from all over the United States, and some from the barbecue capitals. It makes you feel good. It’s overwhelming, we are real excited because that’s pretty huge for a little old town like Destin.”

Buckingham said to celebrate the restaurant’s one year anniversary he is throwing a local appreciation day and will be serving up free barbecue sandwiches, coleslaw and cold beer from 5-7 p.m. on May 29.

“It’s just our way of thanking the locals for all their support,” he said adding, “But it’s open to everyone, we are not going to turn anyone away.”