Statesboro’s Secret Recipe, Local Bar-B-Q keeps traditional tastes alive

Rachel Kelso and Annie Mohr

In Statesboro it’s not uncommon to see several restaurants open and close within the span of a few years. The names and owners of popular bars and restaurants are always changing and there is an all too familiar feeling of finding a “now closed” sign posted outside of stores within just a few months of being open for business.

In a town where it seems like only chain restaurants can survive, Vandy’s Bar-B-Q has managed to satisfy Statesboro locals and Georgia Southern students for 87 years.

Vandy Boyd opened the first restaurant in 1929 in Portal, Ga. He later moved his business to Statesboro, where he opened two locations: the first in the Statesboro Mall and the second on 22 W. Vine St. in 1943. It’s been 25 years since the store has been family owned, but tradition remains in the business.

These famous dishes, such as Vandy’s Brunswick stew, barbecue and chicken finger platters have not changed at all since their start in 1929. The southern-style barbecue is still smoked over local oak that gives the meat its unique flavor, and it’s all made fresh daily with multiple trips being made to deliver the food to each location.

“It basically has not changed in all these years. The barbecue, the Brunswick stew and the sauce are the same as Mr. Vandy did in 1929,” Barbara Hayes Brown, Assistant Manager, said. “It’s good, southern, down-home cooking.”

Brown has been working at the mall location since March of 1970. She was a sophomore in high school when she started waiting tables at Vandy’s. After earning three degrees and starting her own career as a teacher and assistant principal, as well as an adjunct professor at Georgia Southern for 16 years, she has returned to help wait tables and manage at Vandy’s every weekend.

“The barbecue is all cooked in downtown Statesboro,” Brown said. She explained that the meat is pit cooked over oak wood and that the cooking process will sometimes start at three or four in the morning. Fresh barbecue is brought to the mall location daily from the downtown location, where everything is cooked, and is sometimes restocked two or three times each day.

Vandy’s is also known for its famous barbecue sauce, which has remained top secret in all 87 years of business. However, lovers of the sauce can now purchase bottled versions at Vandy’s Bar-B-Q or at the local BI-LO.

Regular customers come in nearly everyday to eat their favorite Vandy’s combos, and some have been coming since they themselves were children. “There’s a man that comes in here now with his grandchildren and I can remember his parents bringing him in when he was a little boy and he would get a grilled cheese sandwich with chocolate milk,” Brown said. “There is a lot of repeat business.”

Vandy’s has gained fame beyond Statesboro as well. While former Georgia Southern football coach Erk Russell used to enjoy Vandy’s Bar-B-Q, the restaurant was even listed as one of the best barbecue restaurants in America by Delta’s Sky Magazine and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“I enjoy their barbecue sandwiches with their coleslaw and beans,” Kevin Hankinson, sophomore mechanical engineering major, said. “Price wise it’s pretty fair, honestly. Most barbeque places are more expensive but Vandy’s is pretty [fairly priced].” Hankinson’s former roommate recommended the barbecue restaurant to him. Ever since his first taste of Vandy’s barbecue he’s been going back for more.

Vandy’s now accepts EAGLEXPRESS and has daily deals offered throughout the week. For more information, visit or stop by one of their two Statesboro locations.