POCATELLO — Depending on how they’re prepared, Ryan Bud Matthews finds ribs can either be one of the most amazing cuts of meat that a grillmaster can serve or as tough as a tire.
His friends will attest that Matthews, 35, of Pocatello, has always had the magic touch when it comes to barbecued ribs. Matthews has branched out far beyond his often-requested ribs, however, and now he’s sharing his smoky entrees with the general public.
As a self-proclaimed comedian, he chose a name with a double entendre intended to make customers of his new food truck chuckle: Smokin’ Buds BBQ. Those who appreciate the euphemism for lighting up a joint sometimes ask him if he has a “special menu.” (He doesn’t.)
Bud is also the middle name of both himself and his son, in honor of his Grandpa Bud and his Uncle Bud.
Smokin Buds has been in hot demand, often running out of food earlier than Matthews would like, since he opened his barbecue food truck and catering service during the second week of October. After he wraps up some holiday catering, Matthews will close until the weather improves in March.
“My ribs were kind of my specialty. Everybody always wanted ribs coming over,” Matthews said. “Now just about anything I’ll throw on that smoker and turn it into something good.”
Matthews took a big gamble when he bet on his own prowess with a grill. After graduating from Highland High School, he earned a business degree from Penn State University and worked for several years selling medical devices. He then began managing a local medical clinic for a group of surgeons. He didn’t find the career to be rewarding.
“I thought medical would be it, and it wasn’t ever doing it for me,” Matthews said. “I found myself not really liking day to day what I was doing and where I was going. You always hear those old adages of do what you love.”
His wife, Lyndsey, who is an English teacher at Century High School, encouraged him when he suggested he might like to re-career and make a go as a restaurateur.
“You definitely jump in with two feet,” Matthews said.
Some friends taught Matthews the ropes of barbecuing while he lived for a period of time in Kansas City. They impressed upon him the importance of using homemade sauces and rubs, as well as letting brisket rest to allow the moisture to reabsorb.
He’s developed an assortment of unique sauces for his eatery, including huckleberry and peach. His sauces have won awards — most recently from a competition sponsored by Ron’s Tire and Motorsport in Idaho Falls.
For years, there’s been a dearth of barbecue restaurants in the Pocatello area. That’s starting to change. Matthews had the only barbecue menu in town when he opened just a few months ago. Since then, Shawn’s Smoke and Fire BBQ has also opened at 1015 N. 10th Ave. The Blackhawk BBQ Pit truck out of Blackfoot and the Shooters Outlaw BBQ truck out of American Falls also serve the area nowadays.
Still, Matthews has had a hard time meeting demand.
“I’ve had a lot of people reach out and say, ‘I want to try it but it’s always sold out by the time I get to where you’re at,’” Matthews said.
Matthews is an official ambassador for Traeger Pellet Grills. The company sends him sauces and other products to give away as prizes to his customers on social media promotions. His website is www.smokinbudsbbq.com.
He liked the idea of opening a food truck because of the reduced risk regarding overhead. Another benefit is that the truck itself essentially serves as a moving billboard for his business. He’s also not tied down to a single location.
“I like the model of being in different places each day and getting exposure,” Matthews said.
His most frequent parking spot has been Thomas Granite & Marble, 5050 Yellowstone Ave. in Chubbuck. He’s also parked at a couple of local automotive dealerships.
In exchange for letting him set up shop in their parking lots, Matthews offers his host businesses employee discounts.
Matthews said brisket and rectangular pork bellies served on skewers are his best sellers. About a quarter of his revenue lately has come from catering, including smoked turkeys he’s prepared to order for holiday dinners.
His normal business hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., which requires him to work about an 18-hour day to prepare the food in advance, get the truck ready and clean up afterwards. He hopes to soon add an employee to relieve some of the burden.
As a fan of stand-up comedy, Matthews hopes to someday open his own comedy club, where guests would likely dine on his popular barbecue while being entertained.
“It’s been nice to see this idea — I put a lot of work into this business plan — and it’s nice to see this can work,” Matthews said.