Uncle Bucky's Serving Up Backyard Southern BBQ That Will Make You Smile

By RJ Walters
Photos by Jordan Randall

Uncle Bucky’s Southern BBQ is being highlighted as a 2023 Maker of Note by The Lakelander, as part of its MADE Issue, which focuses on big ideas and entrepreneurial successes of Lakelanders.

The Maker

Life has been filled with challenges for Eli Buford. He grew up in what he calls “the projects” of Lakeland, he lost his father at age 12, and he buried his mother eight years later. But God placed people in his life—including longtime friends Greg and Lisa Rounds—who shared the love of Jesus with him and also invested in his passion for barbecue and people.

His first customers were his friends, and by 2020 he was selling authentic southern barbecue on the street corner—until it quickly became apparent that he was best off getting the proper permits and putting together a business plan.

That’s when his uncle Ron, and Eli’s girlfriend, Jessica Leigh, helped him put the money together to purchase a food truck.

The name Uncle Bucky originates from Eli’s nephew “Tank,” who has a young boy tried to say “Uncle Buddy” but ended up sticking with Bucky.

A quote on his food truck sums up Buford’s philosophy well: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

The Product

Uncle Bucky’s is committed to crafting food that tastes like it took all day to make at home—something that harkens Buford back to days of old watching his dad grill on their front porch.

His southern style ribs are prime cuts of meat with seasoning and sauce that Buford touts allows you to “taste everything versus something.”

“You get a little kick, but not too much of a kick; a little sweetness, but not too much sweetness,” he says.

He’s also proud of his turkey legs, which he says are a stark contrast to the kind people traditionally like to carry around a fairground or theme park all day.

“My turkey legs are juicy and full of flavor,” he says. “If you try and hold one up and move…yeah, it’s gonna fall off the bone.”

His menu also includes hearty chopped chicken and pulled pork sandwiches, tasty sides like baked beans and brisket and potato salad, and homemade cake options for dessert. Buford is bringing his genuine smile and tasty food all over Central Florida, and you can find out where next by following Uncle Bucky’s Southern BBQ on Facebook.

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