Buffington's Bar & Grill: The culinary art of turning struggle into success

By: 
Apr. 15, 2013

The Buffington brothers always wanted their own restaurant, but it wasn’t until Josh Buffington’s daughter was born with complications that he faced his fears head on.

BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR

When Josh Buffington talks about the restaurant business, he does it in style, describing life in the kitchen with combat and sports metaphors. He isn’t just cooking food or running a business, he says. He’s making a life. He’s chasing a dream. He’s facing his fears.

And he’s doing it all for his baby girl.

Ormond Beach-born, Buffington had always worked in the food industry. He’s been cooking in restaurants since he was 15. He worked for years at Stonewood. And he always wanted to own a place of his own.

But it wasn’t until his daughter was born with “severe special needs,” even defying the odds that she’d survive, that he decided it was time to be bold.

“There was so much head-change for me … after my daughter was born,” he said. “It kind of changed my perspective on a lot of things. Why wait till we’re 50 or 60 to do this? … She’s just gone through so many challenges, and I thought, there’s no reason I can’t chase my (own) dreams.”

Sitting with his brother and partner, Chris, who moved back to Ormond Beach from Maine to get in on this new restaurant idea, Josh says that he got in the habit of chasing 10-hour shifts at Stonewood with 8-hour blocks at home, crunching numbers, researching, making a business plan.

Sixty pages later, he had a starting point. He also had friends, a team of managers and chefs he’d met at local restaurants, each one ready for a new adventure.

One of Buffington's managers, Christian Herodier, is actually the one who initially hired Josh at Stonewood.

Everything began falling into place.

A space opened up at 500 W. Granada Blvd., and it came with kitchen equipment, tables, chairs, décor. All the brothers had to do was add a few beer taps (going in soon) and paint a couple walls. And even though the place is just two weeks old (grand opening planned for the end of the month), it's averaging more than 200 daily customers.

“You always wonder what you’re supposed to be doing, until that one moment when you just do it,” Josh Buffington said, as 1970s rock — Rush, Queen, Meat Loaf — echoes through the house. “And then there’s no looking back.”

He refers to the dinner rush from a cook’s perspective as “being able to go into war every night.” And it’s a sentiment his brother shares — an adrenaline junkie’s guide to the restaurant game.

When Chris Buffington was 16, he was hired to his first job at Outback, and they threw him on the cook line.

“I made over 200 bloomin’ onions, and I had no idea what I was doing,” he said with a smile. “It was overwhelming … a chaotic, but fun, atmosphere. It’s a different world in the back of a restaurant. It’s like a clubhouse.”

And so he stuck with it. There’s satisfaction in facing a rush, he says, then conquering it.

“You just made 40 people happy in one hour, for just pumping out food,” he said.

“It’s that building of a team,” Josh Buffington added. “To have your championship team ready to go to the playoff every night — it’s very rewarding.”

A one-time computer programmer, Josh Buffington says he wants to “slowly introduce this town to a little more of my cooking.” He wants to have separate bar, lunch and dinner menus. He wants to feature seasonal entrees.

The brothers describe their grandmother’s cooking as “Irish-Canadian,” and it’s that same comfort-food, homestyle approach they’re taking now: slow-cooked pastrami for their Ruebens, torched homemade s’more desserts and certain ingredients shipped in from New Finland.

“(Food) is definitely a risky business,” Josh Buffington said. “But I honestly don’t see this as risky. … None of us will ever give up.”

Out to eat

Buffington’s Bar & Grill, at 500 W. Granada Blvd., is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, and 4-10 p.m. for dinner, Monday through Saturday. Fridays, it's open until 11 p.m.

Call 492-6870.