Eighty-one-year-old Buddy Maughon always wanted to open a steakhouse. That shouldn’t come as a surprise—he’s been in the meat business for more than 60 years. The surprise (a pleasant one, to say the least) is the overflowing response that’s come with his 4-year-old restaurant in historic downtown Buford—validation for years of making that dream come true. And he’s been lucky enough to do it right alongside his family.
Maughon got his start in the meat business at the A&P Supermarket in Atlanta. He bought his first butcher shop on Buford Highway in 1969, before moving to LaVista Road in 1980 where he operated Northeast Meat Market for the next two decades. In 2014, an historic little building in downtown Buford opened up (Bona Allen Harness and Saddlery) and Maughon was ready to make his dream a reality. Bare Bones Steakhouse opened in December the next year.
Ownership and operation of Bare Bones is a family affair. Maughon owns the restaurant with his wife, Gigi. Their son, Capers Ogletree, moved from Portland, Oregon to create recipes for the menu and run the kitchen as executive chef until 2016. Buddy and his son Rhett hand-cut every steak the restaurant has ever served. Since 2016, Gigi’s sister, Raye Baldwin, has been the operations manager. Buddy and Gigi’s son Michael became the general manager in April of 2017.
“There’s no middle man for us. We don’t have another meat supplier. We are the butcher and the wholesale company,” said Michael Maughon. “Dad is a master meat cutter. He puts all of his experience into working with Rhett to cutting all the steaks for our restaurant. People are blown away by how tender they are, how incredible they taste. We’ve got some of the best around.”
Those steaks are Midwestern, Angus grain-fed beef, aged at least 4 weeks (6-8 weeks, Maughon prefers), and cooked on a woodfire grill using pecan and oak wood. “Being in the meat business, I thought having a steakhouse would be the best thing. Having all of my experience, I just do a better job. I buy better meats. My son and I, we cut our own steaks every day.” said Maughon, who knew he wanted his customers to love their steaks so much that they would leave the bones bare. The name was a natural fit.
“Bare Bones is fitting for us, because we’re a very no-nonsense kind of restaurant,” added Michael. “We have one foot in fine dining and one foot in casual, but both in ways that benefit all of our guests. You can come in right off the lake in tank tops, but the food you get is just as good as if you were going to a fancy place downtown with a dress code.” Another perk—you’re going to eat just as good of a steak (if not better) as you would in town, without having to pay more. In fact, many an in-town chef has been spotted dining at Bare Bones. “I wanted a place where the average person could come in and eat a good steak,” said Maughon. “A place people could go to and not have to go to Buckhead.
Our regulars tell me all the time they’re so thankful we’re here.” Among many steaks on the menu, those regulars usually order the filet mignon or bone-in ribeye. Ambitious ones tackle the 48-ounce Tomahawk ribeye with a bone about as long as your forearm. Chilean sea bass, shrimp and grits, chops and more satisfy diners looking for something lighter.
On the side, the onion rings are famous. Tempura-battered and fried and delivered to your table stacked high, they’re drizzled in honey and finished with grana cheese and crushed red pepper flakes. In addition to great cuts and unique sides, everything except the ketchup is made in-house. From the Béarnaise sauce to the red wine demi-glace, the ice cream to the mozzarella cheese, it’s from scratch and fresh.
“I’m blown away by what
we’ve been able to do,” said Michael. “I’ve spent a lot of years in restaurants
and I’ve never seen a staff like this... and the way the community treats
them—it’s a beautiful thing we’ve got here.” The menu and the family-friendly,
good-time atmosphere draw people from the lake all year long, but with Holiday
Marina only 4 miles up the road, summertime is apt for a good, relaxing meal
after a day on the water. Better than that—down to the bone, if you will—
Maughon considers himself lucky to have had the chance to realize his biggest dream with his family by his side. “It’s wonderful, you know, running this business with my family,” said Maughon. “When you’re growing up, you’re working all the time and you don’t get to spend much time with [your kids], so getting to work with them now, getting to do this together, it’s just great.” ... and if we’re talking about the steaks, it’s a heck of a lot better than great.