Meet the Bucks of Chestnut Hill’s Southern Flames BBQ

By Shelly Shell Williams

Suppose you’re looking for some southern-style home cooking; Southern Flames BBQ is cooking you some of the best southern food from Port Gibson, Mississippi. Southern Flames BBQ is owned by the Buck family. I met the Bucks when they provided food for the customer appreciation day at the Grocery Outlet. Germantown Ave was buzzing about this delicious food served outside of the supermarket. The food was so good, one of my friends called her husband and said, you got to get down here and try this food; she couldn’t stop talking about the baked beans. About 20 minutes later, he was in line to get a taste of Southern Flames BBQ.  

Southern Flames BBQ is located at 8221 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19118, right behind the Chestnut Hill Hotel in the Fairway Market. It is primarily a take-out type restaurant, with some seating available for about six people.  

Shelly Shell:  Who are the Bucks?

The Bucks: Thank You, Shelly Shell, for the question. My wife and I moved from Waldorf, Maryland, to Philadelphia, Pa back in 2010, along with our 2yr old son James H. Buck, III at the time. Jennifer, my wife, is from Virginia, and I am from Port Gibson, Mississippi. We met in the Washington DC area.

Shelly Shell:
When did you open Southern Flames BBQ?

The Bucks: We started Southern Flames BBQ as a project for my dissertation proposal at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. The title of my dissertation was “The Reduction of Recidivism of African Americans Through A Community Based Program.” We started back in 2019.  Employing and changing the dynamics of the hard to employ by building and restoring value and character to a forgotten people. We believe by doing this; we can contribute to the reduction of recidivism in the city of Philadelphia.

Shelly Shell: During the pandemic, you began during one of the most challenging times. Were you concerned?

The Bucks: We had no idea that the pandemic would be lasting this long. We had a concern, but we moved forward as an act of faith because we wanted to start something to employ returning citizens, disabled veterans, and teenagers in the area.

Shelly Shell:  Describe the process of looking for a location?

The Bucks: We first began selling BBQ on the corner of where we live, and after a while, word got to some of the locals in Chestnut Hill. We began to see a few people come from the Chestnut Hill area to try our food. It shocked them that we were on the corner selling at the beginning because of how people look at the food being sold from the corners in the city. However, we had all of our required documents to operate, and then when we began to tell people our story of why we wanted to open, it became interesting, and the word began to spread. One of the Chestnut Hill Business Association owners made a few visits, and he invited us to come and take a look at a location in the area. After praying about it and speaking with our attorney, we finally decided to extend our business. Southern Flames BBQ originated in the Philadelphia, Pa area, and it was birthed, tested, and invested in the local community of Mt. Airy. We’d met with the family that once owned The Rib Crib to get an idea of the local market in this section of town. After receiving the blessing from Ms. Kimberly Gray and her support for what we are looking to do, we launched from our corner to our current location. 

Shelly Shell:  Tell us about your cooking journey; when did you know you could cook?

The Bucks: My cooking journey began at the age of 10yrs old. My parents taught us how to cook at a very early age. It was the southern way. My mother also instilled in me that I will not part my lips to say that a woman is supposed to cook. She made sure that I could equally contribute in the kitchen as well. My first meal was fried chicken, rice and gravy, cornbread, sweet potatoes, and lemon tea. I can cook that with my eyes closed. It was both my grandmothers who taught me how to bake. All of the recipes we use are from my grandmother and my mother. My dad and my uncles taught me how to BBQ. They BBQ for several holiday events, and we would also BBQ at the local HBCU. games.

Shelly Shell: Southern Flames is a family business; who cooks? What are your specialties? 

The Bucks: We like to call Southern Flames a community response. Though it is a business, we employ two of my next-door neighbors, and we hired a manager by the name of Raylea Harris. I guess you could say it has a family resemblance. I do most of the prepping for the early morning, and my wife also comes in on the weekend and works on her days off from work. My kids even help out at times because they like to serve food. Ms. Harris being our manager, handles the day-to-day operations.

Our specialties include but are not limited to the following:

· Hickory smoked ribs, chicken, brisket, and wings. We also have freshly made pulled pork.

· Southern Deep fried fish (whiting), sides, desserts, and more.

Shelly Shell:  From Southern Baptist Preaching to being the owner of Southern Flames BBQ, what inspired the transition?

The Bucks: I am still Pastoring in the city. I am currently the senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Germantown. What inspired this project is that I strongly believe in feeding the people, and I believe that most churches in the north tend to take for granted the power of food and fellowship. So, at Southern Flames, we adopted the mantra of “The Taste Of A Second Chance.” Making it clear that we all need second chances in life.

Shelly Shell:
What makes Southern Flames BBQ a tremendous experience for dinners? 

The Bucks: What makes Southern Flames BBQ a tremendous experience is that we provide food and service with a smile. The seasonings in our food are the love that we seek to share and the story we seek to tell about the rich history of BBQ from the south. It is the TOTS (Taste Of The South). The Taste Of a Second Chance.

Shelly Shell:
How can customers find out more about you?   

The Bucks: Our phone number is 215-621-7919. Our website is