Reo Varnado, Former Owner of a Popular Portland Barbecue Joint and Snoop Dogg’s Uncle, Has Died

Spareribs coated in a thick bark crust and Mississippi-style barbecue sauce turned him into something of a national celebrity.

Reo Varnado, founder of Hollywood barbecue joint Reo’s Ribs, died late last week, according to his family.

Vardano, who was also Snoop Dogg’s uncle and known to host the rapper at his Northeast Sandy Boulevard restaurant, passed at 10:30 pm on Friday, Jan. 14. His brother announced the news on Facebook the following morning. No cause of death was included.

Reo’s Ribs first opened in 1999 on Southwest Tualatin Valley Highway in Aloha before moving multiple times, including stints on South Macadam Avenue and Southeast Powell Boulevard. The restaurant, a partnership between Varnado and Myra Girod, eventually settled on Sandy inside the former home of Hollywood Burger Bar in 2015.

Spareribs coated in a thick bark crust and Mississippi-style barbecue sauce not only prompted Varnado’s famous nephew to make in-person visits, but the pitmaster’s smoked meat also turned him into something of a celebrity, with appearances on shows like VH1′s Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.

However, the Hollywood District business was not without its challenges. Fire twice damaged the building—first in 2017, leading Varnado to post a tearful video explaining that he believed racism was behind the blaze. Police found no evidence of arson in that case.

It took more than a year, but Varnado rebuilt and fired up the smoker only to have flames once again tear through the property in 2020. Jennifer Lynn Cole was indicted on two counts of arson for starting that fire after surveillance video showed a woman in pajamas and slippers starting and then feeding a garbage burn near the restaurant.

Varnado and Girod had hoped to reopen in spring 2021, but that plan never came to fruition.

So far, there is no information about a public funeral service, but we will provide updates if information becomes available.