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Tributes Pour in for Reo Varnado

Entrepreneur was a great cook and storyteller

By Michael Leighton

A photo posted on Snoop Dogg's Instagram pays tribute to his late uncle Reo Varnado (right), owner of Reo's Ribs in Portland. Photo from @Snoopdogg Instagram.


The tributes and memories are pouring in for Reo Varnado, the late Portland entrepreneur who made signature barbecue recipes born from his Black family roots into a Portland restaurant and destination for good food and company.


Varnado, the owner of Portland’s Reo’s Ribs and nephew of Rapper Snoop Dogg, died Jan. 14 after an extended illness.


His longtime friend and business partner Myra Girod said a memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 29 in Magnolia, Miss. the town where Varnado was born. A special memorial for family and friends in the Portland area also is being planned for February or another time soon to be announced.


A great cook and storyteller, Varnado traced his recipes back generations, connecting to the stories told by own family members in Mississippi, including a grandmother freed from slavery, Girod said.


He was so good at building friendships and creating new customers with good food and humor, Girod said, attributing Varnado’s goodwill to helping make racial progress for the greater Portland community.


“He loved people, and people enjoyed his food and stories,” she said.


Portland blues entertainer Norman Sylvester, who like Varnado was also born in Mississippi, said the city has lost a soulful, warm and giving person. Varnado also had a music career, singing in the duo the Varnado Brothers and gospel group The Beyonds.


“Rest in Peace my Mississippi brother,” Sylvester posted on Facebook.


“Definitely a local treasure,” added Portland City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty in another post.


Snoop Dogg, who made multiple visits to Reo's Ribs over the years, also posted about his uncle’s death, adding a message on Instagram with a picture of himself and Varnado.


"U will be missed. Thank u for loving me and the whole world u were a blessing," he wrote.


Varnado and Girod founded Reo's Ribs in 1999. The restaurant had its beginnings as a food cart in Aloha before moving to southwest Portland, later to southeast Portland and then eventually to its current location in the Hollywood neighborhood.


At the time of Varnado’s death, the restaurant was preparing to reopen after being damaged in a 2020 fire. But his surviving family members, including his son, Erris, and other long-time employees still plan to reopen the restaurant and continue his legacy.

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