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Reo Varnado, the Resilient Founder of Reo’s Ribs in Portland, Has Died

Varnado, well-known as rapper Snoop Dogg’s uncle, passed away January 14

A man in a hair net holds a hunk of smoked meats next to a smoker.
Reo Varnado.
Instagram

Reo Varnado — the man behind the resilient Reo’s Ribs — has died. Varnado, also known as the uncle of rapper Snoop Dogg, has been a fixture in the Portland restaurant scene for years, despite persistent hurdles. In a public Facebook post, brother Ricky Varnado announced that Reo had died at 10:30 p.m. on January 14. “My heart is hurting badly,” he writes. The statement does not mention a cause of death.

In 1999, Varnado, known as “Uncle Reo,” opened the original Reo’s Ribs in Aloha with business partner Myra Girod. The restaurant focused on Mississippi-style barbecue and soul food: saucy baby-back ribs and barbecue chicken, as well as chitlins and oxtails. The restaurant moved fairly frequently around greater Portland, opening on SW Macadam and then eventually on NE Sandy, where it sits today. Fires damaged Reo’s Ribs twice — once in 2017 and again in 2020. Still, the restaurant reopened again and again, and was preparing to open again in the spring of 2021.

Varnado was more than a pitmaster and restaurant owner; he was also known for his music career, singing in the duo the Varnado Brothers and gospel group, The Beyonds. Snoop Dogg posted several times about his uncle’s death; he also posted a clip of Varnado singing on stage at one of his shows. Varnado also appeared on Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, co-hosted by his nephew.

“Thank u for loving me and the whole world,” Snoop Dogg writes in an Instagram post. “U were a blessing.”

Death announcement [Facebook]
Snoop Dogg [Instagram]
Reo’s Ribs [Official]
Reo Varnado, owner of Portland barbecue spot Reo’s Ribs and Snoop Dogg’s uncle, dies [O]

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