Article by Kim Parker
Photos by Fitz and Kim Parker
Lead photo of Redwood Smoke Shack Owner | Pitmaster Bob Roberts
BBQ….what is it exactly? Depending on where you live, the meaning can vary from an event to a type of meat being served. There is a lot of room for debate, but as a born and raised Virginian, if you tell me we’re having BBQ, I hear pulled pork. My preference for its preparation is simple: a little vinegar, red pepper, bbq sauce on the top, pulled the (not chopped) meat, and coleslaw on the side. Many restaurants consider BBQ as an assortment of meats to include pulled pork, ribs, and brisket, and I wanted to find a place that was doing it well.
Redwood Smoke Shack, a new Hampton Roads food truck by Bob Roberts, is doing it. So, with an empty stomach and an eagerness to see how his Texas-style BBQ compares to what I’ve had, I visited Coelacanth Brewery to try them out. As someone who is indecisive and has FOMO, I ordered the Meats Sweats Sampler that comes with ribs, brisket, pulled pork & chicken, one side, and cornbread. Like a Food Network judge, I inspected my tray; I gave the meat the fork test, looked at the rings of smoke, layers of seasoning and sauce, and resisted the urge to devour it all.
The brisket was so tender that my plastic fork pulled right through the meat. The bark, which I, being uninformed, assumed was burnt meat, was crispy upon the first bite and so moist that it melted on my tongue. Without the use of sauce, it had a rich taste of smoke that’s too complex to describe and the variety of seasonings permeated through the meat; I craved more with every bite.
The pulled pork now holds a special place in my heart. By habit, I was going to try it with their house bbq sauce, but I’m glad I didn’t. I could have taken the meat, put it between a bun and been happy. I put their “no name” bbq sauce made with Coelacanths Imperial Milk Stout on it, and while I could (and may have) eaten it by itself, the sauce overpowered the flavors of the meat, so save yourself any unnecessary disappointment, and let the meat simply be.
I then put my pork sweats on hold to try the pulled chicken and sides. Maybe it was the lack of skin, or that it was made with what appeared to be white meat, but the texture was not as moist as I had hoped for. The macaroni and cheese was creamy, and the addition of green chiles gave it an unexpected kick, but I was craving that crispy top that you get from baking it.
Don’t you hate it when you’re on a date and when eating ribs you must decide whether you should be cute, and pick the meat off with your fork, possibly leaving some behind, or embrace your inner cowboy and rip the meat off with your teeth? You won’t have to do that here. When I picked it up, I took my fork to it and the meat fell off the bone.
Whether you’re a meat and BBQ aficionado, or just a person who loves good food, once you try Bob’s food, you will leave saying Redwood Smoke Shack serves the best local BBQ you’ve ever had, I know I did.
For more on Redwood Smoke Shack included future dates and places they will be, visit www.facebook.com/redwoodsmoke