Redwood Smoke Shack, Norfolk, Virginia

After a day of meals at the excellent Northern Neck BBQ, Rudy’s Pizza and Barbecue, and the very good Old City Barbecue, I started Day 2 of my Eastern Virginia Campaign for Real Barbecue trip with an early lunch at the Redwood Smoke Shack in Norfolk. I’d seen it featured in Southern Grit Magazine as a top new place that cooked exclusively with wood, something I verified by nosing about before I entered.

That’s around back. Normal people enter Redwood from the front. It’s a very popular place,and if they don’t arrive early, as I did, they probably wait in line. Once in, you see the menu and specials on the wall, order your meat and then your sides, and move on down the line to pick your beverage and pay. Then you move into a separate dining section with truly heroic air conditioning, or keep going to a screened in dining area. I chose the latter because there were people in there ahead of me.

I’d ordered sliced brisket with collards and corn puddin’ (that’s not my spelling. It’s spelled thus on the menu.)

Oh, and I guess I’ll have a jalapeño cheese sausage.

(It all came in a deepish cardboard box, and that accounts for the shadow in the meat photographs.)

The sliced brisket was very good – a little bit awkward to get at down in that box, but very good. I guess I could have collapsed the box. At another table was a lady from San Antonio who said it was the only place in the area she’d eat brisket. I verified her expertise by asking if she’d been to Luling and she knew exactly what I was talking about. As a public service, I alerted her to ZZQ in Richmond and 2fifty Texas outside DC. Some jolly tars at another table were introducing a fellow sailor from Texas to Redwood. After the reflexive Texas caveat that “It’s not as good as Texas,” he allowed as how it was pretty good. High praise, and well deserved.

The greens were seasoned with smoked turkey rather than pork for reasons known only to God. The greens were okay, but the corn puddin’…. The corn puddin’ was absolutely delicious. It had a wonderful texture and cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices. It was sort of a cousin of a sweet potato casserole, one of the great desserts masquerading as a side, but not quite that sweet.

Like many of the newer urban barbecue places, Redwood Smoke Shack has a number of featured sandwiches that combine different meats on bread – or on a sliced Krispy Kreme doughnut – or that add pimiento cheese or green chile macaroni and cheese to the meat. The big item, in more than one sense, is the $25 Big *ss Burrito, 2 1/2 pounds of brisket, pork, chicken, smoked sausage, green chile macaroni and cheese, smoked beans, and barbecue sauce. One of the Navy group had ordered one, purportedly to last two meals.

It was a fun lunch, with lots of chatting between tables, which to me is part of the joy of eating at barbecue places. And the staff was as friendly as you can be when there’s a line of people waiting — at least in a city. (See here.) The special sandwiches at Redwood Smoke Shack are based on good honest barbecue, and it feels like … a good honest barbecue place. Give it a try if you want barbecue in the Hampton Roads area, and do try the corn puddin’.

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