We all have hobbies that keep us well-rounded and shape us into who we are. What happens when those hobbies become a full-time business? Bob Roberts, pitmaster and owner of Redwood Smoke Shack, lives the experience firsthand as he operates a Texas-inspired barbecue joint in the heart of Ghent.
Roberts’ journey began when he traded in the bitterly cold winters of Syracuse for Norfolk’s sunny, mild climate back in 2009. While serving as the contract catering manager at Norfolk State University (NSU), he began throwing backyard get-togethers during which he began teaching himself to smoke meat. Through YouTube tutorials and a lot of practice, he learned to smoke items like ribs and pork shoulder, then quickly graduated to smoking an entire hog for luau feasts. Some of his favorite memories are hosting NSU-themed luaus for students to celebrate their back-to-school arrival. He then decided to start selling his barbecue creations from his driveway. After that, he says, “Things snowballed.”
In 2016, Roberts purchased a red-doored trailer that he found on eBay to transform it into the Redwood Smoke Shack food truck. The red door from his newly purchased trailer reminded him of New York-based Redwood Diner, which gave rise to his establishment’s name. Two years later, Roberts found himself with such success and love from the Norfolk community that he opened up his now permanent space in Ghent.
Roberts says his decision for creating Texas-inspired barbecue was an easy one. He loves the challenging yet simplistic nature of this style of barbecue, focusing on the quality of meat paired with the craft of creating a flavorful dry rub. “I love the ‘cue-mmunity,” Roberts says. “Everyone is so welcoming.”
He suggests enjoying Redwood’s spiced rubbed meat without any condiments because the Texas rub shines best when devoured on its own. However, for those diehard sauce fans, Redwood offers five separate house-made sauces ranging in different spice and sweetness levels to further enhance the experience.