Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Mr. Brown Meets Miss White

No need to travel for the other white meat done right.

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Benny’s BBQ is a true-blue barbecue joint hidden in a Stratford Hills strip mall with the only indication of its existence being the scent of smoked wood. Traditional (unsauced) barbecue is cooked on premises, with owners Chris and Amy Turner carrying on the barbecuing tradition of former owner Benny Gill (from whom they purchased the business several years ago). Pork shoulder is smoked exclusively over hard-oak chips between 12 and 16 hours and is served sliced or chopped on a bun ($2.74 and $4.70 with two sides) or as a small ($6.26) or large platter ($7.10). The large platter tops out at nearly a pound and makes a perfect next-day lunch. Beef BBQ can also be substituted, but for true disciples of the pig, only pork will do.

Inside, you’ll find a family-oriented atmosphere complete with an abundance of iced tea drinkers, pictures of giddy, dancing pigs, a wooden bar with a few guys drinking beer out of American-flag pint glasses and a haphazard portrait of John Wayne overseeing it all. You’ll also find Chris Turner behind the bar, in a hand-wiped apron strewn with pork residue, chopping mounds of steaming whole shoulder to be placed on ceramic plates headed straight for your table. Service is efficient and friendly. Servers work together, and tables often share items such as hot sauce or moist towlettes in a Sunday supper sort of way.

There are a few appetizers offered including a fall-off-the-bone tasty rib sampler ($5.50) consisting of four smoked ribs and your choice of homemade Honey Peanut Butter or Texas Traditional Sauce. Both are excellent in their own right, but the tangy zing of the traditional paired best with the crispy-skinned meat. A BBQ salad ($7.95) is served with your choice of dressings including a Baja Ranch, a sort of buttermilk-meets-BBQ-sauce mix. The salad, a handful of iceberg lettuce smothered in a pile of barbecue, ham, turkey and cheese, is an Atkin’s dieters dream. But who comes to a BBQ joint to eat salad?

You come for the meat. And meat they have. You have your choice of platters: BBQ chicken half ($8.22), BBQ sampler ($18.85), baby back ribs and BBQ ($18.85) and a half or full rack of ribs ($12.25 and $22.25 respectively). There’s an array of sides including disappointing out-of-the-can-tasting BBQ beans, warm, cinnamon-sprinkled baked apples, and a flavorsome, lightly mayonnaised coleslaw. And definitely go for the crispy, oniony hush puppies over the school-cafeteria-inspired rolls. Top off your meal with a decadent, caramel custard bread pudding ($3) which literally oozes comfort. Or if you don’t have time to sit down, you can grab a party pack of Q ($13.06), a full pound of BBQ, a pint each of coleslaw and beans plus six buns. Frugality at its finest.

I have to say, for a young man who started out at Benny’s as a dishwasher, Chris Turner has come into his own as a real pitmaster. Tucker describes his BBQ as Richmond Style, and his meat retains its own integrity with no fancy slathering or mopping going on during the cooking process. The flavors of the meat speak for themselves. So come on in, grab yourself a seat at the bar, watch a little ESPN and let Mr. Brown and the Divine Miss White do the talking. S

Kendra Bailey Morris is a professionally trained chef who teaches cooking classes for Sur La Table Cooking School and works as a freelance chef. She is also author of the cookbook “Family Secrets.” She visits each restaurant twice and each visit is unannounced and paid for by Style.

Benny’s BBQ ($)
2919 Hathaway Road

Richmond, Va. 23225
320-PIGS
Lunch and dinner: Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday.
Note: No credit cards accepted.

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