Jerry Stephenson, Pitmaster of Redneck Scientific Opens The Redneck BBQ Lab
by Brian Walrath, Pitmaster of Brown Liquor BBQ and MABA Board Member
I know we’ve all dreamed about it…or to some had nightmares. What is “it?” Taking that plunge from competition barbecue and/or barbecue catering to opening your very own barbecue joint! Well, Jerry Stephenson of Redneck Scientific fame (yeah, the team that finished fourth overall in KCBS in 2016!), took the plunge in January! Jerry opened The Redneck BBQ Lab in Benson, North Carolina.
I happened to be not-too-far away from Jerry’s restaurant the first week he opened visiting some friends to attend a Tarheel/Syracuse basketball game and we decided to stop in for lunch the day after the game. The Redneck BBQ Lab is nestled in next to a gas station in a busy intersection on highway 210, just off of interstate 40.
The first thing you notice pulling in is the big painted logo on the side of the building. The rumor is that this impressive visual landmark was hand crafted by the Sean Manley, aka, “The Guv,” Jerry’s brother-in-law and husband of Roxanne Manley, Jerry’s secret weapon on the barbecue trail! The front of the joint is equally impressive with a bold series of words that make you want to see what’s inside…PROVEN. WINNING. COMPETITION. BBQ! The interior has a homey look with wood grain throughout and a country feel as local, historic pictures and signs with country slogans adorn the walls on your way to the counter. The other thing you can’t help but notice is the trophy shelf that sits right above the windows to the food service line where your order is plated. This trophy case is flat out impressive and I couldn’t help but look up and wonder about the times I’ve competed against Jerry and Roxanne and think of all the times they whipped my ass!
After a handshake and some pleasantries with Jerry, he was off to run an errand as busy restauranteurs often do. My buddies and I decided to get a sampling of several barbecue meats that included smoked spare ribs, pulled pork, and brisket burnts ends and slices. The Redneck Barbecue Lab only sells burnt ends on certain days, and we were glad we hit the right one! Our sides included local collards and the jalapeno mac ‘n cheese. As a competition barbecue cook, sometimes our opinions are flawed when it comes to restaurant barbecue. But I can tell you confidently, Jerry is doing it right! The brisket was perfectly smoked and tender as a mother’s love. The pulled pork was true to this region and succulent with great mouth feel. The burnt ends literally melted in your mouth. The spare ribs were done just right…not overcooked and falling off the bone, but just the right doneness to give you a great bite and chew. The impressiveness didn’t stop there. The collards and mac were among the best I’ve dug in to as well.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about The Redneck BBQ Lab however, is the people. Our service was quick, friendly, and with the southern charm that always makes me come back to these parts! The joint is just that…a joint. It’s not a big place and if you want to be sure to get some tasty ‘que, you better get there early. As with all of the best BBQ hotspots I’ve found, they sell a finite amount and when they’re sold out, that’s it!
All in all, it was a great experience and the food was killer. It’s right off 40 and not too far off of 95. If you get a chance, go, you won’t be disappointed. Jerry and his team are doing it right. I will be back for sure the first chance I get!
Have you eaten great barbecue at a Mid-Atlantic barbecue joint lately? Tell us about it and we’ll feature other restaurants in the newsletter and the MABA website. Just email your review/story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.