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Best Bite - Ridgewood Brothers BBQ

Welcome to "Best Bite," a food blog brought to you by Jason Lowe and Hope Adair. Maybe you’ve seen us drooling over food pics on social media, or chowing down at a local restaurant in town. We are passionate about a lot of things: music, adventure, travel, and the outdoors to name a few. But the thing we love perhaps most of all? GOOD FOOD. In this blog, we'll be sharing our opinions of the best local food we've ever eaten in the River Valley. From hidden gems to well-known hotspots, we'll explore the diverse and delicious food scene in Russellville and beyond. Join us on our culinary journey as we discover the best bite!

In this inaugural blog post, we felt like it would only be proper to write about a local restaurant that has turned heads in Russellville, and for good reason. The owners are excellent people with great passion for creating amazing food. They are absolutely killing it when it comes to quality, service, and taste. A spot so legendary that people travel from miles around just to have a sample. That’s right, you already know. Today we’re going to give you our honest, unbiased review of Ridgewood Brothers BBQ. If you haven’t eaten today, you may want to wait to read this post. Or at least be prepared to hit Ridgewood for lunch. This is your fair warning.

Ridgewood Brothers BBQ is owned and operated by two life-long friends (and not actual brothers) Robert Couser and Grant Hall. They started smoking meat in their back yard several years ago, and it quickly turned into a family and friend favorite. These guys learned early on how to make BBQ the old fashioned way, slow cooking with natural smoke and flame to bring out the true flavors of the meat. And seriously, have you seen the smoke ring on the brisket? More on that in a sec.

Robert and Grant are true masters of their craft in every sense of the word. Before transitioning into a brick and mortar building in December of last year, they ran their restaurant as a food truck, dedicated to further perfecting their BBQ techniques in the parking lot of a flea market on the west side of Russellville. If you’re a long-timer, you know that people line up early to place their order. Rain or shine, the parking lot was always full, and it was almost always guaranteed to sell out. Robert and Grant care a lot about each and every one of their guests, and it shows in the personalized service and attention to detail they provide. On the hot days, Grant would hand out water bottles and free pickle slices to the guests in line, taking time to talk and connect with every person. Whether you're a regular or a first-time visitor, you'll feel like a valued member of the family at Ridgewood Brothers BBQ.

One thing you absolutely cannot miss at Ridgewood is the brisket. It's slow-smoked to perfection and available in both marbled and lean cuts. The marbled brisket is incredibly juicy and full of flavor, with a rich, tender texture that practically melts in your mouth. The lean cut is just as delicious, with a firmer texture and a more pronounced smoky flavor. No matter which cut you choose, you'll be blown away by the beautiful smoke ring that encircles the meat, a testament to the natural smoke and flame cooking method used by Robert and Grant. And when it comes to serving, they do things the old fashioned way - by hand-cutting each slice "deli style" to your desired thickness. It's little touches like this that make Ridgewood Brothers BBQ stand out as a master class in BBQ perfection.

One day I was hanging out at the food truck, learning as much as I possibly could from Grant without getting in the way. He told me that part of his technique for getting the best result from smoked brisket includes ensuring the aerodynamic positioning of each brisket on the rack so that the heat and smoke from the wood fire passed over the meat equally. He opened the door to their 1,000 gallon smoker to show me how the briskets were laid precisely to allow maximum air flow. I was mesmerized.

“You mean…you care that much about every one of them?” I asked. “Every single one.” Grant replied. “Consistency is really important to us. We want every guest to have the same experience, so we work hard to make sure each slice is just as good, if not better than the one before it.”

Next, I have to highlight the turkey. I will admit, turkey has always been my least favorite smoked meat. It seems like most restaurants either drastically dry it out, or they don’t season it enough. Turkey has always been a Thanksgiving bird for me, so when I bit into my first slice of turkey from Ridgewood? I can’t even put into words what happened in my brain. But since this is a blog, and my job is to put things into words, I’m going to try anyway. :-)

Ridgewood’s turkey is absolutely delectable. It’s perfectly juicy, having just the right amount of moisture content in each slice. There’s no gamey bird flavor here, it’s blessed with the smoke, baby. I won’t divulge their seasoning blend, but I will say that this peppery turkey is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. It takes me to another place entirely. The pepper forms a tasty bark on the outside of the turkey breast, and that’s what truly puts this treat over the top.

I can’t hit up the Ridgewood line without buying at least one sausage link. They come in two flavors, the first being a classic house sausage, and the other being a jalapeño cheese version. They make each link in-house, using the trimmings from the now-aerodynamic briskets in the sausage mix. The casing has that satisfying snap that I just can’t live without. As soon as it pops, the juice instantly hits your taste buds with the weight of a semi truck, delivering mouth-watering flavor and aroma that fills your sinuses. The pit-masters have developed a technique that allows them to know when the sausages are fully cooked - not by inserting a meat thermometer - no, no. That would prematurely pop the casing and allow the juicy goodness to escape. Instead, they give each sausage a little squeeze. With a double-gloved hand they remove them from the smoker and utilize their years of experience to know exactly how done they are. These pit masters are magicians of meat.

Lastly, I have to talk about the bacon burnt ends. If it’s your first time, don’t go to Ridgewood without trying them. Trust me on this.

Bacon burnt ends are a delicious and unique twist on traditional barbecue. They're made by taking bite-sized pieces of slab bacon and slow-smoking them until they're crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. These "burnt ends" are then coated in a sticky, sweet glaze made from barbecue sauce and other seasonings, giving them a rich and complex flavor profile.

To prepare bacon burnt ends, the slab bacon is first cut into small, bite-sized pieces. Then, it's seasoned with a dry rub or marinade and placed in a smoker, and it’s cooked using low heat and wood smoke until it's crispy and cooked through. After that, they're removed from the smoker, then they're glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce before being returned to the smoker to caramelize and take on the flavors of the sauce. This extra step of glazing and reintroducing to smoker gives the burnt ends extra flavor and caramelization. The result is a delicious dish that is crispy, smoky, and packed with flavor. These bacon burnt ends are a must-try for any barbecue lover.

I haven’t even mentioned the side items. From jalapeño cheese grits to smoked green beans cooked in beef tallow, the extras really serve the mains in such a cohesive way. You can’t go wrong with literally any choice on the hand-written menu. Do yourself a big favor and try the Banana Pudding though. It’s homemade, and it reminds me a lot of Sundays in the summer when my mom would whip up a big bowl for church potlucks. It’s creamy and full of flavor. You might have to get an extra pint to take home!

I could go on for literally hours about all of the amazing meats and sides at Ridgewood Brothers BBQ, but honestly it’s just something you have to try to believe. I’ve eaten BBQ from New Mexico to North Carolina, and I can say with absolute certainty that this is the best BBQ I’ve ever had. I know those are fightin’ words, but I will accept all comers. Try it and tell me you don’t agree.

Anyone can smoke meat. Anyone can “barbecue” for that matter. But Ridgewood is just something different. It’s like how your mom’s spaghetti was so much tastier than anything you’d had elsewhere. Perhaps it’s the love she infused in every bite. Or maybe it’s the years of experience that went into seasoning just right, and cooking for just the right amount of time. Whatever was in mom’s “secret sauce”, it was definitely something unique and special. And maybe it was so good that you still crave the taste today. At Ridgewood I get that exact feeling. It just tastes and feels like home. And my mom never even smoked a brisket, so I’m not sure how they do that. I called them “magicians of meat” earlier, and that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s pure magic in your mouth. Which is why I give Ridgewood Brothers BBQ a “MUST TRY”. It’s 10/10 delicious, and you won’t regret making the trip to taste this best bite.



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