Published: December 18, 2012
Family, Food and Friends are three words that I think would describe perfectly the Shed Barbecue and Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. During my vacation I had a chance to spend an afternoon with Brad Orrison and some of his closest friends and family and of course eat some amazing barbecue.
Back in 2011, at Memphis in May I had a chance to meet Brad for the first time, it was during the Food Network’s Best in Smoke, and people all around him were coming up to him and saying hello and wanting to talk and take pictures with him. While I am sure that this wasn’t his first Memphis in May Barbecue Competition, having a chance to reflect a bit on it now a year plus later, it might have been his Barbecue coming out party. While I interviewed him and subsequently have gotten to know him and his amazing family, I have realized how passionate he is about barbecue and most importantly his wife and his now three sons. Recently, I had a chance to observe first hand how passionate he is about barbecue competitions while he was judging at the first annual Kingsford Invitational. The minute we saw each other we embraced like old college buddies that haven’t seen each other in decades, but this was only the second time we have meet face to face. During the weekend, I had a chance to really get to know and learn more about Brad’s passion for barbecue and the barbecue world that he now sits on his very high perch.
The one quote that still stands out to me is when Brad answered a question of what type of barbecue are you looking for, he didn’t even need to bat an eyelash, he just gave his signature smile and said: “Sexy Barbecue…” At that time, I didn’t have any idea what “sexy” barbecue is or what it meant, but after visiting the Shed, I think that I now understand that answer. [Click here to view all of Rich's Pictures from his Visit to the Shed]
Before we get to the all important food review, I want to also just talk about the Orrission family and also the Shed as a restaurant and also as a dining concept. I don’t think that I need to tell everyone how amazing his family is, when I pulled up to the Shed, I immediately felt like I was visiting a close family friend’s barbecue place for lunch. Linda and I have gotten a chance to bond as we are both extremely passionate about helping other’s through barbecue and are also on the executive board of Operation BBQ Relief. Through Operation BBQ relief, I defintantly see and have a first hand experience of how passionate she is about helping others, and giving up her time to spend with her family to help those who are in need. I don’t even need to tell you, that Brad and his sister Brooke are the absolute same way. While I was at the Shed, a bunch of New York City Firefighters were dropping off t-shirts to thank the Shed family for the support that they provided during Operation Barbecue Relief’s latest mission in the New York City region in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Brad welcomed them in with open arms and also helped fill their open stomach’s with some much needed Barbecue. Another way that I saw how passionate and important it is for Brad to help others, was as we were driving in the “backyard” of the Shed with his two sons, he was shooting off ideas right after another on how not only can the Shed can help others, but how the whole entire barbecue community can help others.
The Shed as a barbecue restaurant concept. For those who might not know how the Shed got started here is the background:
Once there was a guy that spent most of his out-of-class time at Ole Miss scouting out, jumping in, and rummaging through dumpsters and street side garbage piles. The highlight of his week was the “night before trash day.” After graduation, he wanted to move back to the Coast. One sobering morning he surveyed all he had collected over the years. It was everywhere, it was insane: warped used two by fours, old tin roofing, bent nails, ugly windows, mountains of pure, unadulterated junk!
Not knowing what to do with it and not willing to part with a single plastic bucket or warped record, he built a trailer out of the larger parts and loaded the rest on top of this homemade junk hauler and moved back to Ocean Springs. One evening while dumpster diving on the Coast, the guy, Brad Orrison, knee deep in hardwood flooring had an epiphany: “I’m gonna’ build myself a take out barbeque joint with all this junk!” Brad (24) and his sister Brooke (19) hammered and nailed. They practiced cooking, smoking, and timing meat to perfection. A few weeks after opening, Brother Brett (22) just graduating from Full Sail University in Recording Arts and being the sound engineer for the House of Blues in New Orleans, breezed in with all his knowledge and contacts to set up one of the finest Blues venues in the South.
With all the being said, the restaurant is not just a whole in the wall, it is spread out with various spots to enjoy family, friends, and more importantly some amazing barbecue food. My favorite part of the Shed is a space off the right when you first walk in and there is a space right near the Bayou with a stage where various music performances happen. While I was there visiting there was surely no music going on, but I can only imagine the scene: after a long long week at work, it is a saturday night, your tried and you surely do not want to cook, let alone barbecue, you drive over the Shed with your family and you don’t have to worry about others cursing and other profanities as if you do, you will be asked to leave per a big sign right over where you order, you meet up with your friends to enjoy some barbecue that you know is reasonably priced and amazing, and as the sun is setting you hear the great sounds of music, as the sunsets off the Bayou, where else can you can get this amazing experience? Another great aspect of the Shed is how the whole entire community has come together to provide parts for the building of the Shed. It is like your FRIENDS coming and helping you build and be apart of your dream.
After the Shed burnt down, I remember seeing a lot of people on my news feed on Facebook filling up with pictures of supplies ranging from a sink, ply wood, windows, license plates and a lot of other supplies to help The Shed rebuild in less than a week. I even brought my own contribution: a Virginia license plate that came off my old car, now I know that a little bit of Grilling with Rich is part of the Shed.
The wait staff seemed to me to be a little family in itself, being very welcoming and providing great food suggestions and also telling me about themselves and some great stories about the Shed. It seemed to me that even though that they worked their, they were apart of something special and not just your typical restaurant
Now let’s get to the all important food. While I was at the Shed I tried the following: Baby back ribs, pulled pork, pulled brisket, sausages, chicken wings and a half of chicken, some mac and cheese, barbecue baked beans with brisket inside them, and sweet potato “mash” just to name a few things. So let’s start off with the all important proteins.
One of my favorite barbecue proteins to eat is baby back pork ribs. When I am eating pork ribs I am looking for that perfect balance between sweet and spicy and one or another over powering each other. At the Shed, you get that near balance when you bit into the ribs, as I got a nice sweetness to the ribs, don’t get me wrong they were great, and I think that the Shed has driven me back to liking a sweet rib over a spicy rib.
In addition to the main dishes, I had a chance to try some great barbecue sides such as the classic barbecue side dish: mac and cheese, potato salad, and one of the new sides that the Shed now serves up and my favorite: Sweet Potato Casserole. The casserole not only have some great flavor combinations such as brown sugar and the great tasting sweet potatoes. Who knew that these two flavor profiles would work so perfectly together.
I think that great barbecue restaurant need to be more than just having good food. I think that the great barbecue restaurant, and for that matter just the great restaurants need to be an amazing experience above the food that is served, and the Shed is no exception. Not only did the food taste great, I feel that I got an experience and was brought straight into the amazing world of barbecue. I started off the article by saying that if I had to describe The Shed Barbecue and Blues Joint with three words: Family, Friends and Food, I think that after visiting yourself you will also agree with my description.