By Nancy Tannler
4246 SE Belmont St.
Hours: Seven days 11:30 am – 9 pm
There were some errors in the menu and it has been updated. Editor
Exuding southern hospitality, Sharon Santucci welcomed The Southeast Examiner into the newly opened Russell St. BBQ at 4246 SE Belmont St. There’s something about her slight southern accent, broad smile and the enthusiasm for barbecue that made it easy to settle in and listen to her story about the restaurant she and her wife Diane started here in Portland years ago.
Sharon grew up in eastern Texas in a town called Gladewater. Her family was given a land grant there two years before the Revolutionary War and they’ve remained on the land ever since. She had an uncommon and idyllic childhood. They had all the modern conveniences plus there was enough land and family members to raise almost everything they needed to eat. What they couldn’t get on their own they traded with neighbors.
They were truly a self sufficient family living off the land. “It was a lot of hard work picking okra, plums, apples and then canning and storing everything in the cinderblock storage my grandpa built. One of my first DIY projects was a smoker,” Sharon said. “I built it with a screwdriver and big cans.” Slow cooked barbecue was standard faire in their lives.
Diane came from Bethesda, Maryland and on her families regular jaunts from their home through Virginia to the beach, her mother had to stop at every barbecue joint on the way. She was a foodie and loved to try the different pulled pork sandwiches and slaw. Diane grew up with the taste for barbecue too and long before they started the restaurant she made her own special barbecue sauce to use and give away as gifts called Classic. Since the opening of the restaurant, she has expanded the repertoire to include four more barbecue sauces.
As with all adventurous kids, they both left home and landed in Seattle at about the same time where they met, fell in love, married and then started to think about what to do next. They both worked in the food industry, Sharon in the front of the house and Diane turned her culinary passion into becoming a chef. They moved to up state New York for awhile before deciding on returning to the west coast, this time to Portland.
They both had food industry day jobs while they made a business plan to open a restaurant. Experienced in fine dining, they decided they wanted to do something more simple. Barbecue was a natural for them considering their roots. They opened the first Russell Street BBQ in January 2004 barbecuing pork, briquet, baby back ribs, turkey, spare ribs and fried chicken.
“There’s a few things we don’t serve at our SE location due to the size of our smoker,” Sharon said. At the time of the interview one of the cooks had already been there since five in the morning preparing the meat for the 7 -12 hours it requires to smoke the meat in their new wood burning smoker.
Diane has five different flavors of her sauce to choose from when ordering barbecue. The original Classic, Kind, North Carolina Vinegar, Killer and Derby Mustard. The sides include all Sharon’s childhood favorites: chow-chow, tomato gravy, slaw, mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, fries, beans, greens, potato salad and chili. With today’s carb conscious crowd, a housemade slaw topped with barbecue is becoming a favorite.
. You won’t be left lacking a choice. There is also a full bar.
The aroma of the slow roasting meat is tantalizing and will whet your appetite to savor the many different flavors of barbecue and sides available at Russell Street BBQ.