by Staff Writer
August 2023 marks the one-year anniversary of the reopening of Berry’s BBQ! Berry’s BBQ is located at the north end of Burien:
11614 Ambaum Blvd. SW. #B
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Phone: 206-257-0320 or 678-548-6400
Burien lost a good friend and marvelous BBQ chef when Rufus Berry died in 2020 from cancer. The community had missed the delicious Southern-style cooking (true comfort food!) and is glad they are back in operation!
Rufus Berry provided the Burien community with great BBQ for over a decade, opening in 2004. He enjoyed cooking food like his mother had made when he grew up in rural Arkansas.
Rufus gave Berry’s BBQ to one of his “little sisters,” Judy Smith, who moved to Burien from Buford, Georgia. Judy and her husband, Steven, now own and operate Berry’s BBQ. Judy left the corporate world in Georgia, where she had been an accountant. She is finding the change in career and location delightful. “The people of this area are kind and friendly,” she said. “I’ve only had one grouchy customer since I’ve been here.”
Judy aims to follow in her brother Rufus’s footsteps, and honor him as she carries on cooking the incredible food he made. “He gave me all his recipes, ” she said. There was one big problem, however: she could not find the recipe for the BBQ sauce! How could she duplicate Rufus’ famous BBQ food, without the BBQ sauce he had used? One day while she was looking in a journal he had written in, there it was! The sauce recipe, which seemed hidden away, suddenly was found! Now Judy could get down to some serious “Rufus Berry” cooking!
Judy is one of the “little sisters” of Rufus Berry, who opened his BBQ business in 2004. Judy came from a family of 12 children. Rufus was the 2nd child, and Judy the 11th. Being very far apart age-wise, Judy said she really didn’t know Rufus when growing up. She remembers her mother up at night, pacing the floor, praying for Rufus, who was in the army in Viet Nam. He completed two tours of duty there. Judy’s parents, Reverend John and Dorothy Berry, were people of strong faith. “Whenever the church doors were open, we were there…..the whole family,” said Judy. She appreciated her godly parents; their home was loving and stable and they were taught to be respectful, productive, and good citizens.
Judy travels back to Georgia occasionally and cooks for family get-togethers, which may round up 75 people for a great meal (Thanksgiving and Christmas are very special events for the family!) Judy has two grown children, a daughter, Taylor, and a son, Kaelin. She said her brother Rufus was a wonderful support to her as a single, divorced woman. Around that time,Judy got to know him much more; he was there to support her, being alone and raising two young children. “He was always encouraging and inspiring me,” she stated. She would call him for help; his strong, solid personality lent so much support in her life! “I miss him so much!” Judy says. One extraordinary memory was at her wedding to Steven; her big brother Rufus gave her away, traveling to her wedding even as he was battling illness.
Judy did some remodeling at Berry’s BBQ since she became the owner, but there are still many remembrances of Rufus in the restaurant. Rufus was an avid pool player and would beat everyone. At his house in SeaTac, he had two pool tables. During his illness, friends from one of his former employers, Cole and Webber, gave him a third pool table. Today when you visit Berry’s BBQ, you will see a painting on the wall commemorating his love for pool. “My brother was a true entrepreneur,” said Judy. During his lifetime, Rufus worked as a DJ, a restaurant owner, had a cleaning service, a vending machine company, and was employed by Dollar Car Rental company and Cole and Webber company. As owner and chef of Berry’s BBQ, people frequently saw him driving around in a blue pickup with an iconic white cow aboard. (Very eye-catching! )
Judy is enjoying her new career in the restaurant field. At Berry’s BBQ, customers may eat inside, order “carry-out,” or plan a full catering-serviced meal with many choices of barbecued meats and delicious sides. Judy and staff have catered for baby showers, wedding parties, memorial celebrations, and one time even provided food for 500 people at a Seattle college event. “It was a touchless meal, and each item had to be separately wrapped…a big job!” said Judy. Usually, she operates with a crew of 3 people, but when a large event opens up, she hires extra workers.
The most popular item on the menu is the Chef’s Sampler; this includes 5 types of meat: ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken and a hot link. Meals come with a choice of various sides: coleslaw, baked beans, collard greens, mac-n-cheese, potato salad, or yams. Top off the meal with one of these desserts: apple pie, peach cobbler, or sweet potato pie. Mmmmmm! Delicious! See you soon at Berry’s BBQ!