Couple to open eatery in Windsor

Published 10:20 am Monday, July 2, 2012

Heather and Danny Thornton are renovating a building on Route 460 across from Domino’s Pizza in Windsor for Country Boy’s Barbecue. STEPHEN COWLES/TIDEWATER NEWS



WINDSOR—Heather and Danny Thornton are renovating a building on Route 460 across from Domino’s Pizza in Windsor for Country Boy’s Barbecue.

The couple anticipates opening the restaurant in September.

“I want an open community atmosphere. I want you to see the guy fixing your food,” said Heather Thornton, pointing to an area where there’ll be a table for 16 to 18 people.

In addition to the Thorntons’ barbecue, ribs and brisket, the plan is “to sell other people’s stuff,” as she put it. Local goods from “Yummeries” and farmers’ produce will be included. They hope get an ABC license for beer and wine.

The couple met when Danny Thornton, 40, hired Heather Thornton at Universal Laboratories. They soon realized their mutual attraction, which included a passion for barbecue.

“In 2007, we went looking for a place that serves good barbecue, but we couldn’t find one,” Heather Thornton said.

An unsuccessful search inspired the Portsmouth couple to come up with their own barbecue. For his birthday, Danny Thornton’s mom got him a smoker that can hold six pork butts.

“He practiced for almost a year until finally he came up with a recipe,” Heather Thornton said.

Danny Thornton’s first bite came in May 2008 when the couple test marketed their barbecue at a concert in Suffolk. People at a nearby private party came over and paid for what they were getting for free.

“We made $98,” Heather Thornton said.

Afterward, Danny Thornton went seeking huge smokers, and chose the Ben Lang brand.

“He and Danny got together and designed our barbecue wagon,” Heather Thornton said. “We’ll have the same smokers for the restaurant, but much, much bigger.”

The Thorntons loaded all the necessary gear in a utility trailer and starting going to festivals.

“We’ve got quite a following,” said Heather Thornton, which includes farmers’ markets in Smithfield and Norfolk. “People are addicted to our barbecue. We use a vinegar-based sauce. They can’t get enough.”

Danny Thornton later described his invention as the perfect blend of sweet and spicy with a kick at the end.

“It’s perfectly tender and juicy,” he said. “We always tell people if you don’t like barbecue, you’ll like this.”

An important factor to the recipe is to smoke the meat for 20 hours.

They also claim to have converted a couple of vegetarians.

Being fans of the Food Network, the Thorntons know places that specialize in barbecue.

Last summer they traveled from Virginia to Mississippi, and visited as many barbecue places as possible. She recalled they ate at about two dozen.

“We picked the ones you see on TV, met the owners, saw their pits and talked with them,” Heather Thornton said. “You can always learn something new.”

Deciding to open a place of their own, the Thorntons looked in Smithfield and northern Suffolk.

“We really love Windsor, and then this building just appeared,” she said.