HOME > Chowhound > General South Archive >


The Smokey Pig in Ashland, VA--totally overrated!

  • j

The Smokey Pig in Ashland, VA, just up I-95 from us Richmonders, had been recommended highly by many people as having outstanding BBQ. With my Hound of Chow brother coming down in a few weeks who'd requested that we take him to a good Q joint, the husband and I decided to take a test lunch run up to the Pig.

It's nice enough, and easy to find. We ordered an basket of onion rings, a sliced pork platter with beans and slaw for me, and ribs, beans and slaw for the husband. The onion rings, admittedly, were excellent--beer-battered and practically greaseless. Little did we know that would be the highlight of the meal. The food wasn't horrible, mind you. Just ... bland. The pork was tender, but had no smoke flavoring whatsoever. The sauce tasted like watered-down ketchup with no spices (thank Dog for Texas Pete). The slaw and beans were okay, but nothing spectacular. The ribs looked great, but were tough and greasy--the husband could get very little meat off of them. I gave him about half my pork so he wouldn't starve. Then, because we were still hungry, we ordered dessert--apple pie for him, strawberry shortcake for me. The shortcake was two big tough flavorless biscuity pieces DROWNED in frozen strawberries and sugar syrup, with the tiniest dome of--horrors!--Cool Whip on top. The husband's pie was about 75 percent cardboard-like pastry and 25% sugary apple filling. The prices weren't bad--$30 for the two of us--but we could not understand the raves for this place.

There's nothing worse than traveling for some ostensibly good chow, only to be "rewarded" with mediocre food. That, alas, is what happened to us today. I hate when that happens ...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. All I remember of Ashland was the Speed & Briscoe Truck
    Stop on I-95. My uncle used to take us there for chicken-fried steak when he was hauling for Philip-Morris. Every table had it's own telephone in the section reserved just for truckers. Made me feel like a king, back when I was ten years old.

    1 Reply
    1. re: flavrmeistr

      I, too, had heard this place was real good. I planned to stop on our way home from NJ on 1-95 but opted to stop in NC - the NC place was closed! So, now I don't feel so bad but I still have never tried either VA or NC "Q" - a void in my gourmet existance to date.

      Was considering trying C&W in Hobe Sound, but that sucker is nearly 20 miles east/northeast of any 1-95 exit so I'll do Jack's in Ft. Lauderdale again.

      Going to check out a Chinese place in Sunrise - Toa Toa. Mentioned in NewTimes Best of for 2001. Any hounds ever hear of it or been there? On Pine Island Road in Sunrise. Its about 10 years old so perhaps it can compare with Hong Kong City and Silver Pond?

    2. We finally made it to the Smokey Pig within the past year (see one of my longer posts) and you nailed it with the word "bland." 'Twas a major disappointment.

      1. The reason for Smokey Pig's inferior meat is simple. They use a commercial "smoker" to cook meat, not a real barbecue pit fired with wood coals. Many places produce this type of roast pork with good results. My taste buds tell me that The Smokey Pig, in addition to misleadingly calling what they make barbecue, simply don't do it very well. Good, REAL barbecue is extremely hard to find in Virginia. If you find yourself in the Commonwealth wanting barbecue, drive to North Carolina or even to Johnny Boy's in LaPlata, MD.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Jim

          The Pig is the third BBQ place Richmonders have recommended that turned out to be lousy (the others being the equally bland Extra Billy's and the smoked shoe leather of Bill's). There is a place in the Carytown section of Richmond called Double T's that can be pretty good, but it's a bit on the expensive side and can be hit-or-miss. Maybe I'm uttering Chowhound blasphemy, but it must be said--the best BBQ I've had in Richmond came from the Famous Dave's franchise that opened up by my house about six months ago. They smoke their meats to great advantage (juiciest brisket I've had in a while), the sauces are great (I love Devil's Spit), the prices are reasonable, the portions are humongous and the bread pudding is to die for. We've been there several times and the quality's stayed consistent. We're not big on chain restaurants, but FD was a pleasant surprise.

          1. re: Jersey Girl

            We have at least one Famous Dave's up here in Northern VA now. Time to pay them a visit. A good slab of bread puddin' may be enough to merit them some kind words on here from me. :>D

            1. re: Bob W.

              By all means, go. I consider myself a Q Hound and have made the pilgrimage to the Holy Places (Arthur Bryant's, Sonny Bryan's, McClard's, Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous ... if there's anything better than a Q Road Trip I don't know what it is!), and while I would not put FD in with that group, it's still pretty darn good Q. I'd be interested to hear your opinion.

            2. re: Jersey Girl

              FD is "okay"...for good BBQ and ribs in Richmond, Buz and Ned's on the Boulevard is head and shoulders above everyone else.

          2. I agree that Smokey Pig is over-rated. I didn't like the sauce at all. Too vinegary.

            1. Buz and Ned's is REAL BBQ! Smokey Pig - Not!

              1. Buz and Ned's is good stuff. Richmonders love BBQ, but they dont make it very well. The chain stuff at Red Hot and Blue isn't bad, and Hawks makes an okay sandwich. People here still really like Pierce's in Lightfood (off I-64 on the way to VA Beach) which is really about the sauce--you either like it or not. Honestly, Pierce's makes some of the best french fries and sweet potato sticks, but the Q is only okay. I still eat there, but travel south to get BBQ. Try the lunch buffet at Bill's in Wilson--but skip the chopped BBQ and go straight to the whole pig on the flat grill. And the fried chicken...it is among the best ever.

                1. My son & I had the opportunity to give "The Smokey Pig" a shot tonight. I admit that after seeing your post we were apprehensive -- however we were pleasantly surprised and found the Q to be very acceptable. Maybe we just hit a good night?
                  My all time favorite Bar B Q was found in Birmingham, Alabama at 2 establishments: one was Ollie's and the other The Old Plantation. The Old Plantation was the absolute best!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Racer3

                    Without commenting on the food at Ollie's, it's worth noting that the place was the subject of a famous Supreme Court decision following enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Katzenbach v. McClung. McClung is owner Ollie McClung.

                  2. I have not found really great barbecue anywhere in Virginia.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Potomac Bob

                      While Virginia is not the BBQ capital of the South, there is improvement. As I posted, Buzz and Ned's is good. It isn't alway spot on great, but I like it more often than not. The brisket is very good and the pulled pork is never a disappointment. Ribs can be hit or miss. We have a new joint out in the West End of Henrico County, Grandpa Eddie's BBQ. The restaurant is very nice (the old Julians) and the food is good. Their have great brisket, the Burnt Ends sandwich is really good, and the side of creamed spinach is excellent. Good slaw, decent sauces, great wings and ribs appetizer, and a truly serious peanut butter pie make for a nice addition to our normal throng of chain restaurants. And, when you can find it open, Alexander's on the Henrico-Goochland line is always a good bet. Come check us out

                      1. re: chefsalad

                        Personally disagree on Buz and Ned's-- great mac and cheese, but the bbq is of the heavy, sweet sauce variety and not to my personal taste. Agree with all of the previous posters on the Smokey Pig. Also agree with the negative opinions of Bill's and Extra Billy's. I think the common thread running through all of these recommendations is that these establishments either have multiple locations (Bill's, Extra Billy's) or have benefited from PR hype in the regional or national media (Buz & Ned's, Smokey Pig), and thus have high visibility for people who are looking to make an easy "recommendation." The best BBQ in Richmond is at a place called Benny's on Forest Hill Ave. south of the James. One location and, as far as I can tell, no publicists on staff.

                    2. As a local Ashland, VA resident I couldn't agree more, The Pig is no longer what it used to be as with many resturants. If we want good Q there are two spots that we like, one close to Ashland, about 5 miles east on 54 from I-95 to the junction of 54 and 301 to a place called The Houndstooth Cafe and they do a much better job on pulled pork and ribs that are great and the entire dining experience is much better than The Pig. If you want a great meal it is worth the little extra detour to get here. The other place is in the Williamsburg area at a place called Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que, not the easiest to find but worth the stop when in the area or when you want some good Q. I have eaten a great variety of Q throughout the South in VA, NC, SC, GA, TN, AL, MS, AR, LA and TX and experienced Tomato, Vinegar, Mustard sauces and many combinations and find that all of them have great places and the also ran's, unfortunately most of them fit the later category. The two mentioned above on a scale of 1-10 would rank as an 8 in my book. But everyone's book and taste buds are a little different.

                      Happy eating!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: VAKen

                        DH and I stopped at the Houndstooth Cafe on our way from South Carolina to Pennsylvania. I respectfully disagree on rating this one as an 8. Maybe a 3. DH and I ordered the pulled pork and the shredded beef brisket sandwich and shared both. The beef brisket was dry and crumbled when you bit into the sandwich. The pork was passable. The hush puppies contained large, whole kernels of corn and the meal was very coarse. Overall, DH and I left hungry and disappointed.