Willard's BBQ Report
I was reading a recent and epic post about NC BBQ on the South board (link below--awesome post) and it wetted my appetite. I'd been thinking of trying Willard's, about which I've read generally favorable reviews, so I went out there for lunch.
It's cheek-by-jowl with the Dulles Expo Center, at the corner of Willard and Chantilly Shopping Center Dr., in one of those sururban industrial/retail rows. The decor is fairly industrial chic, with some good ol' days pictures on the walls. Service is ordering at the counter and then waiting 'til your number comes up.
The menu is fairly extensive and covers most BBQ styles even including Jamaican jerk, tho they seem to lean toward NC style. Fairly typical list of sides.
I opted for traditional and chose the two-meat combo with pulled pork and ribs, with sides of baked beans and slaw--it came with cornbread and pickle slices. Price was $10.95 plus a buck for unlimited sweet tea.
On the whole, while I'm not an BBQ expert, it was well worth the price. The meats were both very moist and smokey, and had a lot of flavor even without added sauce (they had a selection of sauces, but I passed). Portions were large--three good-sized ribs, at least 9-10 oz. of pilled pork, and plenty of sides and c'bread. The beans were tangy and mustardy, and not at all sweet--they were a bit undercooked however. The slaw was fairly bland, but in its favor it was coarse-cut from good cabbage and had a nice crunch.
On the whole, IMO definitely worth a detour, and without question far superior to Annette's and even Rocklands. Among the places mentioned in the linked post I have only eaten at Ridgewood, and I'd say Willard's is certainly as good if not better, tho a different style (that guy wasn't thrilled with Ridgewood, but many others are). I'll be going back to Willard's to try the burnt ends soon.
Tried Willards for the first time today. I'm actually finishing up as I type. I had the Beef brisket sandwich for $6.09. Came with Beans, slaw and few slices of pickle. I got the spicy sauce which was put on the side.
Beans were horrible. Could not eat it. Overly salty and no real flavor.
The Slaw was excellent. The second best slaw in NOVA (next to chutzpa's). Really good. I could have made a meal out just that.
Pickle, also good but didn't give you enough.
Sauce, I got spicy and it was excellent. Really loved it. Just enough heat to feel it but not enough for a sweat. Really good flavor.
As for the brisket it was really really good. Not to say I hadn't had better brisket but that was in Austin. The brisket was cut (in the right direction) about 1/2inch thick. It held its form and didn't fall apart. I don't like it when they turned to shreads. It was moist (not overly juicy) and had really good beef flavor. I ate half without the sauce. Best brisket I've had in the DC area (lot better then the few times I've been to at capital Q). Overall, I was really happy. I'm going back. Got to try the burnt ends sandwich.
JohnB and Soup: Definitely try the burnt ends! That's my usual order at Willard's, and also for my brother Lurker W. when he comes to visit.
The cobblers are also very good -- not that I ever have room for dessert; I always end up eating the cobbler the next day, along with the remaining half of my food.
re: Bob W
Got the burnt end today. BTW, it was really crowded. I had to hunt for a seat. I really like the tea and the lemonaid. As for the beans, much better today but pretty average still.
As for the burnt end, excellent. very different from the stuff I had in KC but still pretty good. I really like them but I still think the brisket was better. I going to make my way through the menu.
Been eating at willards for a couple of months fairly regularly. If anyone is looking for a decent brisket, go to willards. I'm am convinced they have the best around the DC area. Very beefy and tender yet retains form (not a mush of meat). You can also see the smoke ring. The sides (tried them all) are mostly good. Collards (they should think about selling the pot liquer as a drink) and dirty rice are standouts. Beans are mediocre.
I've never actually been in Willard's but I've had the food catered to office meetings -- my office is nearby. Outstanding barbecue, very flavorful and tender.
But when I actually get there, I will order the Cubano sandwich. It's one of my favorite sandwich types, and I heard Willard's has the best version in Northern Virginia.
I'll give their Cuban sandwich a shot. You can get a good one at Caribbean Grill on Lee Hwy (at George Mason Drive) in Arlington, which is a rotisserie chicken joint that also has fantastic sides -- yuca, plantains, various rices, etc. I'm not a Cuban sandwich expert but I have had a couple in Miami's Little Havana.
In fact, I think takeout from Willard's tomorrow is in order. Mrs. W. will appreciate the break.
On another cross-cultural note, Willard's gumbo is really good too. Their repertoire is wide but unusually deep too.
My husband and I went to Willard's for the first time about a month ago, and thought it was the best barbecue we'd had in the DC area. We have been going about once a week since and are slowly working our way through the menu. The pulled pork has been outstanding, and my husband loves the sauce on the pork and the sauces you can add. Tonight I tried the Jamaican jerk half-chicken, which was excellent (I took off all the skin, which removed most of the jerk spice, but the chicken still had a bit of a kick to it, and it was very tender and juicy enough, perhaps just a little dry at one end). Twice I've gotten fish specials--once catfish, and once tilapia--both very good, with the tilapia a bit more tasty.
My husband loves the baked beans; I am addicted to the dirty rice, and enjoy the slaw a lot (best slaw I've had in years), but I haven't liked the veggie sides I've tried. The green beans were overcooked to the point of mushiness, although the flavor was good (like my mom's, with a bacon fat taste). The black eyed corn was very bland, with the beans underdone.
Ooh, and the cornbread...the cornbread is really good. The size of the pieces varies at random--sometimes we get huge pieces, sometimes little ones--and sometimes we also get corner pieces, which tend to be a bit greasy and have a hard edge on the bottom and sides. The variable size isn't really a problem, though, because the big pieces are enormous, and the small pieces are just about the right size.
Went a few weeks back. Not wanting to be depressed by the brisket, (i've been to city market, blacks, kreuz, smitty's, southside market - pretty much every TX institution (but not Snow's))...I went with the KC burnt ends. My fellow Texan got the pork.
Interesting, and next time I pick someone up from Dulles I'll stop in again.