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Jan 14, 2005 12:11 PM

searching for good carolina bbq, NoVA or DC

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Does anyone have suggestions for good places to get carolina pork bbq in DC or NoVA? I have been unimpressed with the offerings at Red Hot & Blue, Rocklands, and Old Glory. I went to a party on labor day and someone brought some pretty good stuff there, they said they had picked it up somewhere in New Baltimore, VA, but I have not been able to find the joint.

If anyone knows the place in New Baltimore, or another place I should try, please let me know. I wish I could better describe the taste I'm looking for...I spent a good portion of my youth in eastern NC and even there the q was highly variable from one place to the next. One the off chance any of you have been to Allen and Sons near Chapel Hill...that's what I'm looking for.


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  1. OK, I've never had Carolina BBQ before, but I've been to Willard's a couple of times and I think it's better then the places you've mentioned. Last summer, the Post did an article on BBQ joints in the area. This is what they said about Willards.

    Occasionally there are spanking-new places that somehow capture the feel, smell and taste of the old South. Willard's Real Pit BBQ in Chantilly is one of those places. Open less than a year and in a strip shopping center near the Dulles Expo Center, Willard's somehow captured my heart.

    I think it's partly because it's not hokey, with lots of the stupid signs and sayings that too many people think are the proper decor for a food as down-home as barbecue. Willard's is almost industrial in its approach, in a way that I think perhaps the famous Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City might be if it were started today. There is a lot of stainless steel -- and lots of those soda fountain stools I used to spin around on as a child. There are huge photographs of real people celebrating the rural way of life. One wall is devoted to the names and cities of some of the country's great barbecue joints.

    I think mostly what won me over at Willard's, in addition to the food, is the pride that every employee exuded about the barbecue. I asked the guy putting together my order how the meat was cooked, and he went into a long explanation, pointing out equipment and bringing out some of the beef to show the deep pink coloring.

    Owner Chris Janowski hails from North Carolina by way of Boston, where he co-owned two similar barbecue places.

    The proof is in the barbecue, and Willard's acquits itself well indeed. The big chunks of pork ($10.95 a pint) are meaty, smoky and just about perfectly cooked. It tastes like pork and has the texture of pork. And the hot barbecue sauce blends great fire in the mouth that doesn't overwhelm the meat; it's vinegary and not at all sweet. The meat and sauce are eloquent counterpoints.

    The ribs ($19.95 a slab), deep pink and meaty, also have a great smoky pork taste, though mine seemed just a little overcooked. They still had decent texture. That and the great sauce almost made me forget any shortcomings.

    The coleslaw is shredded cabbage and carrot in a very mild but pleasant dressing. The potato salad tastes like my mother's, and, man, she could make great potato salad! There are well-cooked chunks of potato, celery, green peppers, sweet pickle, chives, onion and egg bound with mayonnaise with a vinegar undercurrent. Willard's is a keeper.

    Willard's Real Pit BBQ, 4300 Chantilly Shopping Ctr. (Willard Road at the Dulles Expo Center), 703-488-9970.


    1. We're going to be trying the NC cue from Willard's in Chantilly this weekend. We usually get the brisket, which is really good.

      On our last trip through NC we picked up two pounds of cue at Parker's in Wilson and two pints of slaw, but the slaw goes a lot further than the cue so we need some cue to use up the slaw. Willard's seems to sell a lot of NC cue so we'll give it a shot. I will post a quick review.

      The only other place I can direct you to around here is the classic Weenie-Beenie in Shirlington, which serves very respectable eastern NC cue sandwiches, complete with packets of Texas Pete sauce.

      You'll appreciate this story. On our recent trip (heading south) we got off I-95 in Kenly NC hoping to score some cue at Moore's but it was closed. As we were making our way back to the highway we saw a truck full of plump piggies, and we sadly knew what their fate would be.

      1. My knowledge of NC bbq is less than zero, but I wouldn't mind learning a thing or two. Most of the places around here that feature NC bbq serve shredded pork marinated in a red sauce. Is this what you're looking for?

        Garrett's in Georgetown is not a bbq place, but the chef there does come from Carolina and has a chopped pork sandwich on the menu. It's a good sandwich with moist and flavorful pork, no red sauce, just the pork. Again, I can't claim authenticity, but another Chowhound recommended it to me. Overall, Garrett's is an overlooked gem for cheap eats. Nice atrium upstairs.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          Shredded pork in red sauce...negative.

          Brisket, good as it may be, is a southwestern/texas thing and that's not what i'm looking for. Any place that serves brisket probably doesn't do pork properly.

          I'm thinking more along the lines of pulled pork in some tinted, sparsely seeded vinegar. If the sauce bears any loose resemblance to ketchup, I'm not particularly interested.

          I will give Willards a try, since I will be out near Chantilly next week, and try not to be too cynical going in.

          1. re: Steve

            Steve: he's looking for eastern NC cue, which is chopped (NOT "pulled") whole hog in a thin vinegar & pepper sauce. No tomatoes at all.

            Virtually impossible to find -- as Calvin Trillin would tell you -- west of Rocky Mount, never mind outside NC, although I understand a few places down in the Tidewater area of VA do serve this type of cue.

            If you want to see what an eastern NC cue sandwich looks (and pretty much tastes) like, go to the Weenie Beenie in Shirlington (which every self-respecting hound ought to visit anyway).

            Three Pigs in McLean used to serve a passable NC cue sandwich, but I haven't been there in years.

          2. Real good Carolina (I mean the real deal) doesn't exist in the DC area. The restaurants you listed (RHB, Rocklands etc) are just average, ditto for Willards.

            The place you speak of in New Baltimore is Jammin Joes. Its a shack on the right isde of Rt 29 about 3 miles before you get into Warrenton. And Joe describes his BBQ as "Virginia" (whatever that means), but its pretty good and the pulled pork is one of the best.

            The best BBQ places in DC are not Carolina-style. If that is OK, then try the Rib Pit on 14th St in DC or BOss Hogs in McLean. Not sure how to categorize these (maybe Memphis in style), but they're good either way and better than the others.

            1 Reply
            1. re: v-man

              While the BBQ is good at Joes, the beans are worth a drive for.

              1. re: Katie

                "People serious about barbecue know that Indiana beef is simmered in barbecue sauce rather than grilled or smoked."

                Wood + smoke + time = bbq. That's my definition of bbq. The sandwich described above may be tasty. It may be good eats. But it's not bbq.

                1. re: Steve

                  Ummm thanks. I think the original poster might be more interested in the part that says:

                  "Maris also takes his barbecue roster beyond beef. Smoky chopped pork, the star of the lineup, has a hot, vinegary twang, courtesy of 16 hours in the smoker and a shake of Pig Juice, the house North Carolina-style sauce."

                  So... I used to live in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, and while I never really got into BBQ, from what I've heard, this guy has NC BBQ. Whether it's Eastern style or Lexington or some horrible combination, I don't know.

                2. re: Katie

                  Katie, thanks for the tip. If I am ever up that way I will definitely check it out and report back. If the "Pig Juice" is up to snuff I'll be so very pleased...with 16 hours in the smoker, it sounds like they're treating the pig right, so it has promise.

                  1. re: Lowbar

                    So did you ever track down any true Carolina q anywhere near the DC area? I have never seen any around here, and it sure is my favorite. I love much of the rest, too, especially, Texas brisket, but most of it is a very different dish that true Carolina port bbq with vinegar and red pepper sauce.

                    1. re: cstrother

                      Did you ever try Levi Port Cafe on 8th Street in the Barracks Row neighborhood? I met the owner, Johnny, this weekend who hails from Cary, NC. I am no 'cue expert, but I sampled a tasty bbq pork sandwich (and perfectly sweetened sweet tea)...and I loved the low-key decor. Very mellow...ceiling fans just doesn't feel like DC there. I would love to know what people think about this place.

                      1. re: AndreaD

                        I've been going to Levi's for years and have yet to try the bbq sandwich. I can never resist the pull of the smothered pork chops, collards, and mac n' cheese (arguable the best in DC).

                        My limited understanding of Carolina bbq leads me to believe Levi's serves Eastern Carolina bbq ribs (tomato based sauce). Western Carolina pulled pork is usually coated in a mustard/vinegar based sauce.

                        1. re: AndreaD

                          I am an Eastern Carolina BBQ fanatic and I can honestly say, you are going to be dissapointed eating EC BBQ at Levis. It is traditional EC BBQ, but it is very bland so if you eat there be sure to bring your own vinegar and spice juice. You will be extremely dissapointed in the price of such a small portion. Don't get me wrong. Levis has great food, but I don't like the EC BBQ there.

                          1. re: bradinva

                            You might like to try Old Carolina BBQ in Haymarket. They offer a choice of Carolina style (vinegar, pepper flakes) or the tomato-based style. It's pretty comparable to BBQ I've had in NC. This is just a place where you can drive in to pick up BBQ to go or eat at outdoor tables, but the food is good.

                            1. re: chriscatva

                              Going to my eye doc in a few weeks and I'll try to remember to check them out.

                              Also, it's been woefully too long, but I think Flavor's in Arlington is toward the Eastern NC style, but will let down someone after the real deal (still damn good, though).