I don't know if this is a blessing, or ironic, but the Rt.1 area near Beacon Hill in Alexandria will have barbecue once again. Not more than 500 yards from where the Dixie Pig was replaced with a drug store, a Famous Dave's is going in, taking the vacated spot of ... what, I can't remember... some awful chain restaurant. So far, in that little quarter mile strip, we've seen a Chipotle and a TGI Fridays go in. What's next?
I did a search of "Famous Dave's" in the chowhound archives, and was surprised to read some positive reviews. So I guess this is something to look forward to, eh?
Yep, FD's vary from place to place, same with RHB. Great some places, crap the next.
And some even from day to day. Laurel FD's day to day who knows. RHB same deal.
Arlington RHB usually good, the pulled pork is usually a good safe bet either place. The Beef at FD's is like Mystery meat cut up by idiots. Tough cubes not slices. Makes you wonder why slow cooked meat is so hard to cook freeze and slow re heat? Non of em cook on the spot.
There's something wrong with a chain restaurant getting good marks?
All restaurants, not only chains, vary. We tend to notice it more with chains because there are so many to compare rather than comparing a specific restaurant with itself. And I'm not surprised that there are certain regional variations.
I eat at the Famous Dave's in Vienna (or maybe it's Oakton) maybe once a month, in fact, just went there with two friends last night. It was busier than usual so we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table. We recognized when the cake and trash can cymbal parade came out that there was a large birthday party that occupied four or five tables, which accounts for the unusual crowd.
None the less, the food was excellent. One of us had chicken, one baby back ribs, and one (me) St Louis ribs. I've never had any bad food there, but sometimes the ribs are cooked better than other times The best I've had was on a winter Sunday night when there were only about 3 other tables occupied. Last night might have been second best. I mentioned this to the waitress and she admitted that sometimes the ribs were better than others, and it seems to go with how busy they are. Seems like they could fix that, but I guess as long as they don't get any outright complaints, we'll have to live with pretty good to excellent.
You have to understand that there are all sorts of styles of barbecue and many levels on which to judge it. One man's great BBQ is barely another's dog food. I'm fairly easy to please. If the meat is tasty, has a noticeable smoke flavor, isn't undercooked or overcooked, and is served attractively, I'm happy. I also like the ribs at Dixie Bones, but it's very different, as is good BBQ that I've had in Oklahoma, Kansas (City), Texas, and California.
About the closest comparison I can make to Famous Dave's is another chain, Red Hot and Blue. RH&B is going through some changes now (new owner of the company) and at least for now I prefer Dave's across the board. But either can satisfy the urge. And while Dave's has the edge for ribs, I prefer RH&B pulled pork to Dave's. I don't think either of them do a particularly good job with brisket, and that's too bad because I want to like it - but I just get the ribs and I'm happiest.
By the way, at the moment, they have salmon on the menu, by itself and in combination with ribs. I was tempted, but naaaaaaah.
In general, I like the Famous Dave's in Woodbridge -- certainly more than Red, Hot & Blue or Smokey Bones. Lately, FD has added some spicy pickles on the side that are delish.
I woud occassionally go to the Beacon Hill Dixie Pig, the last three or four years before it closed. I will opine: Famous Dave's would be a significant upgrade from that place, which had terrible "BBQ". Dixie Pig did have a great neon sign...but that was about all there was to recommend, IMHO.
Also opening on Rt. 1, a little further south, another chain BBQ place is (supposedly) opening -- Shane's Rib Shack, across from the Home Depot. It's in the same corporate family as Moe's, which probably isn't a promising sign. I say "supposedly" because there's been a "coming soon" sign there going on 18 months, and it doesn't appear to be close to opening last time I drove by. (In general, that shopping center seems to have had the slowest rollout I've ever seen.)
I agree with "MikeRl": the Famous Dave's in Oakton, VA, is definitely worthwhile. My wife and I eat lunch there frequently and particularly enjoy the ribs. We usually sit in the bar area next to the windows since there are only two of us. Their luncheon specials are so low priced that I don't know how they make a profit. Now if they would only get rid of the blow-up, figure on the roof, which they installed a few weeks ago for marketing, I would feel better about the place.
From many years of eating barbecue in different regions, I've learned not to be a BBQ snob. Famous Dave's (I usually go to the Oakton location) is perfectly reasonable barbecue, kind of like Red Hot and Blue only a different style. People around here like to dis RH&B because it's been sold a few times and it used to be better 20 years ago.
Don't expect gourmet fare or servers that are experts on all the fine details of smoke cooking. Get the brisket or half slab of St. Louis ribs to start and work around the menu from there. Save your check, answer the survey, and get a free dessert on your next visit. The pecan pie and brownie are mighty good, and enough for two or three after a slab of ribs.