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May 19, 2010 11:20 AM

BBQ/Southern food pilgrimage from DC to Western Virginia

Hi folks -

I'm taking a friend of mine, who has never before experienced the delights of Southern cooking, on a short pilgrimage to experience what the South has to offer. We're looking for a variety of cheap eats, but in particular:

Carolina BBQ
Texas (or other tomato based) BBQ
Pecan pie

I'm also planning on hitting up a Waffle House or similar greasy spoon for a breakfast centered on grits (or biscuits and gravy), and a Bojangles (if possible) for some real sweet tea and a chicken sandwich (I'm from NC, so BoJ's is non-negotiable).

Would appreciate any and all suggestions - particularly for BBQ in central/western VA, but others are welcome. We'll probably make it as far west as the George Washington/Jefferson National Forests. The route is flexible.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. I wish I could be very hopeful for you. I have a book called Small Town Restaurants in Vinrginia, which is a fascinating resource, but I have found very little of interest. There is a pretty well known place that I've been to that is featured on a lot of other Southern food websites:

    Southern Kitchen
    US 11
    New Market, VA
    Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner

    Quite frankly I thought the food was mostly bad.

    And certainly the bbq in Virginia is mostly awful.

    I haven't found anything in Virginia that's close to being as good as Oohhs and Aahhs in DC or Florida Avenue Grill in it's heyday. It's been sooo long since I've been to Florida Ave. Grill. I have no idea how they are doing now. My last visit was highly disappointing.

    Florida Avenue Grill
    1100 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

    Southern Kitchen
    2350 Duke St, Alexandria, VA 22314

    3 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      I just ate at Southern Kitchen and the chicken was actually pan-fried (the day's special). Otherwise, VA is weak on southern food in my very limited experience. I'm sure there are places, but everything always seems like southern dishes cooked by northerners. In DC, Sain'ts Paradise Cafeteria is the place to go. My advice - skip Western VA and head straight south to Wilson NC and the buffet at Bill's barbecue. The barbecue itself is not the best (cooked over gas rather than wood), but it's still tasty. They have a whole hog on the buffet along with every southern dish under the sun.

      Southern Kitchen
      2350 Duke St, Alexandria, VA 22314

      1. re: dcbbq

        "VA is weak on southern food"


        I'm not all that fond of buffet food, and Saint's Paradise is not my favorite. Head-to-head, I'd go back for the stuffed turkey wings and sweet potato pie at Henry's Soul Food Cafe ( 4th and K Sts., NW) before returning to Saint's Paradise.

        Oohhs and Aahhs is still my favorite, though.

        1. re: dcbbq

          Would love to, but can't go home to NC without visiting the family - which I'm trying to avoid. Thanks, though!

      2. Can you give us your exact route? Steve is right about the bbq in VA, it's not great.

        You might want to repost this on the Mid-Atlantic board, which covers VA outside the DC metro area.

        I've also been to the Southern Kitchen in New Market. I thought it was ok, but not worth going out of your way for.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bob W

          Thanks for the tip - I'll report on the Mid-Atlantic board and see if I get any bites. The route is negotiable, but we'll probably go South a little on 95, then through either Charlottesville or Lynchburg, and out as far as Roanoake/Blacksburg, probably. The idea is just to get out of the city and drive for a weekend, hitting some good food along the way.

          1. re: sammana14

            Thanks for posting your route. My inlaws are in Charlottesville and they have been scoping out the BBQ. I think they said Belmont BBQ isn't too bad. But let me check to see if there are any other better gems. Unless you want to go to Richmond first you might want to instead take Rt. 29 to Charlottesville it is a much nicer drive. But Richmond has BBQ and some Southern food, so that might be why you are taking 95.

            In Staunton I second the Grocery for more upscale (they actually had a great pulled pork sandwich fyi) and would add that there is a great little drive in there named Wright's Dairy-Rite that you should check out there.

        2. Smokin Joes BBQ on Rt 29 south of Warrenton has pretty good BBQ. Also B'z BBQ in Leesburg has decent BBQ.

          The nearest Bojangles is quite a ways.

          There are some good Waffle houses in Williamsburg, Va. Comfort in Richmond has good Southern food, too. Probably will have pecan pie. If you are starting up here, Vidalia makes a good pecan pie (although really pecan pie is so easy to make it is hard to screw it up once you know how to make good pie crust).

          Sorry these are all over the map.

          1990 M St NW # 2, Washington, DC

          5 Replies
          1. re: ktmoomau

            The beans at Smoking Joes is where it's at.

            Skip Richmond and stop in Petersburg. Cruise Washington Street and hope you see a guy Q'ing in a parking lot. Otherwise find one of the holes-in-the-wall there.

            If you go down 29, The Silver Pig on the North side of Lynchburg has incredible pulled pork and vinegar sauce that you can take with you. The sides are good, too.

            1. re: Dennis S

              I agree, the best thing about Smokin' Joe's is the beans.

              1. re: Dennis S

                If you go to the Silver Pig... stay on Bus 29... into Madison Hts, do not take the new bypass or you will miss it. Heading south its on left side of Bus 29 in an old 7/11 building, easy to miss.

                1. re: Dennis S

                  Pulled pork in vinegar is EXACTLY what I'm looking for! Thanks so much for this one...

                  1. re: sammana14

                    If you are heading a bit farther south... try the Checkered Pig (AKA Pigs R Us) in Martinsville. They have a new store in Danville too. I know they are really just about on the NC/VA state line, but IMHO, they are the best ribs and pulled pork north of NC.

              2. If you cross over into West Virginia there is a restaurant called the Cabin it is route 55 or 33 just emailed my Mom for details. They have the best pie I have ever eaten in my life (and I had an amish nanny and southern family who can cook) and it isn't too far from your final destination. Will post back with specifics. They also have great country food.

                1. Oh, I just remembered Hi Neighbor restaurant in Strasburg, VA (old town). I'd classify it more as "country cooking" rather than "southern" but it's certainly in the same ballpark. Fried chicken is great as are the sides.