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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.

                  1. I recommend heading to Staunton, Va, which is about 30-40 miles west of Charlottesvile. It's a beautiful city in the Shenandoah Valley, and the best pie I've ever had is at a dive-y restaurant called The Beverley in the Downtown Historic part of town. Try the coconut cream or chocolate pie if you love meringue as much as I do. For an upscale dinner using local ingredients, I'd recommend Zynadoa or Staunton Grocery -- they don't specialize in "Southern" but use a lot of the same ingredients that you find in traditional Southern food, and it will cost you about 1/2 of what you'd pay in D.C. for the same meal. There is also a Waffle House in Staunton.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: TastyK

                      Not quite on your route, but you could adjust it I suppose, is some tasty BBQ at Mr. B's BBQ in White Post. Smoked chicken, ribs and I believe pulled pork as well:

                      14767 Lord Fairfax Hwy
                      White Post, VA 22663
                      (540) 837-1323

                      In Williamsburg VA, Pierce's BBQ is not what it used to be, but it is still pretty good.

                      1. re: lawhound

                        Just watch out for the white post!

                    2. I did a quick seach of "BBQ map" on Google and got the link below. Most of the results though, were maps/directions from the websites of individual restaurants.


                      How is it, that there is not yet a national map of reputable BBQ joints? shameful..

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Russel Shank

                        Russel, if you think the internet is the answer to all your questions, you will be disappointed. Sure you may get answers, but many of them will be well, wrong!

                        1. re: JRCann

                          Thank you wise Chowhound sage.

                          Still, I'm surprised someone hasn't mapped America's best BBQ joints, considering how big GPS and iPhones are.

                          It would be cool if CH did a feature on cuisine tours -- like a BBQ tour, seafood tour, etc. Plenty of TV shows have done this, but it'd be nice here, where lots of participants' (rahter than just a single host) and review and interpret the experience. Also, former customers can make reccomendations in advance.

                          1. re: Russel Shank

                            Now that this thread has totally digressed to decent 'q outside our region, can we move it? You're just making the rest of us hungry and jealous...

                            1. re: Russel Shank

                              well Russel, one person's BBQ and another person's is not the same.. Hell, where I live BBQ is a steak or a burger on the Weber in the backyard.

                              I understand those folks in Texas even think that beef is BBQ.... any fool knows only pork is BBQ, and it's cooked low and slow (no damned tomato sauce on it either!)..... LOL! Cheers.

                              1. re: JRCann

                                tomato on beef....

                                maybe we really should let them succeed. Some people are irredeemable.

                                1. re: Dennis S

                                  And often if you go specific with any one individual, you get someone overly opinionated or who drops the ball on activity.

                                  A highly engaged, yet proven group, I believe, is the most trusted avenue.

                                  1. re: Dennis S

                                    I dunno. I feel like we get a higher caliber of contributor on CH. My experience with Yelp has always been one step above "Google comments." With enough reviewers, you can get the gist. There's a lot of blabber on Yelp, but not much reasoned explanation from clearly knowledgeable folks.

                                    1. re: Russel Shank

                                      That was my sarcastic point, but I guess it doesn't always come through keyboard translation. If I start with one of those, I always find myself cross checking multilple sources or here. If nothing is said here I generally leave that place alone. I've been traveling more recently for work, and the overall system has worked well for me. One small complaint or rec here equals on average 10 remarks elsewhere.

                          2. On 29 South we pass a sign for a BBQ joint called "Pig and Steak". We've never been but I'm always tempted - does anyone know if it's any good?

                            Google Maps tells me it's in Madison, VA.

                            Also, if you're inclined to head into more north-central NC you should check out Nunnery-Freeman.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: reiflame

                              don't bother.... very unremarkable except the french fry orders are huge.

                              1. re: JRCann

                                Agreed. But if the American Legion hall is having a fish fry then definitely stop there.

                                1. re: Dennis S

                                  That's disappointing; thanks for saving me from mediocre food!

                              2. re: reiflame

                                Wow, another Nunnery-Freeman fan! Love their 'cue. They should erect a sign on I-85 heading north: "LAST GOOD BARBECUE, THIS EXIT"

                              3. Does anyone know about Carolina Brothers in Ashburn? A friend tipped me off, but I haven't been.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Dennis S

                                  It wasn't great the day I went, the BBQ was watery and the sides were so so.