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BBQ in NoVA?

So I know the chains that we have to put up with:

Red, Hot, Blue and Famous Daves

And I know Dixie Bones in Woodbridge is supposed to be fab. But anything like this closer to Fairfax/Springfield/Annandale? Looking for a boisterous, family friendly "eat with your hands" place for tomorrow night. To make this challenge more difficult -- picky eaters (in-laws, so they can be). One can't eat pasta or breads, the other one doesn't eat anything that is not chicken breast, apple sauce or toast.


Famous Dave's
10500 Owings Mills Blvd, Owings Mills, MD 21117

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  1. Depending on your background be ready to set expectations appropriately.

    That being said - Williards in Chantilly. Don't do the pulled pork or chicken. Do the burnt ends or brisket. You can ask for a third side for platters INSTEAD of corn bread if you like. All tips here can be traced back on this very board.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dennis S

      Good thing about Willards and picky eaters -- they have a large menu full of non-barbecue items, some of which are very good (e.g., gumbo). You should be able to find a chicken breast for the really picky one.

      1. re: Bob W

        And I think Bob steered me to this place mostly. Our company now has had two outings with them, even.

    2. BBQ in the area is a wash, as the countless threads will attest. Your best bet is to find a nice Korean place with tabletop grills and grill your self some bulgogi or bulgalbi. If you're looking for Kansas City, Memphis, or Texas BBQ, you will be disappointed.

      1 Reply
      1. re: monkeyrotica

        Sadly, that's just it. The in-laws won't go near Korean bbq (something that I love and always crave). KC, TX, Memphis and NC is what I'm after.

      2. Dixie Bones isn't worth the trip from upper NoVa, either. If you want a family friendly "eat with your hands"place, you could try Barbecue World in Burke. The food is on par with the chains but it's local and more of a hole in the wall than the chains. Picky eaters, not necessarily particular eaters, would probably like it.

        1. Rocklands BBQ in Arlington is doing good things these days, especially chopped pork shoulder, sliced pork loin, blackened fish, and grilled lamb. They have smoked and grilled half chicken on the menu. In your case, worth the drive into Arlington. Get the Texas Corn Pudding on the side. Good beans as well.


          6 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            You know I have to say that Rocklands is a dissapointment. The one in Arlington is right next to my house, but I never go anymore due to the lack of flavor on their ribs and dry chicken. Have tehy come up in the world since they opened that location?

            1. re: Mud Pig

              FIrst of all, chicken is not bbq. Ribs are, and it's true their ribs have become too tough even for the likes of me. But the chopped pork is very good, and the sliced pork and the catfish (also both not bbq) are very good as well.

              1. re: Steve

                It's been years since I hit Rocklands (used to frequent the Wisconsin Avenue shop back in the '90s), so I stopped by the one off Quaker Lane in Alexandria. Tiny little place, but managed to snag a table Friday. The beef ribs had a decent amount of smoke, but they were fall-off-the-bone which is way too tender for me. They were nice and moist, but swimming in fat, and had very little beef flavor. The brisket, however, was very good; not dry, moist, but with some decent bite. Will have to try the sliced pork next time.

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  The sliced pork is loin, so it starts off tender and does not need to be smoked for very long. I've had it several times in DC and Arlington. It's always a good sandwich, but not traditional bbq.

                  I know from the Arlington location at Carpool that Rocklands has had wild swings in quality or lack thereof. I had long written them off until now. I didn't know they had an Alexandria location.

                  1. re: Steve

                    "wild swings in quality or lack thereof." The wild swings were due to most of the senior kitchen staff leaving in mass

              2. re: Mud Pig

                I had the chopped pork sandwich a couple of weeks ago and have already argued the out once - but the pork was mushy and gross. Rockland's is too inconsistent to recommend in my book- except for the corn pudding, which can be a carb, veg, or desert depending on you mood.

                BBQ in the region is miles away from having any destination dining spots . . . .

            2. Dixie Bones was a big disappointment recently, in my first and only trip there. Overpriced ($16+ for a plate), mediocre flavors, small (teeny) portions, very Safeway-like beans and potato salad, weird atmosphere.... yeesh, why does the place get good reviews? I've eaten (and judged) BBQ all around America, this place is just not very good. It's a mystery why people like it.

              Willard's in Chantilly was just barely OK in my recent visit. The potato salad and slaw looked promising but were both too vinegary. Not my thing. The burnt ends sandwich was generous but not real flavorful.

              It is heresy and I'm shocked that I'm saying it, but Red Hot & Blue has a great potato salad and perfectly acceptable Q (pulled pork, ribs, sausages). For DC and our bizarro shortage of decent indigenous fare it's OK.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Geeyore

                Nothing heretical about this. Potato salad is potato salad, and RH&B indeed makes a good one. And their ribs and pulled pork are indeed perfectly acceptable, indeed pretty darn good -- just not anything I'd wait in line two hours for, which I confess to doing 20 or so years ago when RH&B just opened and was all the rage.

                BTW, RH&B is sort of indigenous. While they use recipes from Memphis, this is a DC-born and bred operation.

              2. I have found 2 BBQ joints between the Manassas Battlefield and Gainesville on Lee Hwy Rte 29. There is a guy with a awning and a double-barrel bbq cooker that does a rather good chicken, I think I had a potato salad side that was delicious, and the half slabs looked pretty good but I didn't try them. He is closer to the battlefield and seems to be there more often than not, but this was early this spring, not sure if he is still there. Worth stopping in for old school cue.
                I also went to a trailer next to an older building nearer Gainesville, still on Rte 29, maybe off of Pageland. Pulled pork was sliced, if memory serves. Sides were bland too. Not impressed. Sweet tea was abundant and cold, at least.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Ziv

                  One of these is the one by all the outbuildings. His beans used to be great, and the meat good, but not stellar. I'm blocking on the name though.

                  1. re: Dennis S

                    If this is the place in New Baltimore, it's Jammin Joe's, and yes, the beans are the best thing there. The meat was acceptable. (So many bbq places around here have just awful beans).

                    Supposedly the Rib King at Gilberts Corner in Aldie (US 50 and US 15, by the new roundabout) is making some really good cue these days. We drove by yesterday around 4:15 and he was just finishing packing up his cooker. I promised my family we'd get some ribs very soon.

                      1. re: Bob W

                        Bob, the logo sure looks like the truck I ate at near Pageland and Rte 29 just east of Gainesville, but the map show Jammin Joes to be 5 or 6 miles west of where I ate. And the sandwich I got looked nothing like Joes picture of their pulled pork.
                        I may have to eat crow in this case. I might have ordered a brisket sandwich which means my review is totally worthless. I didn't try the beans, I went for the coleslaw and it was like out of a tub from Giant Foods. I apologize for tossing a false flag out there. I think I ordered Ty's Beef Brisket sandwich at a Jammin Joes catering truck. The picture of their pulled pork looks fairly good so I will have to give them another try.

                        1. re: Ziv

                          For brisket Willards is a good bet around here. Willards' beans aren't great, though. But if you have room, the cobblers are good.

                          1. re: Ziv

                            There's another roadside BBQ place closer to the battlefields on Rt. 29 -- I am blanking on the name and it's not coming up on google for me. I haven't stopped at that one on my way home from work yet.

                            There's another place in Gainesville, Bad to the Bone BBQ, which several folks have mentioned was very good. I haven't made it there yet either -- it's on Rt. 29 in the Wegman's shopping center, back left corner of the complex (by Dick's Sporting Goods).

                            FWIW, I can't stand the pulled pork BBQ at Willards. I do like their cornbread, brisket, and cobbler though.

                    1. i am anxious to try pork barrel bbq in del ray, alexandria. bonus: walking distance to "let's meat on the avenue" and cheesetique.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: alkapal

                        Also, the new Memphis BBQ joint in Crystal City by a former Corky's manager... Excited to try both.

                        1. re: ahack

                          Red Hot & Blue used a consultant from Corky's to get them started. About a dozen or so years ago I was going to Memphis somewhat regularly for work, so I had a good sampling of all of the famous Memphis BBQ joints, some of which would probably be condemned if they were around here. It was all pretty good, but nothing really outstanding.

                          I think that "the best BBQ" is only in the mind of the beholder and not a universal concept.

                          1. re: MikeR

                            Actually Kip Edwards from Red, Hot and Blue used Corky's recipes and there was a business agreement that each could not open a restaurant in the other's territory, so it's more to the relationship than just using a consultant. Corky's isn't my favorite in Memphis, but it's pretty solid.

                            Now if Gus's Fried Chicken opened here, that's something I'd be excited about...

                      2. My advice: get out of NoVA and cross the river for decent BBQ. There are any number of places in Fort Washington, Temple Hills, and Suitland that do 'que better than the mushy slop at Red Hot and Blue: The Tender Rib, Johnny Boy's Carryout, Texas Ribs and BBQ. Some of these joints might be outside your comfort zone (bulletproof glass?) and the sauce might be a little to sweet for your taste, but you can get them on the side. And you can actually see the smoker.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          I have been to a few places in that neck of the woods (including the Tender Rib), and so far I haven't found anything worth traveling for, though I have not been to Johnny Boy's.

                          If Virgina folks are going to cross the river, better to do it at Rays at East River for the ribs and the smoked then fried chicken.

                        2. Just wanted to post about a place I just found, which is Blue Dog BBQ from Nokesville. The site is mynovabbq.com. They set up in Oakton at the farmer's market there on Saturdays. Honest to goodness smoker, and the brisket has a good smoke ring. It's unfortunately still a bit bland (same for the pulled pork). The sauces are okay, and they have rubs, but it seems as though the meat doesn't get a lot of rub love before smoking. At any rate, it holds promise and they do cook to order. They had ribs, but the person in front of me got the last of those. And apparently you can order other things - a regular customer had come to pick up a routine order of smoked oysters.

                          Also, I posted a couple of weeks ago, but has anyone been to Double D up on Rt 7 near Ashburn? The pictures on yelp show that they are smoking everything with wood, and a coworker attests to it, but I haven't heard anything here about it.

                          1. good pulled pork at "backyard barbeque" in arlington. generous portion, good smoke, bark, chunks not shreds. http://www.backyardbbqcompany.com/ ps. you will get a strange reaction if you suggest that they offer a combination platter. it weirded us out a little with the response -- or reaction -- that engendered from whom i assume are the owner and son. so, bottom line, don't count on wit-ty repartee with them…just eat the food.

                            try the fresh mango salsa side. decent slaw and tater salad -- though maybe a little oversalted.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: alkapal

                              "backyard barbeque" (arlington) pulled pork from 4/5/12 lunch