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Sep 8, 2011 04:00 PM

BBQ--looking for the best

I really need a great barbeque place, and will travel the VA/DC/MD area for the best! I don't care about ambiance, just the quality of the product. Even pork or brisket doesn't matter, if the pit master is right. Can someone advise?

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  1. Really great BBQ is one thing that is lacking in the DMV good luck in your search

    1 Reply
    1. re: agarnett100

      monks bbq purcelville va at corcoran vineyards is really good. also try Q company in martinburg wva. in a pinch I get brisket at whole foods in fairfax.

    2. I highly recommend Dale's on the west side of Indian Head Hwy about 5 mi. north of Indian Head, Md. The ribs are smoky, moist, simply seasoned, and are carefully cut (they don't hack the ribs in such a way that you risk your cheek being impaled by a shard of bone). The sauce is nothing special but I don't think you need it anyway. A friend and I have tried most of the well regarded barbeque places in southern Md and we have found Dale's to be reliably excellent.

      1 Reply
      1. re: OldSchool

        BIG ++1 on Dale's Smokehouse near Indian Head, Maryland. When discussing barbecue in the DMV, several Charles County joints are reliable sources, but for a couple of years now, it's my opinion that Dale's is the best.

        Dale's Smokehouse
        4645 Indian Head Hwy, Indian Head, MD 20640

      2. Although it is not a bbq place, you will do well to go to Ray's the Steaks East of the River. The have ribs. This is the only time in my life I have ever enjoyed baby back ribs, and they are seriously good. They also have smoked then fried chicken which is a treasure.

        My next suggestion, also a bit unusual, is Just Jerk in Lanham, MD for the jerk chicken. Yes, this is bbq, and it is excellent. Get a quarter dark spicy.

        For more traditional bbq, then I have enjoyed the ribs at Urban BBQ and the chopped pork at Rocklands.

        If you hit the moist brisket right, then Hill Country in DC is excellent for that. But it was disappointing on a return trip. Avoid the other selections, especially the pork ribs.

        In Loudon County, VA, the Paeonian Springs Market offers bbq. The chopped pork is very fine, but I would call first before going.

        Just Jerk
        9005 Lanham Severn Rd, Lanham, MD 20706

        21 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          I second the suggestion for the Paeonian Springs Market bbq. I think the ribs are good, and the pork. I really like their 'Hawg Dog." It is pulled pork with bbq sauce on top of an angus beef hot dog. Only outdoor seating or take away, but I like the casual atmosphere.

          1. re: Steve

            I just explored the Rocklands website. They have four locations in the DC area: Wisconsin Ave NW, Arlington, Alexandria, and Rockville. I prefer pork so plan to check it out.


            Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Co
            891A Rockville Pike Rockville MD, Rockville, MD 20850

            1. re: GraydonCarter

              I had Rockland before its okay nothing special my friend used to be the grill master for Rocklands Catering Crew and always brought use the leftovers. Not worth going out of your way for

              1. re: GraydonCarter

                Rockland has been around for a long time, and has had its ups and downs. Right now in Arlington, the chopped pork sandwich is very good at times, sometimes only good - which means its better than almost any other chopped pork sandwich around. That's the thing to get, not the ribs which have seen much better days.

                They also have a very good sliced pork sandwich (maybe not on the menu, ask for it), but it's pork loin.

                1. re: Steve

                  Yes- Rocklands has been around for a while but I would not rate it the Best of DC - its decent and I personally would not make a special trip for it others may disagree but the question was "BBQ --looking for the best" - not "BBQ looking for just okay"

                  1. re: agarnett100

                    Very funny, but least we forget, BBQ historically is always ruled by the Q fates who mandate the mystical rule "If you like it, "Best" will be transformed into "OK" once you spout the words: Best BBQ I ever had in script. Once that phrase is mentioned, the clock starts and "Best" begins to turn into "OK". Bragg too much it can sink below "OK". [This is the build up the reputation, then sell out rule]
                    The fates are rather fickle though, and from time to time the spirit of "best" do return ofttimes to former Q temples for a brief reprise. Remember the rules, enjoy it while it last. Great BBQ wont last long. If it is hitting, and respected hounds rave, run, don't walk. Good is quite a compliment these days in this area. And Ok too.

                    1. re: RobertM

                      I think you have found the BBQ "haystack" cycle: build it up and then it burns down! Despite that, we seek the rising places, and sometimes settle for the "best around" rather than the "best ever". I would love a consistent "best ever" place, but some days you just want "best around" to get you through. It's not a bad thing to have a few "good enough" places, as long as you go with the right expectations.

                    2. re: agarnett100

                      To me, very good bbq is a mighty fine thing to eat and worth pointing out on Chowhound. Ever since Rocklands reopened in Arlington, I have had very good chopped pork on all but one occasion. The sliced pork has always been very good - but not from the same part of the pig.

                      There was a time when the old Rocklands location in Arlington went from great to atrocious.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Totally agree, with you both. But the rule is, build it up, not haystack style, it is an investment after all, so sell it off and let the next guy carry on. That is once we get all ready to head back we find new cooks, and changed Q.
                        We have all been down that road a time or so. But like good hounds, we keep looking. The rule of the Fate's holds true! Get it while you can.

                        1. re: RobertM

                          Robert, couldn't agree more. KBQ in Bowie is a good example. Was once really good, now just ok. I don't even find it worth the twenty minute drive anymore. (although looking at yelp you would think its the greatest place Seinfeld would say "Who are these people" that give such ratings on yelp?)

                          1. re: cb1

                            Ha ha, check out Washingtonian Mag too.
                            Mind blowing.

                            1. re: cb1

                              KBQ seems to be bad at storage. When the Q is right out of the smoker, it's heavenly, but if it sits on that steam table for a while, that doesn't do it any favors. I've had really good ribs there recently, but I've also had not-really-good-ones.

                              12500 Fairwood Parkway, Bowie, MD 20720

                              1. re: DanielK

                                I think they were serving the badly stored producted at yesterdays lunch - I'm not returning - I rather spend my little bit of cash else where

                                1. re: agarnett100

                                  Often popular places have real deal folks do the cooking, then vacuum pack, or freeze it in portions. Customers come in, and they Microwave it to thaw, then hit the grill, or microwave it to serve. You just know those lounging around the cash register have no clue. If I see a steam table, and stuff just simmering, I just bail. There are others that just try to mix yesterdays unsold with fresh they have on hand. Or you get what they could not sell, till you walked in.
                                  When you find a hot, fresh rocking Q spot, howl! Us hounds will get there before they sell out, or bring in the smile bots.

                                2. re: DanielK

                                  KBQ is leaving its current location. Apparently losing its lease. Columbia Heights in DC is the rumored new location. Can the dining scene get any worse in PG County?

                                  1. re: DanielK

                                    KBQ is closing its current location in Bowie and moving elsewhere - Columbia Heights in DC is the rumor. Too bad. Another blow to the impoverished dining scene in PG County.

                                    1. re: Sal Gee

                                      Yes...but for us in the District, this is a very promising rumor! I was underwhelmed by KBQ's ribs the one time I had them, but thought the pulled pork was quite good.

                                        1. re: agarnett100

                                          I don't think anyone has ever accused KBQ of being "great." For most, it's merely adequate. But by DC standards, that's a ringing endorsement since there isn't any truly "great" bbq around.

                                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                                            Well, the Washingtonian has been guilty of over-praising the place for several "Best Eats" issues, but, like you said, the real issue is how it stands in comparison to other BBQ joints in the area. If it moved into DC, especially near where I live, I would probably go there a fair amount for the pulled pork.

                                            1. re: The Big Crunch

                                              The Washingtonian isn't exactly a cutting-edge arbiter of taste. They continue to praise Five Guys long after the quality of their product/service has gone downhill.

                      2. Nearly everybody here hates someone else's favorite. Next time you're in the city where you think you've had the best BBQ, get some there. See if it's as good as you remember.

                        There are a few roadside places far enough outside the beltway so that they can have a real fire that have character, but whatever you consider "real" isn't what you'll find there. Too many realities for any one BBQ joint.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: MikeR

                          Do tell! Where have you found something good?

                          1. re: Exploremore

                            I kind of liked Jack Stack in Kansas City, but it's been about 10 years since I was there. Around here, I eat Famous Dave's and don't try to compare it to something that I might have had somewhere that was better. It is what it is, and I enjoy it for that.

                            1. re: MikeR

                              For Carolina-style, there was Stubb's, just outside of Florence, SC, but I have heard that the pit master passed away, and the place just closed.

                              1. re: Exploremore

                                is that the same stubbs that makes the retail stubb's sauce? i'm guessing so. but it never struck me as "eastern style Q" but i'm no expert. it is a dark sauce, transparent, but dark. maybe from worcestershire. now i have to go look! ;-).

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  The grocery store sauce is from Stubbs bbq - in Texas. Not the same. it has tomato paste in it.

                                  1. re: Steve

                                    No--it is not the same at all! The commercial sauce is named for a man who sold tomato-based sauce to the rich and famous. This place was a local place, wtih South Carolina style barbeque. The eastern North Carolina style is the vinegar-dressed without pretense, while as you go more west in NC they start to add some tomato (Lexington). The South Carolna style has mustard in it.

                                    1. re: Exploremore

                                      thanks. i know the difference in styles of qs (i'm an eastern carolina fan, but love all the styles).

                                      this stubbs i'm talking about is not the tomato=based sauce -- but more like an au jus type of concentrate.

                                      maybe i'm thinking "stubbs" but it isn't….. i'll check in the morning.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        NO, it wasn't stubb's what i was thinking of -- it was "moore's". those single syllables really mess me up. LOL. <but hey, both names did have a doubled letter>

                                        my nephew -- the hunter -- likes it and recommended it to me.

                                    2. re: Steve

                                      I think Stubb's ("ladies and gentlemen, I'm a cook") is from Austin, or maybe Lubbock.

                                      1. re: yummyummeatemup

                                        Stubb's is from Austin,TX and I've been there. It was good BBQ. Not as good as mine, but good enough.

                                        1. re: Divalicias

                                          Not nearly equal to true Mississippi BBQ. Texas style, just not the same.

                                          You might try the baby pork ribs at The County Line on 2222 -- surprisingly good for it not being a shack in a small town on the edge of a cotton field -- or Rudy's. Latter is oak smoked and tastes of it, strongly -- which is not to everyone's liking. And the sauces are all a bit on the sweet side, not pungent enough. None come close to the original.

                                          Doesn't keep me from taking home the ribs about once every 6 weeks. County Line. BTW: They make a great bread pudding, like I remember from New Orleans, One chunk serves 6, take it home, heat it and the sauce, mix the sauce half 'n half with bourbon . . . yum.

                          2. if you want a home-fix, go to harris teeter and buy a tub of the "brookwood farms" carolina style bbq pulled pork. buy yourself some cheap white buns, and at home warm the q in a saucepan on low-medium, then have a surprisingly good sandwich! (you can also zap it, but it is not as nice as gently heated).

                            20 Replies
                            1. re: alkapal

                              Evidently you can also order it directly from the Brookwood Farms website.

                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                good to know.

                                in the store, i saw that they have "upgraded" their packaging, so -- regular buyers -- now you should look not for the simple white tub with plain old print, but look for a snazzy colorful cardboard-around-tub presentation (like the other national brand's such as lloyd's or harris teeter's own brand).

                                i haven't tried it lately, but sure hope the top quality is still there. it is so nice and lean compared with those other national brands. harris teeter's isn't bad, actually. once i bought some national brand at giant, and it had hunks of fatty bits in there. UGH!!!

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  I remembered this post when I was in Harris Teeter yesterday. I saw both the store brand in the plain package in the prepared foods section and Brookwood Farms hanging up in the deli meats sections along with the Lloyds and a couple of similarly packaged BBQs.

                                  Do you think (or know) that they're the same thing, or different? I tried the Carolina style store brand several months ago on your recommendation and liked it.

                                  1. re: MikeR

                                    I also think the HT store brand in the plain container is pretty darned good.

                                    1. re: JonParker

                                      jon, i suspect that the one you *think* is HT in the plain container IS the brookwood farms (the one in the deli section) -- a black plastic rectangle with a clear plastic top.

                                      HT also has truly its own "big brand type of packaged bbq" (pardon my eloquence) of its own in the meat section, where the prepared meats are.

                                    2. re: MikeR

                                      They are the same. As long as it says Brookwood Farms and is not the tomato-based sauce.

                                      1. re: MikeR

                                        the brookwood farms is -- i'm happy to report -- still the same great quality. and yes, the carolina Q is the original. they also have a tomato-based sauced one, but i have never tried it.

                                        and, i agree, the harris teeter's own brand is pretty good, but i don't recall them having carolina (eastern) style. but the HT brand is much nicer than lloyd's, which is not good -- not at all!

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          What I remember buying, and it's what you recommended quite some time ago, was a package of Carolina style in a plain rectangular tray with no brand name on the package. I don't recall reading the fine print on the label to see if the origin was identified there. I'll have to take a look next time I see it. At the time, the H-T store had a pretty good stock of both Carolina and Western style but recently either I've seen none or just one or two packages.

                                          As I said, I did see Brookwood Farms BBQ in the "Lloyds" department but I didn't notice what color the tub was or whether there was any other identification other than the cardboard hang tag.

                                          But then, for $5 on Tuesday, I can get a pretty decent pulled pork sandwich with a big scoop of potato salad on the side at Red Hot and Blue. That's enough to hold my cholesterol level up for a couple of months. ;)

                                          1. re: MikeR

                                            ok….good enough. that pkg. in the deli case in the black bottomed clear topped rectangular pkg. is the brookwood farms' Q.

                                            what i know is that for a 16 oz tub of Brookwood Farms real-smoked East Carolina style bbq from the Harris Teeter meat Dept. you pay $5.99.

                                            per ounce it is a lesser price compared with the smaller (8 oz.?) deli package as we just described.

                                            and for a hongry girl, that 16 ounce tub pkg. is still at least three sandwiches in my book. ;-)).

                                            as to 'tater salad,,,,well, does anyone do it right around here, except make it yourself? that being said, i think i recall RHB doing a decent tater salad, indeed. the one in the harris teeter deli case needs LOTS of doctoring. and FORGET safeway's version. yuck!

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              Sounds like the Brookwood Farms 16 oz package is the one to get. I seem to remember the black 8 oz "unbranded" package was 5.99 when it wasn't on sale, which I suspect is why I've only bought two packages since you pointed it out.

                                              The Red Hot and Blue potato salad is pretty tasty, better than the little cup of cole slaw that they give you along with the BBQ. I have a good potato salad recipe but I only make it for parties. It doesn't work well for one or two servings.

                                              I only take a couple of bites of the bun top and don't eat it as a sandwich so I can't be critical about the bun. One of these days I'm going to have to remember if I can have a corn muffin instead of the bun.

                                              I don't care for the RH&B fries. They season them too heavily, and unless they're making a fresh batch, it's too late to get them plain.

                                              1. re: MikeR

                                                If you are ever in the Atlanta area, there is a restaurant called Hickory House, and they have great, consistent Q, with great potato salad. Their Brunswick stew is also excellent. I miss that place!

                                      2. re: alkapal

                                        I tried Brookwood Farms once and was not impressed, but that was many years ago.

                                        I've had good luck with Costco (Kirkland) brand smoked pulled pork (which is just meat, no sauce, 2# for $10.) So nice and NOT lean. Lean is the kiss of death for barbecue; pulled pork should contain a fair amount of meltingly delicious fat--that's where a lot of the flavor is.

                                        1. re: KWagle

                                          by lean i mean not gobs of fat in it like lloyd's and those types of commercial q
                                          is kirkland brand an e carolina style?

                                          where did you find brookwood farms q many years ago?

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Not sure. Possibly Giant. I think it was before I moved to Boston which would mean before 2002. I tried it under the assumption a non-national brand might be closer to barbecue than to barbecue sauce, but it was mostly sauce. As for Kirkland, AFAICT it's just hunks of smoked pork. I don't know if that makes it EC style. I really like it--nothing but meat and smoke and fat at a good price

                                            1. re: KWagle

                                              oh, brookwood farms' product these days is all meat (pulled, with sometimes a smoky chunk), with barely enough e. carollna vinegar sauce (if you can call it that) to keep it moist. in fact, last time i debated making a quick mini-batch to add more.

                                              i don't recall it at giant, but…maybe so. i first found it at harris teeter about three-four years ago.

                                    3. re: alkapal

                                      The Brookwood Farms Q was on sale at HT this past week so I tried it because of the recommendations here. It was really quite good. I would certainly get it again, especially when it is on sale. I got the eastern Carolina style, which needed just a bit more heat for me, but it had a good, smokey flavor.

                                      1. re: Terrie H.

                                        LOL -- i went yesterday and bought two tubs, then got a rain check for later, because the two tubs i got were the only ones on the shelf (though they may've had more in the back). it was a good price, for sure. very occasionally, it is half-price (but not since the new packaging).

                                        i agree, there really is very little heat at all in their eastern carolina Q. warm it over low-medium heat and throw in red pepper flakes. i love to make little sandwiches on the martin's potato dinner rolls or king's hawaiian rolls. heck, i'll even eat it on triscuits. ;-).

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          The Martin's rolls were also on sale, so I did the same.

                                          1. re: Terrie H.

                                            yeah buddy! and martin's are better than schmidt's potato rolls, in my book.

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              I am totally with you on that! I don't think that Schmidt's keeps the stock as fresh, and that makes a difference.