Looking for The Really Best BBQ
Okay - hear me out.
The problem with looking for good BBQ, is that the best BBQ in an area, will always get rave reviews online, from it's populace, simply because it's the best in it's area. BBQ is like a burger, like a hot dog, like mexican - even if Taco Bell was the best mexican in an area (and say it was made to look like a mom and pop shop), it would get rave reviews (mexican in TN for example). So I always hear about 'amazing' bbq in places, that are huge dissapointments.
But I'll put it this way:
- If they don't smoke their BBQ, with a 'Pit' for hours, with wood, then it's not real BBQ
- If they use gas, coal, or electric, it's not real BBQ
- If it's not cooked for hours in 'The Pit', it's not real BBQ
- If it's baby back ribs, it's not real BBQ
- If it's not spare ribs, it's not real BBQ
- If they don't have spare ribs on the menu, it's not real Q
- If the place is a chain, it's not real BBQ
- If the place has fancy decorations, it's not real Q.
- If you can't smell smoke, or the pit, it's not real BBQ
- It doesn't have to be a grungy run-down place, but it sure helps the odds
- If the place is clean, and looks anything like, say, a Ruby Tuesdays, it's not real BBQ
- If the place has a bar, it's not real Q.
- If the place offers catering, or only take-out, it might be good (most real BBQ is usually a family man who's been forced to cook it for his friends)
- If the place has a buffet, it's not real.
Now, please, understand, I am not some snobby or elitist person here at all! But, once you've had REAL Q, you just don't go back. There's just a huge difference between cooking in a pit, and say, an electric cooker, or with gas. The difference between spending 10+ hours in The Pit, and cooking for 10 minutes over gas, is like a grill compared to microwaved.
And no, I don't like eating in a dirty shack, but when you've had good BBQ only maybe 5-6 places, always just happen to be in a shack, and bad BBQ 20+ times and without fail, each place was some really clean looking place, that was some sort of chain, you kind of understand that some of these places are just 'fast food' of sorts.
And yea, all BBQ is 'good' - in the sense that even taco bell mexican is still tasty, that mcdonalds burgers are still great.
So I'm really getting irritated how many times I've had bad BBQ. People just eat somewhere, it tastes good, and give rave reviews because they don't know what good BBQ is like.
So I'm making this thread where people who know good Q in the VA area, can say where some real Q is. Now I am by far not an expert on Q. Really, I'm quite clueless on good BBQ. I've never been to a competition or anything, I'm not really sure how it's made.
But what I do know, is that I love good BBQ, and I've lived in a lot of places. I always check out new BBQ places. Now really, I'd say I've been to enough BBQ joints that 19 out of 20 times, the place sucks. And I just threw away $20.
But that one time you find it, oh man, is it worth it. I've eaten at a couple Michelin Star restaurants ($300+ for one person, and oh man is it worth it, and mind you I make about $20,000 a year and I'm in my younger 20's, so that should tell you a lot on someone who's too cheap to spend money on anything), I've traveled all over the world, but still, REAL BBQ is better than anything else.
I've had the freshest possible sushi in the world at Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan, I've eaten with billionaires in Barcelona, I've tried pizza and then 'piazzo'. But when I had baby-back-ribs at a bar as a child, I was hooked onto good BBQ. Like I said, I'm not a particularly knowledgeable person. But my background is that I've traveled a ton - I spend my money on backpacking the world, I've lived in multiple states in the US (as an adult), and I drive a ton (I do it for a job, although I'm not a truck driver, but I do drive just as much). I've driven cross country, sidetrack country, up and down country. I've driven to Canada more than twice. And I make a huge effort into finding that 'Best' little gem in everywhere I go. I also worked at a BBQ restaurant for a year as a kid (the best BBQ I've yet to find too, out of business now though).
So I've racked up a few places. So here's a list of some 'bad' BBQ in the Mid-Atlantic area, to keep away people who think they've had good BBQ.
- Famous Daves (really, if you think this is good bbq, I feel sorry)
- KBQ BBQ (this is chinese food...)
- Buzz and Ned's (not the worst...)
- VA BBQ (it's a small chain, the pork is passable)
- Everything in Atlanta, GA (I've had it all, so dissapointing, the reviews made me think ATL was the capital of good Q when I first got there - there were 1 or 2 places that actually used a pit but had shortcomings that completely made up for this, I think the 2nd 'favorite' of people there actually boils their ribs)
- Everything in Knoxville except M&M catering (knoxville is not known for bbq, I found this out the hard way).
So when people say "DO YOU LIKE NC STYLE OR VA?" or "Do you like Texas style?", I say I really don't give a ****. Because if it's real BBQ, the sauce will not matter! Just like only a bad steak needs A1 on it, just like the perfect sushi does not need wasabi because the sushi chef has prepared it as it be eaten, real BBQ will just taste so damn good you will not care what kind of sauce is on it.
So... it's funny when people say they don't like NC style, or this or that, or they are fans of Texas style or Kansas style. Really, once you've had good BBQ, you won't care what style it is, so long as the meat itself is good. Because you just want good Q, and that comes from the meat and how it's cooked (after that, the rub). You will gladly eat NC style, or St Louis style, if the meat is cooked right in a pit!
Here's a list of some good places I've eaten though. With good Q, you should be able to taste that what you are eating, used to be a pig. You should really be able to taste the pig - not the pork, but the pig.
The BBQ Pit - Stafford, VA (out of business, sadly. so sadly)
M&M Catering - Knoxville, TN (only take-out, well priced. Both the pork and the ribs are to die for, as are all the sides they have)
The Alamo BBQ - Richmond, VA (I wouldn't say it's great... but when you compare it to everything else, it's godly. The only real Q in Richmond, for sure, if not anywhere for 200 miles. Amazing baked beans, collard greens are just decent, the other sides I don't care for. The pork is real, and you can taste the pork, but it's chopped in bits rather than pulled, and it's not the best, stringy juicy pork, but still really damn good... hard to really describe, but just not as good as above 2 places).
So... anyone got anything else?
Cowlings BBQ, Waverly, VA -- I am not sure if they have spare ribs (I'm so addicted to the BBQ sandwich I don't pay attention to anything else), but they meet the rest of your criteria. It's about 30 mins off of 295 S on 460 E from Richmond. There's also Prince George's BBQ - right off of 295 S when you first get on 460. I haven't eaten there in a long time but it used to be very good.
Is blue ridge Pig worth driving to from richmond? If it is, I'll definitely check it out.
Pierce's pit bbq is fast food. I've always liked the place, but I never considered the place bbq, more like a fast food stop along the way to the beach. The ribs there are horrible.
Wood chicks does not look promising, I'll look into it though...
No I have not tried Q BBQ. How does it compare to Alamo? All of the reviewers on yelp say things like "its worse than buz and neds but I like it" or "it beats famous daves!" so I don't know how much I can trust that high rating on yelp (after all buz and neds has a very high score too).
How can quality just drop? You either use a pit cooker or not, for the most part, right?
I called Q BBQ in midlo, the person on the phone said they smoke it for ~16 hours. I asked her what exactly she cooked it in, I think she started to sort of stumble but definitely knew to say nice things about how long they cook it. I wasn't trying to be mean, I asked her if it was pit and she said yea, and about how they use wood. That sounds good, I suppose I'll try it later.
Blue Ridge Pig in Nellysford. Ive been in the smoke house before once.
The joint is kind of a hole in the wall, not sure if they even have a phone (last time I went they didn't appear to have one anywhere) . I usually eat outside at the picnic tables nowadays when I go (which has not been in awhile).
Yes carolinadawg. I am.
I've read that thread up and down a dozen times.
I don't know how to put it. Good bbq is just so damn rare, that you would make a point to make it pretty obvious that every other place doesn't come close.
I really don't think I'm knowledgeable about bbq at all. I spent like a year as a 16 year old at the register in a failing business, and eaten at least 30 bbq places. I'm sure there are others out there, who are actually passionate about bbq, who actually know something about it, how it's cooked, what it even is, that know way more than i do. I'm sure there are people who would probably laugh at the bbq I've had as 'good'.
But it's like... there are people who think famous dave's is actually half decent.
I think it's just sticking to these rules now on:
1. Where's the big, huge, metal hulking wood pit? you can't hide that, and a phone call elminates the 99% who say "oh we use electric"
2. Is it babyback? Yes? Bye.
And.... that's it really. I guess I'm just the idiot who keeps wasting his money when he knows better. I just so desperately want that $20 to be good ;/
that thread is full of people who haven't had good bbq... or that's it really i guess. The good posts are drowned out by downvotes by people who say dumb things like 'im vegan' or 'food was okay but this and that yea 3 stars!". And there isn't much reference I guess.
edit: okay, so looking at the end of the thread, someone makes a post kind of like mine, venting frustration about no good bbq around here. Then someone posts saying it's not true, good bbq is around, and oh well bad places are everywhere. Then he says 'big bad wolf bbq'. Seriously? Or people arguing about which branch of famous daves is the best?