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VA BBQ that isn't Rocklands or Dixie Bones


Those are the only two off this list that I'm familiar with. Any folks had any experience with these? Worth a drive from downtown?

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  1. After reading that list, I'd be surprised if the author has actually eaten at many, or ANY, of these places that are being excessively praised. Some of them might actually be good, but that blog post smacks of compilation of comments pulled off the Internet and pasted together, possibly paid for with $ from those listed.

    1. I've been to #'s 4, 6,9,11,14,15 and 16, and would recommend Rocklands, though it can be spotty, and the BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville, which is a nice, pretty drive from the city.

      1. Barbeque Country
        9719 James Madison Hwy
        Warrenton, VA 20187

        If you're out there (it's a distance) I find it to be the real thing, and very reasonably priced. VERY casual (definitely not jacket-and-tie).

        1 Reply
        1. Buz and Ned's is very good for ribs and also mac n cheese, but I wouldn't get their chopped pork. It's been a long time since I've been, though.

          I don't care for Pierce's, but again, it's been a while.

          1. Hill Country is good, but is in DC. Hmmmm.

            Some of the items at Harry's Smokehouse in Arlington (Pentagon City Mall) are good. There is also a new upscale BBQ place a couple of blocks away from it (behind the Costco) but I haven't tried it.

            Carolina Brothers in Ashburn is good, although it doesn't have a huge selection.

            Pork Barrel BBQ opened a restaurant in Alexandria. I haven't been there but have had their food at events and it is good.

            You may want to check out Dizzy Pig BBQ's event calendar. They are a grilling supply store in Manassas and teach grilling classes and have a line of spice rubs but they als are a competitive grilling team--they compete in BBQ festivals, and those festivals may interest you.


            2 Replies
            1. re: Foodgeek

              The place near Costco is called Epic Smokehouse. Not just bbq, they have steaks, etc. Swank interior. I wouldn't go back for the bbq.

              Pork Barrel served me dried out, tasteless bbq. I saw them wrapping their ribs in plastic wrap, thereby steaming them inside. Yech.

              1. re: Steve

                I went to Pork Barrel last week. They served me some of the most mediocre pulled pork I've ever had - flavorless, somewhat dry, and a bit tough. The collards must have been simmering in simple syrup because they were disgustingly sweet.

            2. Pig n' Steak in Madison, VA (but only if you eat the pig).

              1 Reply
              1. re: yummmymummy

                Does Pig 'n Steak still give you a ridiculous amount of fries?

              2. Silver Pig in Lynchburg.

                1. bad to the bone in gainesville -- best ribs i've had in many, many years (of my quest). great slaw and potato salad, too. has really stepped up its game!

                  pulled pork has definitely gotten top level, too.

                  worth the trip.

                  1. Allman's is awful. Dry, flavorless, and chopped to the point where it's consistency is more in line with sawdust than pulled pork. Odd that Carolina Brothers in Ashburn isn't on there - speaking as a born-and-raised eastern North Carolinian, they really nail the style out there, and their sides are quite good as well!

                    1. Shaffer's BBQ Palace is a food truck in Arlington on Saturdays and some Sundays. Definitely next weekend and it looks like through November, but I'd call first.

                      These are the best ribs in the area, and in fact there is no 2nd place. St Louis cut. About as close as you can get to ideal here, although my guess is they use oak so it's a lighter smoke flavor than I'd prefer. Still, everything else from the texture, spiciness, and crustiness to the clean well-rendered flavor is exactly what I look for but cannot find in bbq ribs. $22 for a full rack. Only side is a cole slaw mixed with bbq sauce which I did not try.


                      3507 Columbia Pike
                      Arlington, VA 22204
                      (571) 969-7675

                      Every other Sunday
                      Colombia Pike Farmers Market
                      Corner of S. Walter Reade and Colombia Pike
                      Arlington, VA

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Steve

                        Thanks for the heads-up. I'll be in Arlington on Sunday and might have to give Shaffer's a try!

                        1. re: Steve

                          I was a little disappointed in Shaffer's, though to be fair they only had pulled pork left the time I tried it. It was too lightly smoked, although still good.

                          1. re: Mississippi Snopes

                            Yeah, a lot of places can get the pork shoulder right but not the ribs. Shaffer's was one of the rare examples of the reverse. I will try them again soon.

                            1. re: Steve

                              I talked to the guys who run the Shaffer truck and they do in fact use oak.

                        2. There's a BBQ trailer at 340 and 50 west of Berryville, VA that has very good brisket and chopped pork. It's next to a fruit stand and a McDonalds. He's there on weekends and does the smoking on premises.

                          1. I've really enjoyed The Pit Stop lately. It's a guy with towed smokers at Gilbert's Corner (the intersection of Rt. 15 and Rt. 50 in Loudoun County in a gravel lot). He's there Saturdays and Sundays and has a nice set up- picnic tables, a tent, usually a guy selling lemonade and kettle corn. I especially liked the smoked chicken salad. His pulled pork sandwiches are really moist and flavorful. And the spicy sauce is true to its name. The ribs are popular- people were leaving with trays of them. Prices are reasonable.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Hobbert

                              I hit Pit Stop Sunday just before they closed at 5 pm, and they were out of just about everything but Rib Tips for $8. Tips tend to be a combination of meat with either chunks of bone or cartilage, so they aren't a neat and tidy meal to eat on a drive home, but I went for it and they were pretty darned good with the hot sauce giving them just a bit of heat. I will definitely come back and try a half slab soon.
                              Definitely worth giving these guys a try if you are out there near Aldie. The assortment of tents has added a Maine Lobster Roll truck and a local produce truck, as well.

                              1. re: Ziv

                                Yeah, he's really popular- I'm not surprised to hear he had sold out of a lot of products. I'll be sure to check out the Maine lobster truck.

                                1. re: Hobbert

                                  I was tempted to get the lobster roll just to see if they got it right. I have had them both in Maine and here in Virginia and in my admittedly limited experience, they are often not as good here. But if they specialize in it maybe they do it right so it would definitely be worth a try.
                                  I got there right at 5 pm and the couple in front of me got what looked to be a quarter slab, which may have been the last they had. They were out of pulled pork, so he seems to be doing well. I imagine in a business like that minimizing waste is pretty darned important.

                            2. Carolina Bros in Ashburn has limited menu but is decent. Inexpensive.

                              From Downtown? No. Just go to Hill Country.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Foodgeek

                                It is indeed a hike depending where you live (especially from DC) but I LOVED Carolina Brothers. Hill Country was a disappointment last time I went - the brisket was insanely salty. I know this is a bit off topic, but Kangaroo Boxing Club in Columbia Heights is turning out amazing pulled pork these days.

                              2. #1 - Checkered Pig in Martinsville - This was one of the great BBQ surprises of my life. Three years ago my wife and I had taken a barbecue tour of western North Carolina, eating at famous places like Cook's and Lexington No. 1 (Honey Monk's) in Lexington, Short Sugar's in Reidsville (huge disappointment), and Wink's in Salisbury, plus some other not-so-famous places.

                                So we were pretty much barbecued out by the time we headed back north to Arlington. But as we passed through Martinsville, this place (then known by the awful name of Pigs-R-Us) had a full parking lot so we couldn't pass it by.

                                It was tremendous, the second best barbecue of our entire week of eating barbecue (only Lexington #1 was better). There were huge BBQ competition trophies everywhere, which is not always a good sign, but in this case tournament Q turned into wonderful retail Q. Fantastic pulled pork.

                                #4 - Rocklands - I'm probably in a minority here, but I think Rocklands is very good barbecue, at least in the DC and Arlington locations (Alexandria has been a bit more iffy). My favorite is the brisket sandwich, which is different from Texas brisket like at City Market and Black's in the Texas Hill Country, but to me very good. It's always been a mystery to me why Rocklands has so many nay-sayers (including some people who sound pretty knowledgeable about barbecue).

                                #5 - Galax Smokehouse - We also hit this place on our "barbecue vacation." It's very very good, deeply smoked and nicely sauced, and a pleasant place to eat, but not national caliber like Lexington #1 or the Checkered Pig.

                                #8 - Dixie Bones (Woodbridge) - We only tried it once and won't go back. Very little smoke and overly sweet sauces. Basically on a par with Famous Dave's. On the plus side our Ghanaian waiter tipped us off to the superb Ghanaian restaurant Aburi Gardens in Woodbridge.

                                #10 - Buz & Ned's (Richmond) - After my daughter graduated from VCU, she worked at Buz & Ned's for several months, since she'd always dreamed about working in a barbecue place. Buz is a real character, perhaps not 100% on an even keel, but the barbecue is the real thing made without shortcuts. Maybe not the very top tier of barbecue places I've eaten in, but very close.

                                13 - Pierce's (Williamsburg, or actually right outside of Williamsburg) - Decent, I'll always stop by here if I'm driving down I-64. But it's not heavily smoked enough for my personal taste and the sauces are way way too sweet.

                                15 - Allman's (Fredericksburg) - Ever since my wife and I moved here in 1979, we've seen articles popping up claiming that the barbecue at Allman's was wonderful. After trying several times, we just gave up. Not only is the barbecue at Allman's not good, it's not even barbecue. I've never tasted a whiff of smoke in Allman's meat, which is dry and tasteless. It's basically a sloppy joe sandwich, without the sloppy part. The place itself is kind of neat (it's been open since 1954), but get a hamburger or grilled cheese, not the barbecue.

                                #16 - Alamo (Richmond) - Another superb barbecue place, probably better than Buzz & Ned's. I think these guys are also barbecue tournament people, though I'm not sure about that. Not the best of the best, but the real thing. Deeply smoked, delicious sauce, good sides.

                                One place that isn't mentioned that should have made the list is Cuz's Uptown Barbecue in Pounding Mill, just south of Tazewell. This isn't a typical barbecue place -- it's a full sit-down restaurant, with Asian and American and fusion cuisine. The barbecue is very good, properly smoked. However, the real star at Cuz's isn't traditional barbecue but their "smoked ribeye," a variant of barbecue. They take a whole ribeye and smoke it for only an hour, which surprisingly is enough to give it a richly smoky flavor, but obviously isn't enough to cook it at all. Then you can order your smoked ribeye cooked to order -- just imagine what you'd think "medium rare barbecue" would taste like in heaven and you've got the idea. An ambrosial quasi-barbecue dish.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Mississippi Snopes

                                  Buz and Neds was wonderful at first, now it's let me down the last couple of times. I will not rush back. Son at VCU right now.

                                  1. re: Steve

                                    That's too bad. It's been at least four years since I've eaten at Buz & Ned's. Ned's a mythical person, by the way. He never existed. But Buz is real.

                                  2. re: Mississippi Snopes

                                    mr. alka will be happy to hear of the smoked steak at cuz's. he had his first smoked steaks in texas, and just loves them.

                                    ate at buz and ned's last year -- pulled pork. pretty good, but not nearly as good as bad to the bone in gainesville. and bad to the bone's sampler platter is great -- pick your top three meats off the menu, plus sides. the ribs are a must.

                                    pulled pork at rockland's is decent.

                                    mr. snopes, have you seen this brookwood farm's bbq? harris teeter grocery store carries east carolina style pulled pork. the plastic tub is over in the prepared meats case (next to the lloyd's bbq, prepared meatballs, ready-to-eat mashed potatoes, etc). be sure and get the "original." http://brookwoodfarms.com http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/564496

                                    by the way, at cowboy café's lee hwy location (not sure about the other one) they smoke their own pork for the pulled pork they put on their huge burger
                                    ("the barnyard"). we were actually very pleasantly surprised at the good smoky, savory flavor of the bbq on top. (they also do a very good shrimp and grits for brunch, by the way). (i see from their menu, they do smoked pork and also smoked brisket sandwiches -- see photo of menu screen shot).
                                    on buz and ned's, was it then a concocted tale that ned had died (since you say he was fictional)?

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      Wow, I'll try the Harris Teeter barbecue, though I'll admit it seems a little like chasing a unicorn to look for good grocery store barbecue. But anything's possible.

                                      I've been by Cowboy Cafe maybe 5000 times and had no idea they had barbecue.

                                      Yep, Ned is entirely fictional. He never existed, with or without teeth.

                                      1. re: Mississippi Snopes

                                        cowboy cafe has a good happy hour, too -- lots of neat beers on tap (maybe 12 on tap, more by the bottle). $3.50/pint from 3-6.

                                        we've gotten the barnyard burger on their ½ price burger day (tuesday). mr. alka also reckons CC has the best french fries around. i tend to agree.

                                        as to brookwood farms BBQ -- i'm anxious to see what you think!

                                    2. re: Mississippi Snopes

                                      I like the brisket at Rocklands on Wisconsin Ave. The ribs were more like jerky the one time I tried them, so I stay with the brisket.

                                      The ribs at Black Hog in Frederick are consistently good.

                                      Triple Crown on 211 in Luray has the best smoked pork around. Added bonus: The owner builds custom guitars in his shop around back. If he likes you and he's not too busy, he'll invite you to go back there and play a few. Great guy; outstanding barbecue.

                                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                                        I love Black Hog. I was there last summer and I was shocked and amazed to see that they serve cole slaw that is almost identical to what we have in eastern NC. Uusally you can' find that stuff anywhere outside of NC. For some reason, the rest of the world is under the impression that NC cole slaw is just shredded cabbage doused with a bunch of vinegar. I'd never even heard of something like that in 21 years spent living in Greenville, NC and Winston-Salem, NC.

                                        1. re: The Big Crunch

                                          I've had lunch at Dickey's a couple of times, brisket and pork sandwiches, and, you know, it's OK. Not great, but better than I expected from a place in the new Halstead Square development in Merrifield. The pork has a much more smokey flavor than other places of that ilk around here (thinking Red Hot and Blue and Famous Daves, both of which most BBQ hounds wouldn't consider worth eating at). The brisket has been kind of dry, not like the moist brisket at Hill Country, but Dickey's has a pretty good sauce that works well with it if you use it sparingly.

                                          The iced tea actually tastes like tea, and they have free self-serve soft-serve vanilla ice cream(?) that's creamier and more vanilla-tasting than most. mac & cheese is OK, beans are better at Red Hot & Blue.

                                          They need to work on their production line. Each time I've been in there, there's been maybe one or two people (though some are groups) ahead of me at the ordering station and it seems that it takes forever for them to place an order. It's not that complicated with just a few meats and sides. They have an overhead menu board that's kind of hard to sort out, but there are paper take-out menus near the door that make ordering easier if only people would look at them.

                                          Dickey's is a chain from Texas, They have a slew of places around the US, but they're fairly new coming to this area. Any Texans here have experience with it there? I suspect that locally it's just another chain BBQ joint.