Phil has been travelling the midwestern states and has made not a few stops at highly-trafficked barbecue restaurants (Corky's, Arthur Bryant's, and KC Masterpiece, for example), all of which are now in his Rear View Mirror. His finger-lickin' reviews have inspired me to blog on the state of Virginia barbecue.
I have a past heavily rooted in the barbecue joints of the South, and I've blogged once before on barbecue. Since that post, I've been on a solitary crusade to find decent BBQ joints here in Virginia. Unfortunately, I haven't thought to blog about my search. My search is centered, of necessity, in the Shenandoah Valley, but I have made one foray into Richmond in search of the smoky pink pork.
The problem that I've run into is that, by and large, the trademark of Virginia barbecue is that the meat is served already drowned in some sort of barbecue sauce. Yeah, the meat may have been smoked, but it's likely been sitting in a warming tray soaking in sauce. That diminishes the critical smoking process. Ideally, a barbecue restaurant should feature a long-faced chef in a greasy apron chopping at a big block of smoked pork with a butcher's knife. That meat should go straight onto plates and sandwiches, where sauces can be added to taste.
Today we made a visit to one of two or three Virginia barbecue restaurants that I deem worthy of return visits. Hank's Smokehouse is not your usual quality BBQ experience: it's a classy eatery that features concoctions such as peach-jalapeno salsa (really good!) along with good old-fashioned smoked meats. Usually the best barbecue comes from the seediest-looking holes-in-the-wall. Hank's pulled pork does come pre-sauced, but the smoky flavor still pokes through. Their dry ribs (without sauce) come very tender and with an excellent dry rub. Today's meat came with more of a charcoal flavor than hickory, but it was good nonetheless.
The other two worthwhile restaurants that I can suggest in the Valley include Smokin' Pig in Harrisonburg and a small joint whose name escapes me in Ruckersville. I was disappointed by Harrisonburg's so-called BBQ Ranch, which is neither a ranch nor a BBQ restaurant. It is a quaint-looking drive-in restaurant. I was also disappointed by my experience at Richmond's Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue, which had good reviews online. The food was acceptable, and the Boylan's cream soda was superb, but the profanity-laced blues playing on the speakers was less than favorable. I know that there are quite a few other BBQ restaurants in Richmond, so my exploring there isn't done.
Do you know of any places I need to check out in the Valley? Let me know. I'm building a list of places to try.Posted by JRC at April 24, 2005 10:08 PM | TrackBack