Decent BBQ in a restaurant setting is hard to find in the DC/NoVA area, due in large part to purveyors who don’t know how truly great smoked meat should look, smell and taste. Heath and Brett know great BBQ, and together with their partners Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn they’ve done an excellent job of translating their award winning products into a commercial establishment.
Good BBQ is about properly smoked meat, and this is where Pork Barrel BBQ really stands apart from would-be competitors. Brisket was moist, with a nice smoke ring and just tender enough that it holds together without crumbling (a sure sign of overcooking). Pork was also tender and moist. But my favorite meat offering was the smoked sausage, which had just the right amount of spice and was very juicy. I understand it’s made especially for Pork Barrel by a local sausage maker, so you can enjoy a tasty link and support a small business at the same time. All of Pork Barrel’s meats are seasoned with their own All-American Spice Rub, and if you want to try their rubs and sauces at home, they are available at many local area supermarkets.
Sides are also excellent. Mac and cheese is a BBQ side staple, but I’ve yet to find a really tasty take on this dish in any area BBQ establishment until now. My mac and cheese was smoky and a little spicy with a nice crust on top. Another standout was the Redneck Ratatouille, which actually allowed me to eat and enjoy some vegetables alongside my smoked meat entrees.
Ice filled tubs with retro/vintage sodas is a nice touch and provides an alternative to mainstream Coke/Pepsi products. The bar has an excellent selection of draft beers. If you must have the standard offerings they’re on tap, but do yourself a favor and try the Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat Porter or Alexandria’s own Port City Monumental IPA. Bar staff is competent, attentive and very friendly.
I grew up in Texas, and for us BBQ is as much about community and getting to know your neighbors as it is enjoying a meal. Pork Barrel BBQ must have had this idea in mind when they designed the restaurant dining area. The setup is open, with a number of large booths, a community table and ample bar space. If you’re looking for a cozy, intimate dining spot there are alternatives. If you want to have a great BBQ dinner, enjoy the company of others and maybe meet someone new, then you will be happy.
Bottom line, Pork Barrel BBQ not only met but exceeded my expectations. At last, I can have great BBQ in an open and inviting dining space without having to drive hours. Thanks guys and look forward to the next visit!