Mind your BBQs: Is Virginia the next barbecue destination?

The Barbeque Exchange. Photo: John Robinson The Barbeque Exchange. Photo: John Robinson

When it comes to barbecue, could Virginia ever be on the level of Texas or Kansas? The Barbeque Exchange’s Craig Hartman thinks so.

“Virginia was once the epicenter, and when people moved away they did barbecue,” Hartman says. “The first written advertisements in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, they all said come to Virginia for barbecue. There’s no reason Virginia can’t re-establish itself.”

Here’re six local restaurants looking to make that happen.

Craig Hartman. Photo: Eric Kelley
Craig Hartman. Photo: Eric Kelley

The Barbeque Exchange

Hartman comes from a fine dining background, so his restaurant offers some refined dishes on top of your barbecue staples. His favorite is the pork belly, a versatile cut that comes off the smoker like über-bacon. Whether it’s served cold as charcuterie, in pork belly bites or as a belly, lettuce and tomato sandwich, to Hartman it’s “one of the best cuts there is.”

Belmont Bar-B-Que

Go for the ribs at Belmont BBQ. They’re big, meaty and saucy, but not fall-off-the-bone tender like at most places. That’s actually how ribs are supposed to be made, and Belmont owner Wes Wright should know; the native of Oklahoma’s been making barbecue the right way since he started serving it out of his smoke wagon in 2000.

Hoo’s BBQ

When Hoo’s owner Stephanie Parsons got the opportunity to open her own ’cue restaurant, she knew she wanted to do everything fresh and homemade. To get a taste of all the roadside joint has to offer, order The Pit-Master, a bowl layered with macaroni and cheese, beans, pulled pork, sauce and coleslaw.

You won't find "BBQ" on the menu at Jinx's Pit's Top. "That's abbreviated barbecue," says owner Jinx Kern.
You won’t find “BBQ” on the menu at Jinx’s Pit’s Top. “That’s abbreviated barbecue,” says owner Jinx Kern. Photo: Nick Strocchia

Jinx’s Pit’s Top

The barbecue at Jinx’s isn’t meant to be fussed over. Your choices are pulled pork and ribs, and you can only get ’em for lunch Wednesday to Sunday. Jinx Kern doesn’t like the term BBQ—“BBQ is abbreviated barbecue,” he said—and he doesn’t think you need sauce. You’d be advised to listen to him; the former art history major said these days, “The art I do is pork, barbecued pork.”

PastureQ

PastureQ started as a Southern small plates joint, so while owner Jason Alley’s love of slow-cooked pork translates well to barbecue, the restaurant has a few unique items that wink at its past. Try the fried catfish or pimento cheese and Ritz for some serious Deep South flavor.

Red Hub Food Co.

Red Hub is all about classic barbecue—pulled pork, brisket and fried chicken paired with four traditional sauces. What brings the platters together is side dishes like hush puppies and house-fried potato chips. “As long as we have a deep fryer, we’ll never serve chips out of a bag,” co-owner Ryan Hubbard says.