My quest for a good barbeque in State of Virginia continues. At this point, I’d accept any barbecue and today I did just that. I found myself in a “barbecue” restaurant in Crystal City, Virginia. Now Crystal City is probably the last place one might look (or find) good barbecue in Virginia but I was sequestered here by a meeting so I thought I’d give it a try. Besides, while I am beyond being surprised by the lack of quality barbecue in Virginia, I have not outgrown my ability to be disappointed.
Attracted by the lure of a “pulled pork sandwich” (described as slow cooked pulled pork, Carolina slaw, and crispy fried onions), I walked four blocks on a brisk winter day to the restaurant. A quiet place, I was one of the few customers in the restaurant. (Omen #1.) And the only customer seated at the bar. (The bar was omen #2. What barbecue joint has a bar in it?) The impressive Bourbon selection on the shelf behind the bar was the final clue. This wasn’t a barbecue restaurant (joint or otherwise) but a bar which had a single “barbecue” offering on its menu, a pulled-pork sandwich. My spirit shattered like a dropped bisque kewpie doll won at the Minnesota State Fair. The menu joined the coven of omens bludgeoning me with reality, the pulled pork sandwich, slow-cooked or not, was the only barbecue on the menu.
I should have sprinted from the establishment like a pickpocket running from the law but I did not. I ordered the sandwich and iced tea for $16.50. The tea was, of course, unsweetened which violates countless statutes, morality, and common sense.
As I waited for my sandwich to be “slow-cooked” - I saw no evidence of a fire pit, smoker, or even a can of Sterno (canned heat). I tried not to imagine the culinary cabal conspiring in the kitchen: the “pit master”, the stainless steel microwave oven, the “liquid smoke”, or the drowning of the meat in a garish BBQ sauce. My expectations of this restaurant’s interpretation of BBQ - for safety reasons I must use the real spelling - conjured images of a first-year Latin student’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.
Truth in marketing, the menu had listed the ingredients truthfully: pork, slaw, and crispy fried onions. However it did not reveal the whole story. All of these ingredients, and copious slathering of the aforementioned sauce, were on the sandwich. There’s more woe in this interpretation of a pulled-pork BBQ sandwich than in a mule driver’s vocabulary on the Erie Canal.
How did it taste? Well, I'm sure for uninitiated, whose iced tea comes with a spoon, it probably tasted like BBQ. And they would waste no time blasting this experience on social media albeit with sticky fingers. For me? I've had better food at the ball game. I paid $16.50 plus tip for this experience. I should be jailed for subscribing to this hoax. The State of Virginia has reserved a place on my least-favored states list due to its inability to produce a reasonable interpretation of BBQ.
About a month ago I was in Georgia and I visited my favorite BBQ restaurant for a chopped pork sandwich. It was heaven on a bun or, rather, heaven on garlic toast. It was delicious and served with the BBQ sauce ON THE SIDE, sweet tea, and most importantly, with love.
“Arma virumque cano,…” I sing of arms and a man [and a quest for BBQ].