Smiley’s Fuel City, Raphine, VA

If you’re driving down Interstate 81 between Staunton and Lexington at 10:00 a.m. and see a sign touting the Best Barbecue in Virginia, you may just pull into Smiley’s Fuel City in Raphine to check it out.

Smiley’s is unprepossessing.


I went in with low expectations. I have strong feelings about the advisability of operating an open pit near gasoline pumps, and presumed that they used some sort of box or, more likely, just an oven to cook the pork.  Also, I am skeptical of places that offer completely unrelated items, such as pizza.  It suggests a lack of focus and commitment.  Finally, I have observed that good barbecue places avoid bright colors.

I got a sandwich, and can report that Smiley’s does not serve the best barbecue in Virginia.  Indeed, what they serve is not really barbecue.  It is, however, slow-cooked pork and slow-cooked pork tastes good unless you do something horrible, like mix it with a heavy sauce or let it continue to cook or sit until it dries out. Smiley’s serves slow-cooked pork with a medium chop and just a bit of vinegar.

smileys sandwich

There is, alas, no pepper and no smoke taste.  It is a generous sandwich, with lots of meat, and you can eat it while driving without ruining your clothes.  Personally, I wouldn’t call it barbecue, but it is a better sandwich than you will get at most of the places at Interstate exits.  I think it cost about $5.

Note: the photograph was taken by Nancy while we were still in the parking lot, and the sandwich didn’t last long.   This blog does not endorse eating while driving unless you’ve had a whole lot of practice.


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