The 4th Annual Beer Snob Pig Picking was scheduled for a Saturday, so I headed south on Wednesday morning. It’s not a long trip — Saturday morning would be early enough — but I was embarrassed not to have tried more of the barbecue places listed on the Our State list of 26 Essential North Carolina Barbecue Places. Also, Nancy, having left me as Acting Nanny* for our Ella while she went to Big Bend National Park with her buddies, urged me to take some time off, so off I went.
My first stop was King’s in Petersburg, Virginia.
Experience has made me skeptical of barbecue places in Virginia, but no less than John Shelton Reed, the Co-Founder and Eminence Grease of the Campaign for Real Barbecue, had said I should try King’s. King’s was opened in 1946. The decor is dated, but the place is roomy and spotless, and it isn’t tarted up with too many barbecue-themed decorations. There are a few pigs, of course, but mostly King’s has old photos and some Virginia-historic stuff — and a case with some dried tobacco leaves. It’s noticeably clean, and somewhat dated in terms of decor, as a barbecue place should be. All in all, it’s a nice and homey place to eat. And King’s cooks barbecue the way God intends — low and slow over wood coals, unsullied by gas or electricity.
I ordered a large pork plate with collards and green beans.
It came with biscuits and two hush puppies, one of which didn’t quite make it to the picture.
The pork was fresh and hot, with a lightly smoked oak flavor that complemented the pork well. It was a fairly fine chop, with some outside meat mixed in. With that fine chop, it was on the edge of dry, however, and really wanted to be mixed with some vinegar and pepper sauce to be great. As it was, the sauce was okay. It had a nice tang but was fairly thick, with can lead to a tendency to smother the meat a little. I added some vinegar, and the sauce was just right.
The green beans were very tasty and the collards were good. A touch more side meat would have been nice, but they were flavorful and properly chopped.
The hush puppies were quite good, with that lightness that comes from frying in peanut oil. And the biscuits were light and good enough to eat without butter. Also noted that they had a bunch of whole hams there — no surprise in Southside Virginia — but the ham only appears as a sandwich on the menu, and it’s sugar cured. Odd. Also odd is that the beef is top sirloin. My inclination is to stay away from it, but I really need to expand my horizons, lest I miss something really good.
King’s has been around for 70-odd years, and has been in the same family for three generations. It’s a place for uncompromising old fashion Southern cooking, and that’s a wonderful thing.
The toll for the meal was nine dollars, which is a lot less than you pay in the Washington area for bad barbecue. And for nine dollars you get some good, wood-cooked barbecue and very good sides. All in all King’s offers the best barbecue I’ve tasted in Virginia, excepting that at the late lamented South Fork.
Stop by King’s if you’re in the area. It’s a short drive from I-95.
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*While Acting Nanny, I gave myself a promotion from Senior Assistant Nanny to Principal Assistant Nanny. I haven’t told Nancy yet.