Outstanding Carry-Out: Sloppy Mama’s BBQ, Arlington, Virginia

I’ve reviewed Sloppy Mama’s earlier after I went there in my capacity as the local representative of the Campaign for Real Barbecue.  You can read the review here.   I was very favorably impressed by everything, especially their pork, which I declared the best in the area.  The closest I came to a criticism was lamenting that, like almost everyone else around here, they only had  lean and not the superior moist-end.  I was wrong, as I promptly admitted: Sloppy Mama’s has moist end brisket for those who ask.  I meant to hurry back to ask but got distracted by the little matter of the coronavirus lockdown.

Well, I finally got back there, and it was great.  I ordered some of the moist brisket, some smoked turkey for Nancy, and some potato salad and cole slaw.   My Friday Safe Socializing has taken a toll, so I decided to get a light meal, and skipped the pork.

sloppy meal

What, you may ask, is that dark stuff in the upper right corner?  And, by the way,  that’s not all just for me.  It’s for both of us.

sloppy meat

That, my friends, is chopped barbacao.  We’ll get to it.  And it’ll be well worth your wait.

First, the brisket — the immediate reason for this trip.  Outstanding. It was moist, tender, flavorful — great brisket.  And Nancy loved the smoked turkey.  It had great flavor and had nothing of the … flimsiness that you often get with smoked turkey.  It was real, honest meat.

But what about the barbacoa?  I didn’t mean to order anything except the brisket, but I saw “barbacao” on the menu and couldn’t resist.  Barbacoa is made with beef cheeks — traditionally with the whole head cooked buried in the ground, but in the US usually with the cheeks only.  At Sloppy Mama’s the cheeks are smoked over oak and tossed with a gently spicy chile sauce.  Wow!  It was delicious, just delicious.  The cheeks have a nice meaty beef flavor and pleasantly chewy texture.  The beef cut marries very well with the sauce, and the smoking adds a great layer of flavor.  You have to try it.  Really.  It’s special.

(Actually, you should be on the lookout for the cheeks of any meat.  The meat right next to the bone tends to be especially flavorful.  (Think ribs.)  Pork cheeks, for example, are the source of guanciale, which is pork belly kicked up a notch.  The carbonara made with guanciale at Mezza Luna in Orvieto was one of the most memorable meals of my life.  And the cheeks of snapper and grouper are sensational.  Big praise to Sloppy Mama’s for reaching beyond the standard meat cuts — ribs, shoulders, and briskets — to offer some exciting alternatives.)

We also got some food for later: banana pudding, smoked chicken salad, and some of their very good pimiento cheese.  Well, the chicken salad and pimiento cheese were for later.  Nancy and I shared the banana pudding.  If you put banana pudding that good in the refrigerator, it’ll all be gone when you come back for your share.

Sloppy Mama’s is a gem, a real standout among area barbecue places.  That’s a tribute to Mandy and Joe Neuman, who know how to cook and have the integrity to make barbecue the right way — with time, care, and good honest wood smoke.  I was happy to present them — safely — with a well-earned Campaign for Real Barbecue certificate assuring diners that they cook True ‘Cue.

sloppy masks

Not a very good picture  of them, is it?  This one from their website is better.

sloppy people

Nice looking people.

Mandy and Joe are good people who cook great food and know how to run a restaurant.  The whole menu is good.  And their carry-out process is fast, clean, and safe.  You can stay in your car and get curbside pickup if you aren’t delivering a certificate.

Quick — get yourself to Sloppy Mama’s and treat yourself to an outstanding meal.


And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event).  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.

3 thoughts on “Outstanding Carry-Out: Sloppy Mama’s BBQ, Arlington, Virginia

  1. Sloppy Mama’s has excellent barbecue (can’t wait to try the barbacoa) and the owners are real nice people too. Their kid goes to the elementary school where my wife is a teacher and they have been extremely generous with donations of food to school events.

    Liked by 1 person

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