What a good place! And you definitely should visit Westmoreland County, Virginia. We did years ago when Patrick and Liza were youngsters. We toured George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument and Stratford Hall, where the docents seemed ashamed of one of the three Lee brothers who wasn’t present to sign the Declaration of Independence. Both places are well worth a tour. There’s also James Monroe’s birthplace and a state park with CCC-built cabins, some breweries and vineyards, a whole lot of seafood, and Colonial Beach on the Potomac. And there’s Northern Neck BBQ.
I heard about Northern Neck BBQ at the Barn in Montross from Joe Haynes, the author of Virginia Barbecue: A History. It was my first stop on a multi-meal trip through Virginia to identify and certify places on behalf of the Campaign for Real Barbecue that cook exclusively with wood. It’s a very nice setting.
Here’s a look inside.
What pleasant place.
I showed up shortly after they opened and ordered a pork sandwich with sauce and slaw on the side, and some collard greens. There was a short wait during which I looked around and chatted with some of the other customers.
The food came out to me — they bring it to your table – deep in a tray. I took a look.
That was some great pork, and lots of it. The meat was smoky, had no hint of dryness, and did have a good bark. I mainly ate it unadorned, but I did try some with their Carolina sauce, a good vinegar-pepper sauce, that complemented the meat. And I tried some with their slaw. It’s a very lightly dressed slaw, and thus very good for adding to a sandwich. Most slaws get overdressed and interfere with rather than improve the meat if they end up on the sandwich. This slaw adds texture and a nice cabbage bitterness that balances the richness of the meat. It reminded me of the sandwiches at the Dixie Pig, and that is high praise indeed. All in all, it’s an excellent sandwich, possibly the best I’ve had in Virginia.
The collards were very good. Nice and green, aren’t they? You should eat greens whenever you can, especially when you’re on barbecue eating trip. Greens are very good for you, especially if you include the pot likker. They’re especially good with the 8th most nutritious food in the world (out of 1,000). Greens and pork barbecue are a great combination.
I had a great chat with the owner, Ben Hudson, and let him know about the Campaign for Real Barbecue certification. He was pleased, of course. Ben, who is a very nice guy, is very committed to all-wood barbecue. He has thought seriously about barbecue, and makes it a rule always to serve the sauce on the side, so that the meat presents itself.
Ben is helped by one young man on the cookers and by several young women, who look like they’re all related. Everyone is as pleasant as can be, and it’s a great setting for a meal. The Barn in Montross would be a nice place for an event. There’s live music every Friday evening during the season. Northern Neck BBQ is only open seasonally, from April to the end of October, and only Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The prices are very reasonable. I think my sandwich was $8. You can get a half rack of ribs for only $10.50, and you can get the other half for another $10.50. And they have brisket and chicken and sometimes fried catfish and other specials.
As I say, this is yet another reason to visit Westmoreland County; indeed, reason enough alone. The countryside is lovely, there’s history galore, and Northern Neck Barbecue really captures the setting, the sense of place. And that’s some great barbecue. Take a trip and try it.
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