After a truly great lunch at Northern Neck BBQ and a weird experience at Rudy’s, my Eastern Virginia Barbecue Tour on behalf of the Campaign for Real Barbecue took me to Williamsburg to check the all-wood cooking status of another place: Old City Barbecue.
Old City is in the former location of the Yorkshire Steakhouse, the sort of upscale setting that can have a plonking effect on a casual diner. The atmosphere inside, however, is down home and friendly. It was busy and, since I was alone, I decided to take a seat at the bar rather than tie up a four-top. I ordered a local IPA (a Free Verse IPA, and later a Falcon Sash IPA, both by Virginia Brewing) and surveyed the menu. It had been several hours since I’d eaten, so I decided to order a two-meat platter with stout beans and macaroni and cheese. I was asked if I wanted an appetizer and I reflexively said, “No.” I’d had two lunches, and a two-meat platter would be plenty. But the question turned my attention to the appetizer section and the words “pimiento cheese” and “country ham” blazed across my consciousness. I ordered the appetizer.
Now, that was not a one-person appetizer, and I didn’t eat it all. I prefer saltines to Ritz crackers, and didn’t eat all of the crackers; and I don’t like bread and butter pickles, or I didn’t like them until I tried dipping one in Old City’s signature “OC hot sauce.” They really should bottle it. It is a truly great hot sauce, and it performed prodigies on the bread and butter pickles. The pimiento cheese and the country ham were delicious both individually and in combination. The country ham was shaved, a touch thinner than I like. (Regular readers will recall my minor quibble about the thick–but sensational–country ham at the Loveless Cafe on a recent Nashville trip and think that I’m picky. My defense is that I ate it all — both times.) It was very good, and would be an excellent choice for two or more people to share.
I also got the two-meat platter.
The pork was tender with a light but pervasive smoke flavor. Nice. It came un-sauced, and it was good enough that I only added test portions of sauce. Old City has a good North Carolina vinegar-pepper sauce and a Tidewater sauce that is thicker, well seasoned, and not excessively sweet. They also have a sweet sauce that I avoided. The ribs had been basted with a somewhat sweet sauce, and were very tender with a nice texture, not at all mushy.
I ordered stout beans thinking that stout beans were a variety of green bean rather than baked beans. I should have asked. I’m not a fan of baked beans, and the dish seemed like a waste of a perfectly good bottle of stout. The poblano macaroni and cheese was good, though. The poblano peppers kicked it up a notch.
Before entering, I had walked around back and inspected the cooking equipment to verify that the meat was cooked exclusively with wood. I met Vernon Geddy, the owner and and he was very affable.
Vernon is committed to traditional wood-cooked barbecue, and it shows in his product.
It was another great meal. I ate too much, but that happens. It’s an occupational hazard, whether I’m occupied or not, in truth. Old City was nice, friendlier than I expected when I walked in and picked up the steakhouse ambience. It was nicer than it should be, considering how nice it is, and I had some pleasant conversations. If you’re in Williamsburg, and you certainly should be now and again, you should stop by Old City and have some good barbecue. And some pimiento cheese and country ham. And urge them to bottle that hot sauce.
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