Bar-Q, Norfolk, Virginia

I finished the second day of my Eastern Virginia Campaign for Real Barbecue trip (checking and certifying places that cooked exclusively with wood) at Bar-Q on East Ocean View Avenue in Norfolk. Bar-Q is even easier to miss than Dave’s. There is no Bar-Q sign. The only external hint that there’s a barbecue place is a couple of big smokers that you can’t see from the road as traffic pushes you along Ocean View. They’re tucked on one side of the parking lot in back.

With that clue, you can track down Bar-Q inside the Bold Mariner Brewery. Here’s the sign you should look for —

The Brewery occupies a big stand-alone building, a sort of mansion, with huge wrap around porches on the first and second floors. You walk across the porch amid clusters of customers enjoying brewed beverages and enter. On the right is a line for food and on the left is a line for beer.

You order, pay, and then receive your order at one side and then head on over to the other. Or you can keep going back to the same side. This is America, after all. I moved to the right side — the food side — first and watched the assembly of others’ orders. Bar-Q (it’s pronounced Bark) offers brisket, pork, both pork and beef ribs, pork belly, and a gouda-bacon sausage link. The only sandwiches are pork and beef, although there are several specialty sandwiches that combine various meats. Among other sides, they sell smoked macaroni and cheese (“smack and cheese) and a good looking corn dish.

I ordered a brisket sandwich, sauce on the side, and some collards: vegetables are important. I then moved over to the beverage line and ordered one of the three IPAs on tap, a hazy IPA with a low alcohol content, and claimed a seat at one of the tables.

As you can see, the brisket sandwich came with some pickled onion strands. The meat was chopped and very flavorful — it’s a very good sandwich, with 1/3 pound of meat on what I think was a Martin’s Potato Roll. And the collards also were quite tasty. The Bar-Q pitmaster, Jayme Campbell, came up in north Florida but, in an act of apostasy, was seduced by Central Texas barbecue. He was a barbecue competition partner of Chris Fultz of ZZQ fame, which is a noble pedigree indeed. Campbell set up shop in Bold Mariner fairly recently, in 2019. With Bar-Q , Dave’s, and the Redwood Smoke Shack, the state of Hampton Roads barbecue is improving rapidly.

Bar-Q has more of a bar than a ‘cue atmosphere, but it works well. The atmosphere is a mix of rustic, modern, beachy, and big old house elements. Strangely enough, it really works well — perhaps not so strangely: barbecue and beer and sea breezes can cover a multitude of sins. After I ate, I got another IPA and went outside, sat on the front porch, and enjoyed the warm day and the cool breeze. Aaaah!

You should try Bar-Q.

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