Rodman’s Bar-B-Que, Chesapeake, Virginia

I got a line on Rodman’s Bar-B-Que from the Dean of Virginia Barbecue, Joe Haynes. Joe has written a book on Virginia barbecue and is a driving force in the revival of traditional Virginia pork barbecue. He spends hours and hours recreating old recipes. And he told me to try Rodman’s Bar-B-Que in Chesapeake. So I did.

It turns out that Rodman’s has been around since 1929, first in Portsmouth, then for 50 years in Sussex. It’s been part of the fabric of the region for nearly a century. Alas, the Virginia Department of Transportation arose from the Ninth Circle of Hell that it shares with Judas and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (see here), and determined that a highway needed to go through Rodman’s. The Rodman’s folks looked around and found a property in the Churchland section of Chesapeake, near the Portsmouth line, and reopened less that a year ago. Back to their roots. So to Churchland I went.

The current Rodman’s has been open less than a year. It shares a shopping center with a Dollar Tree (I’m a big fan) and other places. I arrived early and looked around. It’s a good-sized open space with plenty of seating. Rodman’s cooks the meat out back in a big gas-assisted wood smoker. It’s behind a screen, so I couldn’t get a picture. You order at the counter, behind which stands a charming and friendly young lady.

I ordered a pork plate with green beans and slaw. The plate came with hushpuppies and that little container of peanuts at the top of the photo.

As you can see, the pork has a very fine chop, and it’s tossed with a good vinegar and pepper sauce, one just a touch softer than a North Carolina sauce. The result is very good barbecue, moist and tender and lightly laced with smoke. You’ll like this pork.

And you’ll like the sides. The green beans were beautifully seasoned and had a great traditional flavor. The slaw was good and fresh and had a nice little bite. The slaw complemented the pork very well, and it would add both texture and a counterpoint to a pork sandwich.

The hushpuppies, oh the hushpuppies! These are the best hushpuppies in Virginia, hushpuppies that could compete with the best of North Carolina. They came hot and with a just-about-perfect exterior. I was tempted to get an order for the drive to my next lunch, but thought better of it. A few 20-hushpuppy days and the belt gets awful tight.

For the same reason, I didn’t get a bag of peanuts. That little container of peanuts is seductive. It’s a come on to buy a bag of peanuts, and I almost did, When I go back to Rodman’s, as I shall, I’ll get some. Maybe I’ll go before Christmas and get bags for our friends. These are excellent Virginia peanuts, maybe my favorites, and that’s saying something.

There’s much more to Rodman’s. They’re famous for their fried chicken, long-brined and cooked fresh, and for their chicken and dumplings, made from a family recipe. They also have Brunswick stew which, like their chicken and dumplings, they sell by the pint or the quart. If smaller sizes were available, I’d have ordered some. You also can get a pimiento cheese sandwich at Rodman’s. I’m skeptical of commercial pimiento cheese — it always seems over-dressed — but restaurants that sell pimiento cheese sandwiches are always good. It’s a reliable marker. If you’re in Hampton Roads or anywhere nearby — say if you’re going to the Outer Banks or Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown, you owe it to yourself to go to Rodman’s.


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 destination city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, often close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event). And stick around for news, all manner of recipeshotels, and the occasional book or movie review and fine arts and architecture commentary.  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq


One thought on “Rodman’s Bar-B-Que, Chesapeake, Virginia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s