09 January 2008

Road Food - Virginia Barbeque, Ladysmith, VA (I-95 Exit 110)

When I'm making repeated drives over the same stretch (see - Oberlin/Chapel Hill-> DC), it's important to find what little local flavor might be accessible via the interstate. This isn't usually easy, esp. given that my "research" consists of scanning signs for restaurants posted at the roadside, the vast majority of which are national chains. But occasionally, there's an exception - some local cafe or, in this case, BBQ joint.

Now - Virginia Barbeque is a chain. But it's a local chain (though expanding nationally), which tends to mean that, at least at this point, it's succeeding on some sort of merit. And a meal there confirmed it - menus are still on chalk-board, sides are variable by day, and while the offerings are a bit suspiciously wide-ranging (the same restaurant offering NC and VA pulled pork, Texas beef, St. Louis ribs and rotisserie chicken? isn't that some kind of BBQ heresy?), there was no arguing with the product. I got a Virginia BBQ sandwich platter with Mac'n'Cheese (special that day!) and slaw on the side.

Slaw: sweet-but-not-too, not too much mayo, and while I usually like sliced rather than chopped, they pulled off a good texture by not chopping too finely. With Texas Pete on top, a formidable slaw.

Mac'n'Cheese: really, really, really good. Obviously not from a box, the Mac was coated, not inundated, with cheese sauce that was not congealy. But the key was the cracked pepper - lots of it.

BBQ Pork Sandwich: the buns held up with their in-house "spicy" BBQ sauce liberally drenching the meat and a layer of slaw on the top bun, and it was nothing less than a damn tasty sammich. Meat tender with good texture, also not chopped too fine, moist and not dry - definitely a winner.

Iced tea: offered in both sweet and un-sweet, with a container of lemon slices, this was the only clear disappointment. It was lacking in both tea and sweet, and when I hit the road again, the straw added a particularly unpleasant plastic tone to an already weak flavor.

Conclusion: at $7, a great success. I'd definitely go back if the timing works out, and would at least give the NC BBQ a try (it was southern Virginia, and the cook's apparently from NC), and the sides all looked excellent - esp. the hush puppies, collard greens and fries.

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