If you are from another part of the world, you might think of BBQ as an event where friends and family enjoy the summer sun and food cooked outdoors, you might think of BBQ as any food cooked on a grill, or you might assume BBQ is whatever meat receives a healthy dose of BBQ sauce. In rural southeastern Virginia, though, BBQ is one thing: slow-smoked pulled pork.
This style of cooking was developed centuries ago as a way to use the pieces of meat that might otherwise by tough. A long, slow cook (often over 12 hours) over low heat breaks down the connective tissue in the meat and imparts the signature smoke flavor. This process also develops a crisp “bark” on the exterior of the meat, while keeping the inside juicy and flavorful.
Pork pairs well with sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors, so brown sugar, red peppers, paprika, molasses, vinegar, and mustard are commonly used to rub the meat. These same ingredients (and sometime tomato) are also the foundation of most BBQ sauces.
The tender pork that has been pulled apart (and often chopped), with a bit of smoke flavor, is the basis of all Virginia BBQ, but every pitmaster (BBQ cook) and local BBQ joint uses a little creativity to set themselves apart.
QDaddy’s Pitmaster BBQ (Smithfield)
Q Daddy's is a local favorite with fresh, slow-smoked pulled pork (and lots of other smoked meats and southern sides). Q Daddy's pork is always juicy even without a lot of sauce. Their traditional sandwich is served with pickles and onions, or you can get yours with cole slaw. The original recipe Awesome Sauce or BBQ Sauce are always terrific additions. Be sure not to arrive too late. Q Daddy's often sells out before the end of the day!
Virginia Diner (Wakefield)
Virginia Diner BBQ is prepared in the traditional style of southern Virginia and North Carolina. The meat is finely pulled and prepared with vinegar-based sauce (often called North Carolina style). It's tangy, a little salty, and great with a few dashes of hot sauce. If you are craving traditional BBQ with other amazing southern fare (be sure to try the carrot souffle) you'll love Virginia Diner.
Taste of Smithfield
Taste of Smithfield prepares their pork in a Cuban style called Mojo. It is bright, fresh, and full of flavor. The creative BBQ dishes include sandwiches, tacos, and fries topped with bacon, mojo pork, and queso. Taste of Smithfield also offers lots of unique, local goodness.
Mason’s Grill & Smokehouse (Suffolk)
Mason's BBQ is straightforward, fresh, juicy, freshly-smoked pulled pork. Get a traditional BBQ sandwich with slaw or Totchos - tater tots topped with pulled pork, queso, jalapenos, and pickled onions.
Cowling’s Bar-Be-Que (Waverly)
Cowling Bar-Be-Que (Waverly).
Cowlings has been a fixture on Rt 460 for decades. Locals in Sussex County love the simple southern food including the expertly smoked pork BBQ. You'll often see one of the cooks chopping the fresh pork as you enter the restaurant. Get yours with some tangy North Carolina style sauce, cole slaw, and baked beans.
Suffolk BBQ Co.
Suffolk BBQ Co. serves all the traditional favorites like sandwiches and BBQ platters with both pork and chicken BBQ. A unique favorite is the Smoked Nachos Grande. Smoked pork goes great with the flavor of corn tortillas. Especially when topped with cheese, hot pepper and sweet sauce. Both their pork and chicken is dry rubbed, slow-smoked, and then served with your choice of sweet and tangy sauces
Wharf Hill Brewing Company (Smithfield)
Wharf Hill's BBQ menu is delicious and includes one of the most creative uses of pulled pork. The Non-Wonton is pulled pork and cole slaw in an eggroll wrapper, and served with a tangy sauce. You will love all the creative dishes. And don’t forget Wharf Hill’s craft beer.
Bubba-N-Frank’s Smokehouse (Carrollton)
Bubba-N-Frank’s is beloved all over our region for simple, delicious food. Their BBQ is served both North Carolina and St. Louis style. If you are especially hungry try the Triple B Burger which includes a beef patty, St. Louis BBQ, brisket, pepper Jack cheese. and all the fixings.
The Salty Southern Route
is a joint tourism effort of the towns of Franklin and Smithfield, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Surry and Sussex Counties, and the city of Suffolk, Virginia.