Thursday, December 8, 2011
After driving by twice and phoning for directions, we finally found Old Virginia Smokehouse located in the old hotel on North Main Street in Pearisburg. It was worth the drive and the search to find this restaurant, which started as a mobile BBQ stand before opening in permanent digs in September.
Walking in the door, we knew in a second what kind of food we would be eating from the smoky aroma. Vegetarians can stop reading now - there is nothing for you at Old Virginia Smokehouse. But carnivores are welcome.
The interior of the restaurant is decorated with local memorabilia that reflects allegiance to nearby high schools and universities. Two flat-screen televisions hung high on the walls were tuned to football games during our visits. Friendly servers were eager to explain the menu and make suggestions.
Old Virginia Smokehouse offers a variety of smoked meats, Southern-style side dishes, hamburgers, Brunswick stew and, when available, brisket chili and hash. Dinner plates of pork BBQ ($8.99), beef brisket ($9.99), chicken ($8.99) or ribs ($10.99) all come with your choice of three sides.
Eager to try it all, we ordered a sampler platter ($13.99), which was served in a plastic basket. It proved to be a delicious assortment of pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked chicken and pork ribs. Chris Via, the owner and self-proclaimed Pit Master, served the meat, which was tender and subtly infused with smoky flavor.
Via was open to talking to us about his three-month-old restaurant, saying it's a lot of work that he enjoys. Shy and soft spoken, Via is serious about his craft.
We enjoyed trying each of the four sauces with the generous portions. The rib sauce is sweet and friendly to those who don't care for spicy heat. If you do want some heat, the North Carolina-style vinegar-based sauce will satisfy. We both enjoyed the signature gold, a nice compromise between the styles of sauce. Also available is red hot brisket sauce.
The brisket and pulled pork were some of the most tender we have ever eaten. The ribs were also tender but not very meaty. The chicken had the typical texture of smoked chicken and was tender but a little dry. The sauces embellished the smoky flavor of all the meats, but each could stand on its own as a fine example of wood-smoked meat.
Sides include baked beans, which are sweet and savory. The deep-fried corn nuggets are crispy and also a little sweet. Sauteed mushrooms - an unexpected side dish - were moist and flavorful. The collard greens were tender with a hint of sweet and tangy flavor. The slaw was not special but a traditional choice.
The half-pound Smokehouse burger ($6.75) was just as gorgeous as the sampler platter. Topping choices include pulled pork, bacon, Colby or Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion. The burger itself had a great flavor we tried hard to identify - perhaps it is a secret we will never know, but paired with bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, it was a fantastic burger. The fries were seasoned just right and were crispy on the outside while tender in the middle.
During our visit, the Texas beef sausage was not available. That will be just another reason to go back to Old Virginia Smokehouse.