We enjoy eating barbecue all year long, but we’d be lying if we said it didn’t taste best in the summer months, and apparently we’re not alone! According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, the most popular holidays for barbecuing are July 4th, Memorial Day and and Labor Day, in that order. As we approach the holiday where barbecue steals the show, we’re sharing a few spots where you can find the best BBQ in Richmond.
In our quest, we ventured to spots from Ashland to Church Hill and everywhere in between — and whether you like your barbecue traditional or you’re looking for an eclectic spin on an old favorite, there’s a spot on this list that is sure to suit your taste. From the brisket to the collared greens to the macaroni and cheese, this is a taste test we were glad to tackle.
Best BBQ in Richmond
When you work at the bottom of Church Hill’s hills, you’d be a fool to never try Alamo BBQ. Alamo has one of the more eclectic menus of all the barbecue joints here in Richmond, but that’s fine by us. The menu includes a wide range of meats including smoked sausages, ribs and brisket served Texas style. A few of the non-traditional menu items are what this place is known for — case and point, the Texas Trainwreck which includes your choice of meat over mac & cheese, cowboy beans, and cornbread, topped with diced onions and jalapeños. And don’t worry this place is vegetarian friendly too, with a whole menu of options to choose from. You can visit Alamo BBQ at 2202 Jefferson Ave in Church Hill where the restaurant is open seven days a week. It does have limited outdoor seating, so if it is too crowded to find a seat you can always head over to Jefferson Park or Libby Hill Park to enjoy your food.
I go non-traditional at Alamo, my two favorite main items are the blacked tilapia tacos — which come topped with taco sauce, slaw and corn and black bean relish — and the Alamo Cuban, a pressed sandwich served with your choice of meat (pulled pork, sausage links or pulled chicken), mustard, sriracha, onions, pickles, jalapenos, and cheddar jack cheese. Meg and I agree on our favorite side item — the jalapeno mac and cheese — it is spicy, creamy and incredibly addicting. The Texas caviar is a close second for those who don’t like heat or for those looking for something a little more diet friendly.
Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue
Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue has been a Richmond staple since 1992, but it’s not just Richmonders that are fans of this spot – the BBQ at Buz & Ned’s has gotten national attention from the likes of the Food Network – where Buz beat Bobby Flay in a throwdown – and the Travel Channel. With an original location that you can’t miss at 1119 North Boulevard and a newer location at 8205 W. Broad St. that opened in 2012, owner Buz Grossberg is ready to feed the hungry mouths of people all across town. Both locations are open Sunday – Thursday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. If you go, you’ll find that the menu is expansive, the service is friendly, and you won’t have a problem finding a comfortable spot to enjoy your food, whether you choose to eat indoors or out. You can read more about the story behind Buz & Neds here, but one thing’s for sure – this is a spot that lives up to the hype.
I’ve never had something I didn’t like at Buz & Ned’s, but I do have my favorites. I usually opt for the pulled pork or chicken and top it with extra barbecue sauce, which is sold at both restaurants and also online. It’s hard to choose between the side items, but the hushpuppies, macaroni and cheese and baked beans are among my most ordered. The coleslaw has more of a kick than most but the tangy flavor of the coleslaw is the perfect complement to the barbecue sauce which is spicy and sweet all at the same time. They offer cajun fried corn on a seasonal basis, and if you pop into the restaurant when it’s available, the well-seasoned treat is worth adding to your order as an appetizer or a side. When it comes to choosing a beverage, I always order a fresh-squeezed lemonade to go along with my meal. The portions are large, so depending on your appetite this is definitely a spot where you could share a platter with a friend – or even better – have leftovers to enjoy the next day.
Jake’s Place is located just north of Richmond at 511 Thompson Street in Ashland, Virginia – a town known as the “center of the universe” for its central location within the state. Depending on traffic, it’s about a 25 minute drive from downtown Richmond but it’s also an easy pit stop for travelers passing by Ashland on Interstate 95. Jake’s Place opened as a restaurant in the winter of 2015 with a name that pays homage to the owner of the gas station that occupied the site decades ago and the owners, John and Wendy Yohman, have been serving up southern comfort food with a focus on BBQ ever since. In addition to indoor seating, Jake’s Place has a patio located around the back of the restaurant. The restaurant is open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. for lunch and from 5 – 9 p.m. for dinner. On Sunday, they open for lunch from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
I made my first visit to Jake’s Place for lunch on a Sunday afternoon after promising Taylor the trip out to Ashland would be worth it – and worth it it was. Everything on the menu at Jake’s Place looked delicious, from the fried green tomatoes drizzled with honey to the pimento grilled cheese, but we stayed focused on the task at hand and ordered the Jake’s Platter to share which included brisket, pulled pork, and two sides for $13. We choose french fries and collard greens, which were among the best I’ve ever had with just the right amount of vinegar and salty ham. We also ordered an additional side of macaroni and cheese for good measure. We didn’t have room to try anything from the dessert menu on this visit but I would come back again just to try the “Screened Porch”, a decadent sounding combination of vanilla pound cake, Homestead Creamery ice cream, Virginia peanuts, whipped cream and maple bourbon sauce. My favorite thing about Jake’s Place? Even as a first-timer, I felt like a regular at what is obviously a local favorite.
I’ve been wanting to try Ronnie’s ever since I heard the buzz about this spot during Richmond 2015 last Fall. This barbecue joint is a little off the beaten path but perfect for if you’re out for a ride, walk or run on the Capital Trail, a 55 mile bike and pedestrian trail connecting Richmond and Williamsburg. Located at 2097 New Market Road in Henrico, it is about 10 minutes west of Rockett’s Landing. Meg and I visited one afternoon for lunch and by noon they were already sold out of cobbler — that’s how popular this place is out in the East End. Like many barbecue restaurants, you place your order at the counter and then wait for your number to be called. At Ronnie’s there is limited seating inside with additional seating outside right next to the restaurant and picnic tables under a tree around back. Oh and if you think the food looks familiar, it is because you might have seen it on Food Network.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we tried Ronnie’s but I’m so glad we did. The homemade barbecue sauce is sweet, tangy and addicting. I found myself wanting more and more of it as we ate. The pulled pork sandwich and the brisket were both smokey and tender, and the side dishes were full of flavor. We tried the baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, collard greens and french fries. I have to say the baked beans and coleslaw were my favorite and I know Meg really enjoyed the collard greens. The portion sizes were sizable for lunch, and although I was sad that we didn’t get to taste the cobbler, I’m not sure we could’ve taken another bite.
When I was growing up, my family spent many of our summers in San Antonio and ZZQ’s central Texas style barbecue really takes me back to those times. Memories aside, Chris Fultz and Alex Graf are smoking some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had. And this year they’re doing it with a whole new smoker, Max, which allows them to keep up with demand a little better than last year. Confession, last year I was sort of insane and ate ZZQ on more Fridays than I’d like to admit — I had to stop posting #meatchurch photos on Instagram so I didn’t seem like a stalker.
Aside from private catering and pop-ups, the only place you’ll find ZZQ is at Ardent Craft Ales on Saturdays. It isn’t uncommon to have to wait in line for a while to place your order, but I promise it is worth the wait.
If I had to pick a favorite item at ZZQ I’d probably pick something that isn’t officially on the menu: burnt ends. One bite and I am in heaven. If you ask nicely they might share a few pieces with you, or if you’re lucky sometimes Chris will reward you for waiting patiently in line.
The best way to try all of the meats is to rally a few friends and share. Trust me, you’re going to have a hard time choosing between the brisket, pulled pork and beef ribs. My go to is the brisket, but only when I’m forced to choose. My favorite side without question is the jalapeno mac and cheese — fair warning it is spicy so if you don’t like heat I’d opt for the potato salad or the slaw. And don’t forget to grab a few pickles and onions, that’s the only way to eat Texas style barbecue.
What are your favorite places to eat BBQ in Richmond? Tell us in the comments below!