BBQ Brawl – The Who’s Who of NOVA BBQ

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Over the summer, Northern Virginia Magazine and Specialicious.com set out to find the who’s who of northern Virginia (NOVA) BBQ. They started out with 32 BBQ Brawl competitors and are currently down to the top 8. We’re big fans of good BBQ, so we couldn’t pass up the chance to join in and judge who’d be competing in the top 4 on Aug 25th. Our tasting included these four out of the top 8.

Bad to the BoneBad to the Bone BBQ - BBQ Fest 2012

Tinsley’s review:

Just OK for me, but probably my second favorite out of the four. I really liked their sauce (It was one of my favorites) but they didn’t seem to have the whole package. I enjoyed the flavor of the pork BBQ, but the meat was a little tough. I wish they would have had a good coleslaw or potato salad that could’ve given their BBQ an additional dimension.

Jason’s review:

Of the four featured at this event, Bad to the Bone was my favorite by a mile. While most competitors had their BBQ and brisket pre-chopped and sitting in metal food pans, Bad to the Bone had large chunks of fresh BBQ that they were slicing table side. How do you get any better than that? Both their pulled pork and brisket were flavorful, smokey and tender. Their house sauce was the best I tasted during this event.

Absolute BBQ

Tinsley’s review:

Absolute BBQ gets my #1 vote out of the four. They had the best flavor all around. Not only did they pack a lot of flavor into their pulled pork, but for me, their other components knocked it out of the ball park. Their baked beans were tender and smoky and their coleslaw was crisp, light and crunchy. It made for the perfect bite. Their mild BBQ sauce was unique – it had a fresh “un-bottled” quality that no other competitors had.

Jason’s review:

Absolute BBQ gets my #2 vote of the day. As Tinsley mentioned, they had the entire package in terms of sauce choice and sides. However, their BBQ wasn’t as flavorful as Bad to the Bone and I didn’t care as much for their sauces, especially when compared to Bad to the Bone’s house sauce.

RBBQ Fest 2012ed Hot and Blue

Tinsley’s review: I wasn’t impressed. Beside that fact that they’re a chain, I was discouraged that they didn’t seem enthusiastic about being in the competition. They were rude and didn’t really engage in conversation with you. That was a turn off for me. If I’m here tasting and judging your BBQ, you better talk food with me.

Jason’s review: I couldn’t agree more with Tinsley’s thoughts on this chain. It was actually my first time trying the chain and everything about their food, presentation and attitudes were disappointing.

JJ Deli

Tinsley’s review: They were the most interactive of all the tables. I really wanted to like their BBQ because they were small family-owned business, but I just couldn’t get past the minced meat. I will note that their BBQ sauce was super yummy and if they sold it by the bottle, I would buy it.

Jason’s review: I’ll echo Tinsley’s thoughts on the minced meat. I felt as if we were eating the left over pulled pork scraps rather than a chunks of smokey pig. JJ Deli got my #3 vote.

Now that the votes have been cast, how did our reviews stack up against the outcome?

JJ Deli went up against Bad to the Bone with Bad to the Bone coming out on top, much to our delight.  Absolute went up against Red Hot and Blue and much to our chagrin, Red Hot and Blue won the round. Congratulations to both winners as well as all participants.

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