Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company

Written by on September 21, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

( – Clarendon neighborhood, Arlington, Virginia

How I heard of this place: When we first moved to Arlington, Chris and I walked past Rockland’s a couple of times; each time, making a mental note that we had to come back and try it. On every pass, we would see patrons sitting inside, along the barquette in the floor-to-ceiling windowed space facing Washington Boulevard tearing into baby back ribs, stuffing their faces with pulled meat sandwiches, or licking their BBQ-sauced fingers until they were wrinkly. When we walked by on Tuesday evening, after having already had ourbreakfast for dinner at home, Chris wanted so badly to go in! I asked him if he would be content waiting one day, until our friend, Samyar arrived from New York, and we would all go, together? He obliged. But immediately texted Samyar to let him know.

Type of cuisine: “We’ve been serving our wood-only barbeque to loyal DC-area fans since 1990. The story starts before that, though: John Snedden started barbequeing whole pigs when he was in college.” From ribs and chicken, to a plethora of sides ranging from corn pudding to collard greens, macaroni & cheese to minted cucumber salad, pork, beef, chicken and sausage (even sold by the pound!) to a listing of delicious sweets: honey jalapeno cornbread, chocolate chip cookies, walnut brownies and a slice of pie, in our first experience, we determined that Rocklands is delicious, real barbeque. The best I have had to date.


Ambiance: The stand-alone establishment is easily seen, not to be missed, as passerby find a pink-colored building with a huge, painted mural along the side facing the parking and the main entrance to Rocklands. The small, glass door with an axe for a door-handle made us so happy as we entered the cozy, wooden look of the space. The chalkboards overhead, to the right as you enter, gave way to the menu and the extensive kitchen/food preparation area.

Chips & Brad

As if it wasn’t enough to see the shelves of potato chips and individually wrapped-in-plastic sweet treats, menu above, the manager, Brad cheerfully called out a hearty hello! before bringing us two samples of some of Rocklands best. A grand, antique and wooden armoir sat quietly to the left of the entryway, with an endless and colorful array of bottles of hot sauce, including Rocklands own Barak Obama Hot Sauce, from shelf to shelf!


Just ahead of us as we entered, we found an old cash register, jars of pickled vegetables including pearl onions and green beans, menus, and a silver bucket of shelled peanuts.

Pickled Stuff

We were invited to munch on the peanuts as we made our menu selections. While Samyar & Chris looked over the menu, I made my way through the large, yet cozy establishment, walls diving seating areas from each other to create more, intimate spaces. A hefty, wooden barquette just beyond the peanut gallery hosted wooden, backed seats and retro-metal stools, leading its way to the darkened bar.

Bar & Peanuts

Continuing to the left and into the seating area, hardy wooden tables and chairs were pushed up against the side wall to create a personal space for pure dining bliss. To the far end, making our way back towards Washington Boulevard, the bright, naturally lit space not only gives patrons the opportunity to sit at the window and enjoy their finger-lickin’-good sandwiches and plates of yumminess, but also offers seating at the thick-cut-wooden tables with tons of space for elbows and the many sides that come with each plate.

Looking out

Anywhere you choose to sit, anything you choose to order, there are no leftovers nor any reason to complain.

What I ordered:My husband walked in and immediately knew he would be ordering the pork Baby Back Ribs ($20.99) with two sides: Texas Corn Pudding and Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes, and a homemade lemonade ($1.79) with which to wash it all down.

Pork Ribs

After receiving a generous sample of the cole slaw and the BBQ pulled pork, I was immediately sold on Rocklands. Not only was the space warm, cozy, friendly and inviting, the manager, Brad, was helpful, efficient, uber-friendly and informative! The food…well, it has definitely topped my list for the best BBQ in the USA! When he offered the Three Meats Platter ($11.49), I was sold.

Three Meats Platter

Pulled chicken, beef brisket and chopped pork with a choice of two sides, topped with a soft, yellow bun. For my two sides, I couldn’t pass up the fennel and green pea additions to the Cole Slaw and needed to try the soft and creamy Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes. Our visiting guest and dining companion selected the same Three Meats Platter, with a substitution of Italian Sausage, rather than chicken (for an additional $0.60) and selected, as sides, the Cole Slaw and the Macaroni & Cheese, made with real cheese, without turning into a ball of wax as it sat or made its way into your mouth.

Samyar & His Three Meats Platter

As an added bonus, after our informative and lengthy, interested and eager conversation with Brad, the manager, he brought us a side of Grandma Snedden’s Collard Greens, on the house. And boy are we happy he did!

What I loved: Even while eating, I could hardly determine what was best. Never having had beef brisket before, I was blown away by the ample flavor of the delicate slices of meat. The pulled pork, as I mentioned above, made me actually like pork. The Italian sausage was definitely the best sausage I have ever had! The mashed potatoes were creamy and smooth, with red potato skins throughout, creating texture and flavor in the most delicious way. The collards, too, were the best I have had; agreed upon by Samyar! Not too salty, not overly processed, just soft, melt-in-your-mouth greens prepared in bacon fat. Yum. Even the ribs fell off of the bone. Never before has an entire rack of ribs left nothing to be seen on the bones, without any effort or work. They were seasoned just enough, with a light puddle of BBQ sauce down the concave middle to add sweet and tangy taste without overpowering the taste of meat. 

Why I loved it: From the large, painted mural outside, to the friendly service and staff, to the welcome bucket of shelled peanuts waiting to be devoured; from the food to the setting, the quirky, mismatched decor placed just so, to the artwork including a metro map of Washington, DC, everything was perfect. Nothing needs to be moved, adjusted or changed. It’s pure, simple, genius.

Cost: Average to high ($10-$25 per sandwich/plate)

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