Virginia barbecue
Courtesy of Virginia Barbeque
Naming Rights

On Virginia barbecue from the founder of Virginia Barbeque restaurants

By Stefanie Gans

In 2000, a former wedding caterer, burnt out on high-end events, opened a barbecue restaurant with hopes of recreating the concept all over the state. He was not trying to bestow Virginia with a unique barbecue identity.

Although Virginia is situated among the great—and distinct—barbecue regions in the country, it’s hard to identify its own expression of flavors.

When Rick Ivey started Virginia Barbeque, an operation with seven locations—Manassas and Fredericksburg locally—and only one outside of the state, he was looking for something new to do with his cooking background.

Touring barbecue restaurants in Richmond and Williamsburg (the first store was in nearby Ashland) and studying the area’s take on pulled pork, he found two major sauce camps: Tennessee’s sweet, tomato-based red sauce and North Carolina’s vinegar sauce.

After six months of testing, Ivey, 49, combined the two, mixing tomato paste, mustard bran (akin to mustard powder), molasses, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, black pepper, red pepper flakes and kosher salt for a sauce not defined by another state’s style.

On the menu there’s The Original Virginia BBQ Sandwich, a 12-hour smoked Boston butt hand-pulled with all of the fat and gristle removed. The pork is served mixed with the company’s Virginia Sauce, which is available for purchase.

“We made it up,” Ivey says of his Virginia barbecue.“We weren’t thinking this would be the standard.”

He did, however, trademark Virginia Barbeque’s Virginia Sauce. So legally, just maybe, Virginia does have its own barbecue.


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(July 2015)