New ’Cue

NoVA welcomes new restaurants to satisfy your smoky meat cravings.

BY Nicole Bayne & Stefanie Gans

Mookie’s BBQ
Courtesy of Mookie’s BBQ

From competitions to storefront
Mookie’s BBQ

Yes, Mookie’s BBQ is from the same folks behind the catering company and competition team Big Mook’s BBQ; the name refers to owner and pitmaster Brian Varani’s nickname, Mook, after his childhood adoration for 1980s Mets player Mookie Wilson.

Varani’s interest in food started early as a busboy and prep-cook at a diner in his native New Jersey, when he was 13. As a adult, he worked as an auditing consultant, and in 2010 he entered into barbecue competitions. Even though Jersey is not known for its barbecue culture, Varani says he connected to the “camaraderie that tends to surround barbecue.”

He founded Big Mook’s BBQ in 2011 and quit his consulting job soon after to focus on opening his new restaurant, planning to debut this month.

Mookie’s offers brisket—a first-place winner in Maryland’s 2012 Swinetastic BBQ Festival—rubbed in a salt-pepper-chili powder mixture and smoked for 12 hours. There’s also pork shoulder, pulled pork with a Memphis-style sauce, pork ribs in a Kansas City-inspired sweet sauce, pulled chicken, turkey, salads and a variety of sides with brunch on the weekend. / Mookie’s BBQ, 1141 Walker Road, Great Falls


Photos By John O’Neill/ConDuit STudios

From truck to brick-and-mortar
Sloppy Mama’s

Even though Joe Neuman is turning his food truck, Sloppy Mama’s, into a full-fledged restaurant, he’s not sacrificing real barbecue cred. He’ll cook over oak instead of using electricity.

Unlike the truck, which will continue roaming Northern Virginia, the 40-seat shop, opening this month, will offer more than barbecue. The menu welcomes burgers, tacos, sandwiches, seasonal salads and prepackaged carryout, plus, of course, meat-and-two plates of beef brisket, chicken, pulled pork, smoked sausages and sides of collard greens, baked beans, coleslaw, mac and cheese and grits. There will also be wine and local beer. / Sloppy Mama’s, 14566 Lee Road, Chantilly


Courtesy of Smokehouse Live

From judge to restaurant owner
Smokehouse Live

With experience judging sanctioned barbecue competitions and running Georgetown barbecue restaurant Old Glory, Jim Foss and his partner, Kris Diemar, formed the restaurant group Pitmaster Hospitality with hopes to open several places. The first, opened in June, is Smokehouse Live, an old-school meat counter where guests order barbecue while live country music plays in the background.

“The secret is in our smoke,” says Diemar, referring to the colossal Ole Hickory smokers with white oak on the inside, where meat sits for hours, soaking in the smoky essence.

Meats include brisket, Texas short ribs, pulled pork, spare ribs, sausage and sides of slaw, Texas caviar, Brunswick stew, succotash, grits and chili. The Sunday brunch buffet features barbecue staples next to biscuit French toast, creamed spinach Benedict and bacon sticky buns. / Smokehouse Live, 1602 Village Market Blvd. SE, Suite E-120, Leesburg; smokehouse-live.com


Brisket Coleslaw Sweet Heat BBQ
Photography by Jonathan Timmes

From one barbecue shop to another
SWeet heat bbq

In the early 1980s, 1810 Michael Faraday Drive was the address of Pepper’s Texas BBQ, owned by famed local basketball coach Stu Vetter.

Vetter stills owns the property, and now, more than 30 years later, the space returns to its roots with Sweet Heat BBQ.

Since its opening in March, the restaurant has already gone through a change in management and kitchen staff. Its former chef Kermit Griffin brought a chicory-coffee soaked brisket on a Hawaiian milk bun encrusted with blacked onions and poppy seeds that rivaled much of the scene’s take on the smoked beef. Current owner Rick Rahim says the recipe remains the same even without the chef. The menu also includes barbecue classics like ribs, pulled pork and chicken but plays to today’s trends with a kale salad. / Sweet Heat BBQ, 1810 Michael Faraday Drive, Reston

Courtesy of Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill

From California to Springfield
Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill

When Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill opened its first restaurant outside of California at the Springfield Town Center last month, the kitchen knew to switch wood.

Sweet hickory replaces mesquite in the smokers because “it’s a flavor with which the region is very familiar,” says Alex Benes, a partner and the director of culinary development.

Established in 1992, the West Coast chain serves hormone-free pork and sustainably ranched, Angus-certified beef. Barbecue dishes—multiple types of ribs, plus pulled pork and brisket—are only part of the menu. There are also burgers, steaks and seafood. / Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill, 6797 Springfield Mall, Springfield


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(July 2015)