Everywhere I’ve lived, from Texas to Vermont, one of the best things I’ve found to do with my time is drive out into the country for barbecue. This can sometimes mean a few hours in the car. Luckily, I live far less than that from Monk’s BBQ in Purcellville.
But Monk’s isn’t just a roadside stand. A sizable restaurant with seating both indoors and out and Tipped Cow Creamery next door, it’s a down-home culinary one-stop shop.
When I headed in, multiple smokers were going full steam ahead full of meaty delights. The menu goes beyond basic platters and sandwiches with menu additions including burgers, nachos and Bacon on a Stick (sweet, smoky pork belly), but when I try a barbecue spot for the first time, I want to see how it does two things: brisket and ribs.
The brisket, while flavorful, wasn’t as tender or moist as my favorite versions thereof. The spare ribs, however, couldn’t have been much better. When they arrived at my table, they were almost too pretty to cut into individual ribs. The herb-flecked rub fused with the meat for a well-seasoned bark that gave way to a lush interior. In barbecue competition, judges look for meat that doesn’t fall off the bone, but adheres to it until the very moment at which it’s met by teeth, tearing away with ease. The ribs at Monk’s did precisely that, but were so meaty that they couldn’t help but shed some chunks of flesh along the way.
They really didn’t need sauce, but there are so many options at Monk’s that I couldn’t resist doing some dipping. My favorites tend toward the tangy, so spicy, vinegar-based Carolina barbecue sauce and bright-yellow mustard sauce were the ones that earned the majority of my dips.
Vinegar also played a central role in the slaw, a crisp concoction with nary a squirt of mayo. The smoked Gouda mac and cheese was thin for my taste, but I respected its al dente noodles, even if they weren’t as smoky or creamy as I was hoping. I preferred the custard-filled cornbread, which reminded me of a gooey lemon bar made with corn.
With to-go box in hand, I sealed the deal with a walk over to Tipping Cow Creamery for a kiddie cup of banana pudding ice cream. We sure are lucky in NoVA that we’re never too far from a taste of the country. // 251 N. 21st St., Purcellville
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