From pizza and ranch dressing to pickles and milk, cravings are a phenomenon of human nature.
Every once in a while, I’ll get a hankering for the kind of barbeque I was raised on, which is hard for me to find around the Northern Virginia area.
Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company instantly reminded me of home, yet offered a whole new take on the traditional barbeque that my folks introduced me to as a child. To create a unique flavor, Rocklands smolders red oak and hickory wood to cook their barbeque, no gas or electricity – and the taste tells the story.
The BBQ sandwich-turned-platter was the special of the day, scribbled on the chalk board above the registers. The chopped pork sandwich, macaroni and cheese or red beans and rice option ($8.49) called to me, complemented with an thirst quenching sweet tea.
The pulled pork was served on a soft, fresh potato roll. However, it’s up to the customer to add final touches. The original-recipe Rocklands sauce awaits customers in a large communal pot, fresh for the taking. Only a small scooped portion of the signature sauce, rich with cooked onions, was enough to send my taste buds into a frenzy.
The first bite was almost a hybrid of two barbeque types I had grown up with -Tennessee-style barbeque, signature of its primarily dark, sweet tomato-based sauce, and Carolina-style, which is predominately vinegar-based.
Rocklands’ sauce, while tomato-based, had hints of vinegar, along with something I couldn’t quite put my finger on – perhaps an original secret recipe. The sweet sauce was a un-cracked puzzle to my taste buds – smoky, tangy and sweet flavors infused the meat, lingering underneath the oak and hickory hints, throwing my attempts to decipher the Rocklands recipe into oblivion.
My guest ordered the chopped sirloin sandwich, served with mashed potatoes and baked beans. The sirloin was tender and the smoky-sweet hickory, paired with the tangy oak flavors, were found in each piece of the tender meat, adding an extra kick that beckoned me to eat more. However, a playful smack on the hand from my friend, reminded me that this was not my dish, but theirs.
While the sandwiches were quite good, the side dishes were lacking in comparison to the powerhouse performance of the main courses. On the plus side, the macaroni and cheese was made with extra large noodles, but the sauce was unfortunately thin and left the large shells, and myself, needing a bit more of the creamy coating. Although the baked beans were a bit on the spicy side, overall they were very tasty.
Of the four Rocklands locations, Arlington’s atmosphere leaves a nice impression on patrons. It’s eccentricity was clearly acquired from the original restaurant location in the District. Re-mixed, reggae-inspired music played in the background. Each of the worn wooden shelves, full of hundreds of homemade barbeque and hot sauces from around the country, added to the restaurant’s home-cellar feel. All over the restaurant utensils hung on the walls. This particular decoration made me feel as if I was eating in an extended part of an old country kitchen.
Rocklands puts a fast-paced twist on the original old, slow southern tradition of barbeque. The next time you’re craving food rich with spices that take it that extra mile, Rocklands is the barbeque pit to visit. After all, if the restaurant satisfies my picky barbeque cravings, I’m sure it won’t leave you anything other than full and fulfilled.
Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company
3471 Washington Boulevard
Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.