Famous Dave’s, the barbecue chain with the award-winning ribs that has been opening stores across the nation, has finally come to the City of Falls Church. Barbecue fans have passed the time since the first whispers that Famous Dave’s was considering moving into the old Original Pancake House location on West Broad Street preparing their tastebuds and honing their rib-gnawing technique in anticipation.
With a grand opening Monday – replete with City celebrities and, oh yes, their mascot, Wilbur the grill-cooking pig – diners were invited in to try the fare already popularized at the chain’s Alexandria and Chantilly locations.
The spot is part take-away, part sit-down restaurant, but dine-in guests don’t suffer in the way of décor. The spot is well-furnished, and filled with look-at-ables in the way that many chain restaurants are. Between the full bar, exposed brick walls, and mock pantry filled with cook books and antique collectibles, the restaurant is a curious hybrid of grandma’s kitchen and a neighborhood pub, but all components serve the same purpose: This is a fun, down-home place.
The meal begins with appetizers, and as with many American fare spots, this part of the menu is the treasure trove of deep-fried creations. The $6 chili-roasted corn fritters, new to the chain’s appetizer menu, fit the breaded, deep-fried bill. While these fritters contain less corn than the everyday fritter, those tiny, charred pieces impart excellent flavor throughout the moist breading. Served along with a squirt bottle of clover honey to balance the heat that comes with the chili roasting with some sweetness, the dish prepares diners for the sweet and spicy notes found in each of the restaurant’s sauces.
Servers suggest sampling the six sauces, served tableside in squirt bottles, with the house-made barbecue chips. The Rich & Sassy, served in a larger bottle that reflects its popularity, is the go-to sauce for those wishing to walk on the mild side. The Georgia Mustard brings in a tangier flavor, and the Texas Pit, Sweet & Zesty and Devil’s Spit each amp up the heat. The Wilbur’s Revenge – with some serious spice that grows and grows as it settles in the mouth – would make any diner regret putting that pig in a chef’s hat and making him barbecue his compatriots.
The barbecued meats served here – beef brisket, chopped pork, ribs and rib tips, and varieties of chicken and fish – are offered in various combinations satisfying the puckish to the famished (and most certainly the carnivorous), but diners can expect a barbecue feast to set them back about $16. Of note are the ribs, and both the ribs and rib tips are admirable. Between the smoking and flame-grilling, some tenderness in the meat is lost, and it takes a bit of effort to chew the meat from the bone, but the fatty flavors, the smokiness that permeates the meat, and the house sauce it is cooked with make up for it and then some. Experiments in sauce are welcomed, especially considering the quality and variety of the sauces available and the natural desire for a sauce-covered rib extravaganza, but the ribs come to the tables already quite flavorful.
Side dishes round out the meal, saving diners from the impulse upon entering the restaurant to simply eat a plate filled to the brim with meat. The customer-favorite house baked beans flavored giant hunks of house-smoked meat, and the jalapeno macaroni and cheese, an interesting and delicious take on the classic comfort food, are the stand-out side dishes.
But while this restaurant has made its fame in its spicy, smoky, savory ribs, that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to do dessert. The Dave’s Famous Bread Pudding – warm, made-from-scratch, and covered in a decadent sweet-and-salty pecan praline sauce, served alongside vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream – is proof enough.
Famous Dave’s is located at 370 W. Broad St., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-533-3418 or visit famousdaves.com.