Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Red Hot & Blue

DSC_0087What’s better than barbecue? Few things are, for those who love savory smoked and sauce-slathered meats when sitting down for dinner. But Red Hot & Blue tries to sweeten the deal by coupling barbecue and blues for a down-home dining experience.

The Arlington-founded chain boasts locations across the nation, and Falls Church is home to one of its “express” spots.

“Express” amounts to diners ordering food from the counter and finding their own seat or taking it home. While the experience lacks such niceties as table-side service, the dining room hasn’t sacrificed style. Wooden tables and chairs fill a small dining space, with walls decorated with concert posters for and portraits of blues singers accompanied by the blues sounds that fill the space.

The meal could start with appetizers like barbecue wings and nachos topped in chili or pulled chicken or pork to get a jumpstart on the meaty feast to come, but the restaurant recommends the Onion Loaf, denoting it as a “smokin’ favorite.”

The loaf, which comes in a personal ($3.29) or regular ($6.49) size, is a mound of thin-sliced and deep-fried onion rings which break and tangle with one another for a crumbling pull-apart treat. The loaf is served with a tangy sauce for dipping, and the combination, while messy, is delicious.

Entrees like salads and sandwich value meals ($7.99 – $8.99) might satisfy those looking for a lighter meal, but rib slabs, rib combos, and “Blue’s Plate Specials” are hearty carnivore creations.

Ribs come three ways – two glazed varieties, one in the house’s Sufferin’ Sweet sauce and another in its Mojo Mild sauce, and a dry-rub style in the Memphis tradition – and can be ordered in a half slab ($15.99) or full slab ($22.99).

Ribs are the highlight of four combo platters, each served with two sides (like the creamy, gravy-smothered mashed potatoes or the barbecue sauce-seasoned beans) and dotted with a few bite-sized cornbread muffins.

The Five Meat Treat rib combo ($15.99) gives the broadest survey of the hickory-smoked meats the restaurant serves. Be it the ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket, or sausage, each is surprisingly moist for the smoked treatment, though tougher, charred bits give some variety to the texture of the meat, whether it is found on the crunchy edges of the ribs and brisket or tucked within the strands of pulled chicken and pork.

While the savory flavor of the meat and the smokiness is sufficient flavor, a quartet of sauces (the Sufferin’ Sweet and Mojo Mild, but also the tangy Hard Luck Vinegar and the multi-spiced Hoochie Coochie for daring heat-seekers) await at the table.

Blue’s Plate Specials serve a single meat with sides and muffins, be it one of the hickory-smoked meats, or the Mississippi Delta Catfish ($13.99) and Southern Fried Chicken Crispers ($9.99).

Should diners save any room for dessert after their multi-meat feasts, banana pudding ($2.99), pecan pie ($3.99), and fruit cobbler ($3.99) are Southern-cooking favorites that can end the meal sweetly.

With Southern Sweet Tea available by the gallon ($4.99), the barbecue bonanza is complete, whether it is enjoyed in the blues shrine of Red Hot & Blue or at the diner’s own musical temple.

Red Hot & Blue is located at 169 Hillwood Ave., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-538-6466 or visit redhotandblue.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.