I love traveling. Not only do I get to experience new locations and experiences, but also some great restaurants across the country. Granted, being gluten-free does throw a new wrinkle into eating out, but sites like Find Me Gluten Free, Gluten Free Registry, and The World Is Gluten Free are my go-to sites for finding gluten-free friendly restaurants in new cities. However, I didn’t find Pork Barrel BBQ through those sites – rather through Shark Tank, the ABC TV show.
Shark Tank helped Pork Barrel BBQ launch their sauces nation-wide, and I had the pleasure of meeting one of the founders – Brett Thompson – at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January, 2012. Ever since our conversation, I’ve wanted to try the food at their restaurant. May 19, 2012, was the day that I could try their food. Walking into the restaurant, I noticed it is quite different from most other restaurants. It’s half full-service bar, half fast-casual sit-down restaurant. After I walked up to the counter, the kitchen manager (I believe) came out to describe concept to me and others who walked in. Place has a unique look – a great mixture of rustic charm and East Coast chic. Or, at least what I would define as East Coast chic. Blame me being a midwesterner/West Coast person if I don’t know the actual definition.
Sitting down at the bar, I asked bartender “If I never come back, what must I have?” She recommended the pulled pork and Texas caviar. If I was really hungry, she offered the Smack Daddy. I told her I was gluten-free, and she said I couldn’t have the Smack Daddy since it had flour in the sauce. So, I got the pulled pork, BBQ beans, and Texas caviar. The BBQ beans spicy, but better than any other that I’ve had in restaurants before, and the Texas caviar is definitely something to try once in your life. Texas caviar is essentially black-eyed peas in a spicy sauce.
I must say, the pulled pork was awesome – probably the best I’ve had. I even ordered a second helping because 1.) I was hungry and 2.) it was that damn good. The staff was very friendly and gluten-free knowledgeable. For example, the pulled pork was originally a pulled pork sandwich, but since bartender knew I was gluten-free, she told the kitchen to leave the bread off. I didn’t even have to remind her. Of course, I did ask a few minutes after I ordered, and that’s when she told me she automatically asked to keep it off. They don’t have a gluten-free bread option, which doesn’t make sense to me since 85% of their menu is labeled gluten-free, as well as all of their sauces. They even have a gluten-free beer call-out on their drink menu.
All-in-all, Pork Barrel BBQ is a great restaurant to visit if you are ever in the Alexandria, Virginia, area. If you aren’t able to make it, you can find their sauces across the nation. For a list of where their sauces are located, click here.
(Images of Pork Barrel BBQ interior from Pork Barrel BBQ’s website.)