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Pork Barrel BBQ was a guest on Grill Warren today, a food chat sponsored by Northern Virginia Magazine.  Below is the chat:

Pork Barrel BBQ Guest Food Chat

In early 2006 in the midst of a Congressional Appropriations debate an idea was born by two fatigued United States Senate staffers who were working late and dreaming of good BBQ while Senators were arguing the merits of Pork Barrel Spending.  Those staffers were us and that idea is now a reality – Pork Barrel BBQ.  We’d especially like to thank our families and friends who have supported us in this endeavor from the lighting of the first briquette.

Our national award winning Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce and All American Spice Rub are products we are sure you will reach for when you are looking to add an All American flavor to the meats, fish, poultry and vegetables you are grilling, smoking, barbecuing, or simply cooking in your kitchen.  Made of all natural ingredients with no preservatives or MSG, our products have a tasty and tangy flavor with the perfect amount of smokin’ kick!

We are also very excited to have teamed with “Mango” Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn, two of the area’s top resaurateurs, to bring the first Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant to the Del Ray Neighborhood of Alexandria.  The restaurant, which is currently under construction, will open later this summer and be in the heart of Del Ray on Mt. Vernon Avenue.

What part of the pig (shoulder, butt) do you all use for your pulled pork? And where do you buy it? I want to start smoking my own at home but can’t seem to get my hands on primo pork with any type of regularity.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Pulled Pork – one of our favorite topics!!!

We’ll be competing in the 2010 World Championship of Pork BBQ’s Pork Shoulder contest next week at Memphis in May. We’ll be using the full shoulder (defined as the portion of the hog containing the arm bone, shank bone, and a portion of the blade bone) for this contest. At contests sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and at home we usually use the Boston butt or picnic shoulder. We rub our shoulders with olive oil and our All American Spice Rub and slow smoke them for 10-14 hours over a combination of hardwood charcoal, hickory and oak

If you are looking to get your hands on primo pork 365 days a year there is only one place to go in the Washington, D.C. area – Wagshal’s in D.C. There domestic pork is the best I’ve ever had, but if you really want to treat yourself to primo pork go with the Iberico pork from Spain (they are the only store in the United States to carry this exotic bread which gets its creamy taste from its diet of acorns). Check out Wagshal’s at and

Alexandria, VA
We are really excited for the Pork Barrel restaurant to open in Del Ray. What can you tell us about when it will open and what to expect at the restaurant?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
It has been a dream of ours for some time to open up a Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant and we couldn’t think of a better place to open the first one than Del Ray. We’ve been a Del Ray company from the beginning. We operate out of the basement of Brett’s house in Del Ray, Let’s Meat on the Avenue was the first retail outlet to sell our sauce and rubs, and the UPS Store in Del Ray does all of our shipping! It was a stroke of luck that our paths crossed with “Mango” Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn who were looking to open a BBQ joint in the Del Ray neighborhood.

We plan to be open later this summer (August/September) at the corner of Mt. Vernon Ave. and Oxford Ave. in Del Ray.

We plan to offer a menu full of the BBQ classics you’d expect to find in any of the best Que Joints in North or South Carolina, Texas, Memphis or Kansas City. Our signature menu items will include pulled pork, brisket, and pork ribs. You’ll find sides that include BBQ baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw. We’ll also be serving up some of the tastiest deserts around including our signature desert – bourbon bread pudding.

We can’t wait to see you at the restaurant – make sure you seek us out and say hi!!!

I can’t seem to get it right. Mine just gets too dry. What’s the secret?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
There are a few keys elements to keeping your BBQ moist:

1) Get a great piece of meat (there needs to be a good fat marbling throughout the meat for large pieces of meat that you’ll be smoking for an extended amount of time).

2) Keep the temperature of your smoker at a constant temperature between 225-250 degrees – dramatic spikes in the temperature of your grill will dry your meat out quicker.

3) Keep your meat moist by injecting it before you begin the smoking process, spraying it with a liquid (apple juice for example for pork shoulder and pork ribs) and keep a water pan in your smoker (there are a number of smokers with built in water pans like the very reasonably price Weber Smoky Mountain) filled with water, beer, or juice.

4) Don’t over cook your meat – make sure you measure the internal temperature and once it reaches the desired temperature remove it.

5) Don’t cut your meat once it is off the grill, let it rest. If you cut it too fast you will loose a large amount of the meats juices leading to a dryer product.

Vinegar sauces suck. You know it and I know it.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
If there is one thing we love about BBQ sauce, it is how much passion it brings out in the folks who love it. Some like their sauce hot and others like it sweet. Some like it smoky and others like it tangy. Some swear by tomato based sauces, others vinegar based sauces, others mustard based sauces and still others swear by the unique and hard to find mayonnaise based sauces.

We currently have three sauces on the market – our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce (which was voted the 2nd best BBQ Sauce in the Nation at last years National BBQ Battle), our Pork Barrel BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce and a Gluten Free version of our original sauce. In the months to come we plan to introduce a Spicy version of our Original BBQ Sauce, a Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce (we won’t make you use this one), and a Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce.

You can get all of our sauces online at or at local stores including Whole Foods, Wegmans, Harris Teeter and Let’s Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray.

I know… we need a good bbq place around here.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We are looking forward to bringing authentic BBQ to the Nation’s Capital!! If you’re a fan of pork ribs, brisket, pulled pork and sausage we hope you’ll come down and give us a try!

We’re pretty sure you’ll find Pork Barrel BBQ to be just the place you’re looking for.

We should be open in August/September down on Mt. Vernon Ave. and Oxford Ave. in Del Ray.

Was just poking around on your site and saw the recipe for smoked turkey. Tell me you all are going to have smoked turkey at your restaurant year-round.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Thanksgiving has always been one of our favorite holidays and we couldn’t even begin to think of celebrating Thanksgiving without a couple smoked turkeys on the table.

We are still finalizing our menu for the restaurant and haven’t yet decided if we’ll have turkey on the menu year round. Follow us at and on our Twitter account at to get the latest news on the menu.

Fairfax, VA
Would I be able to buy your BBQ sauce from the store when it opens?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Our line of Pork Barrel BBQ products, which currently include our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce, Pork Barrel BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce, a Gluten Free version of our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce and our Pork Barrel BBQ All American Spice Rub, can be purchased in the following area locations:

Harris Teeter
Let’s Meat on the Ave.
Whole Foods
World Market (soon)

For a full list of locations visit us at

We’ll be announcing more retail locations soon. You will also be able to buy it at the restaurant when it opens. You can always buy it on our website at

Crystal City
What bbq places did you all eat at while doing your research? Any new discoveries in VA/NC to report on? I travel up and down I95 pretty extensively and would love to hear about any worthwhile pitstops to add to my rotation.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We are both from Missouri so much of our formative years in BBQ come from BBQ restaurants in the Kansas City area. Kansas City is to BBQ as this area is to crabcakes. I grew up on Gates BBQ and Arthur Bryant’s, two Kansas City legends – and one of them is still my first stop when I’m back in Kansas City. Over the years I came to enjoy places in Kansas City like Oklahoma Joe’s (they operate out of a gas station), LC’s and Jack Stack.

One of the reasons we wanted to start Pork Barrel BBQ was because we felt this area was missing the kind of BBQ we grew up on. In Kansas City there are BBQ joints on every other block and the one a local might call the worst in town would be held as a crown jewel in many communities across the country – it is an embarrassment of riches. We hope to bring a slice of what we grew up on to the DC area – there will be something there for everyone whether you fancy yourself a Carolina, Texas, Memphis, Kansas City or some other region of BBQ fan.

With our partnership with “Mango” Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn of Mango Mike’s we think we’ll be able to provide the best BBQ the DC area has to offer and we hope you’ll stop in and decide for yourself if we are.

If you check out our blog at you can read some of our reviews on The Best BBQ Joints in America.

I personally got my start in BBQ thanks to my dad. I always like to say my dad is the postal worker of BBQ – rain, sleet, snow, sun, wind and winter, spring, summer, and fall he was always grilling or smoking something in our backyard as I grew up. I learned my love of BBQ from him and continue to learn both from and with him as he often joins us at BBQ contests across the country.

What made to decide to open the restaurant in Del Ray and not any other location?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We decided to open our first Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant in Del Ray because we are a Del Ray company. When we began selling our first product (our All American Spice Rub) in December of 2008 we ran it our of Brett’s house in Del Ray. The first store to carry us in a retail setting was Let’s Meat on the Avenue (our restaurant is just across the street from Steve’s amazing butcher shop). The small business loan we got to get the company up and running was given to us by Burke and Herbert Bank just a few blocks from the restaurant site. All of our shipping is handled by the UPS Store that is on the same block as our new restaurant. It just seemed like the right place to open.

Then the stars aligned and we met “Mango” Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn of Mango Mike’s and they were looking at opening a BBQ joint in Del Ray and we knew it was meant to be.

We hope to open a number of other Pork Barrel BBQ’s in the Washington, D.C. area over the next few years so we may be coming to a neighborhood near you soon!

What makes you think your BBQ is gonna be any better than the stuff we’ve already got? (King Street Blues and Rocklands are my faves)

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
BBQ is just about as personal of a dining experience as any type of cuisine; in fact, it may be the most personal. Our goal is to provide the highest quality BBQ in the region at an affordable price.

All of the recipes we’ll be using at the restaurant weren’t developed with a restaurant in mind, they were developed on the competition BBQ circuit with the understanding that they’d be going up against the best BBQ teams and pitmasters in the world. In order to be successful at these contests we have to use the highest quality products and meats in our recipes and we plan to replicate these efforts at the restaurant.

Great BBQ is also not a thing of speed. We won’t be boiling our ribs and throwing them on a gas grill at the end or roasting our pork shoulder in ovens. We’ll be replicating our cooking methods from the BBQ competition circuit at the restaurant. For example, we slow smoke our pork shoulders for 10-14 hours.

We also think one our Ace in the Hole is our sauces and rubs. Our Pork Barrel BBQ Original BBQ Sauce was voted the 2nd best sauce in the nation at last years National BBQ Battle. Our rubs have been called some of the best on the competition BBQ circuit by veteran pitmasters and classically trained chefs alike.

We look forward to having you visit us when we open later this summer (August/September) – we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Jefferson City, MO
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in getting your company growing in this economy?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
The idea for Pork Barrel BBQ was born on a late night while we both worked in the United States Senate. It was during a budget debate – while the Senate was debating Pork Barrel spending on the floor we were debating what we were going to have for a late night dinner and we came to the conclusion that we sure wished there was a good BBQ joint near by that we could get some food from. That night Pork Barrel BBQ was born.

A lot of our friends though we were crazy to be starting a business in some of the worst economic times since the Great Depression, but we wanted to prove to them and other entrepreneurs that if you have a good idea, a good product, a willingness to work long and hard, and a few people that believe in you that the free market is not only a viable means to economic prosperity, it is the best means to it.

Our biggest challenge was getting the financial backing that we needed. After looking around for sometime we decided to visit a local neighborhood bank, Burke & Herbert, and ask them for a small business loan. They listened to our pitch and believed in us and our product and gave us the access to money that we needed to take our product out of our basement and into more than 1,000 stores across the country. Our experience on Shark Tank taught us that there are many entrepreneurs who face this challenge everyday – we fell lucky to have found such a great partner in Burke & Herbert Bank.

Was Shark Tank as nerve-wracking as it looked (the investors were so smug)?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Shark Tank was an amazing experience for us. Our Pork Barrel BBQ Sauces and Rub were in 5 stores before we went on Shark Tank and by the end of May we’ll be in more than 1,000 stores in 40 states. I think it was less nerve wracking for us than some of the other contestants because of our background as lawyers and Senate staffers. We approached it as if we were preparing for a trial before a panel of judges and that allowed us to be prepared for just about anything.

After watching all of the episodes of the show we realized we either did a good job answering Kevin O’Leary’s questions or we got lucky. He certainly became the villain of the show for many of the entrepreneurs, but he even said our BBQ Sauce and Rub was excellent!

We’re excited to be working with Barbara Corcoran, who we secured a deal with on the show. She has provided us with a lot of incite and together we are working on some exciting opportunities that we look forward to announcing soon.

If you are a fan of Shark Tank make sure you go to and let them know you’d like to see a second season!

Del Ray
Hey Heath and Brett, When is your restaurant supposed to open? And more importantly will you deliver?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We are planning to have our first Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant open later this summer (August/September) in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria (corner of Mount Vernon Ave. and Oxford Ave.).

We do plan to have a limited delivery service to the local community. We’re still working the details of this out, but you’ll be able to find all the details at once we open.

Hope to see you at the restaurant later this summer!

Del Ray
I am a Del Ray resident and look forward to enjoying BBQ on the Avenue. I know that there has been a lot of controversy concerning your restaurant smoke and smells. I hope that you can fit in with the rest of the community to respect existing residential neighbors. How sure are you that the restaurant will not be a nuisance to the neighbors? And, are you willing to work with the neighbors after opening to fix any problems that the restaurant may pose to their homes and quality of life? Thank you!

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
We are very excited about the opportunity to be in Del Ray and add to vibrancy of the community and provide a great family dining opportunity.

If there is one thing we hope the neighborhood has been able to see in the past couple months it is our willingness to work with the community. We don’t think you’ll find a better set of business owners to work with. Among the changes we have made as we listened to the concerns of the neighborhood are:

Although we originally requested a 2:00 am closing time, we’ve listened to the comments of the residents and the Del Ray Citizens Association Land Use Committee and have amended our hours of operation request to 12:00 am Sunday – Thursday, and 1:00 am on Friday and Saturday. We have received a lot of support from residents on the need for late night dining in Del Ray and these reduced hours meet that need while balancing the character of Mt. Vernon Avenue. The Del Ray Citizens Association Executive Board has voted in support of these hours of operation.

We agreed to eliminate the door on Oxford Avenue to reduce street traffic for neighbors.

We agreed to no outdoor seating on Oxford Avenue to reduce noise levels for nearby neighbors.

We agreed to have our delivery vehicle use Mt. Vernon Avenue instead of Oxford Avenue. The delivery drivers will turn off engines during deliveries. Delivery schedules will be made with the least amount of impact to traffic and the community.

We previously announced a major change in the equipment we are using to cook the food. We are no longer using a wood only smoker and instead we are going to a cooker that uses gas as the heat source and only 1-3 pieces of wood per 12 hour cooking cycle to add flavor (much less than an average fireplace or backyard grill). As an extra step, we have also agreed to add special filters to the exhaust hood and install a state-of-the-art dilution fan on the roof. This technology was originally developed for use in the chemical industry and will mix fresh air with the exhaust air and then vent it above the building. These changes have added over $35,000 to the cost of the project, but we felt it was important to address these concerns on the front end of our time in the neighborhood.

We are looking forward to being a part of the community and believe these steps show just how committed we are to opening a successful business in a manner that fits well in the Del Ray community.

Will you all be making dry-rub ribs or does everything come out pre-sauced?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Yes, we will be serving dry rub ribs at Pork Barrel BBQ! The great thing about BBQ is how personal it is for each of us. Some of us like our BBQ dry and others like it wet. We hope to please folks from both camps.

We actually started out as a dry rub company in December of 2008. Our dry rub, which you can get at a number of area stores including Harris Teeter, Bloom, and Let’s Meat on the Avenue, was developed for our competition BBQ team and we use it in contests across America – we’ll be using it next week in Memphis at Memphis in May, the World Championship of Pork BBQ! We’re very proud of the rub and the smoky flavor it imparts on our meats!

How is Pork Barrel BBQ different than others?

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson:
Our products weren’t originally created for the retail setting – they were developed for use by our competition BBQ team that competes in professional BBQ contests across the country (in fact we’ll be competing at one of the most prestigious events next week – Memphis in May). We created our products to WOW some of the most highly skilled BBQ judges in the world by using the best ingredients available.

Our all sauces and rubs are made of all natural ingredients with no preservatives or MSG, and have a tasty and tangy flavor with the perfect amount of smokin’ kick!

We’ll be cooking all of our meats slow and low to ensure that every bite you take your taste buds will be dancing in your mouth.

We don’t think you’ll be disappointed with your meal. We encourage you to come check it out for yourself and let us know what you think!