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wrash

Red Hot and Blue, A North Carolina-Based Chain - Barbecue Franchises With Numerous Area Locations

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I just found out from Don that there's no topic for Red Hot and Blue, so I'm starting one.

The reason is because I went there for dinner last night (1/13/10). I wanted barbecue and I didn't want to have to go a long way to get it. Since there's one in Fairfax, making it potentially the nearest barbecue place, we went there.

Over the years, I've been to many, but not all, of the Northern Virginia locations of this restaurant. In fact, I had lunch at the original location in Arlington on the day it opened back when Lee Atwater was one of the owners. During this time, the quality of the barbecue has gone up and down, but it's normally been reliable enough that when the urge strikes and you need some pulled pork for carry-out, it'll do, and it's a lot faster than making it yourself.

But not everything is at the same OK level as the pulled pork, which while never the best, is usually well, OK. It'll do.

Last night, for example, I decided to have the sliced brisket. Now I realize that there was no chance that I was going to be impressed. It hasn't been that long since I last dined in Brisket Heaven, otherwise known as Lockhart, Texas. An evening with the brisket at Black's Barbecue is the sort of thing that spoils barbecue for other places. It's just that good.

But even knowing this, the brisket at RH&B has reached a new low. It was dry, crumbly and nearly tasteless. The sauce puddle on top looked as if it had been dried in place by a heating table. Smoke flavor was not in evidence. In fact, it was so mediocre that the brisket at Blue Smoke in New York was better, and I didn't think that was possible.

My wife told me that the pulled pork was also not up to its usual middling standard.

One thing we've noticed about RH&B is that the quality of food varies quite a bit by location. The store in Manassas, for example, routinely has better barbecue of all types than the one in Fairfax. When the Fairfax store is up to full steam, it's OK. But don't make a special trip to Red Hot and Blue. There's a reasonable chance you'll be disappointed regardless of the depth of your expectations, and even at its best it's only OK.

And this is all too bad. When the first restaurant opened, it was pretty good.

Now I have to wonder how they're passing that brisket off to the stores in Texas. Those people carry six-shooters when they go out to eat after all.

Wayne Rash

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Honestly, I had one of the single worst dining experiences ever at a RH&B in Richmond. I had been to a couple of different franchises before and it was acceptable but nothing special but this time... I ordered Baby Back Ribs, and they were either extremely overcooked or just plain rotten. I took my first bite and actually bit THROUGH THE BONE. The inside was...putrid? The words escape me. I actually tried a second rib (more the fool me) to the same result. It swore me off ribs in general for several years.

I know this is a one time experience by a single patron, but I have never been able to bring myself to retry any other locations. Yuck.

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And this is all too bad. When the first restaurant opened, it was pretty good.

Now I have to wonder how they're passing that brisket off to the stores in Texas. Those people carry six-shooters when they go out to eat after all.

Talk about "taking coals to Newcastle"!

I've avoided the brisket entirely; it was never my favorite (at least, outside of Texas) and didn't really make sense in what was nominally a Memphis-style 'que place. I usually go straight for the pulled pork platter, or the dry-rub ribs. But I think that many would agree with you about the location-to-location variability of RHB. Of the ones I would visit semi-regularly through the 90s, the original Arlington and the Laurel MD locations were reliably the best in the chain, particularly Laurel. Fairfax was okay, and Gaithersburg was astonishingly awful on almost every (well-spaced) visit. But it's been a couple of years since I made the rounds; perhaps the faces have changed since.

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My husband and I have stopped on numerous occassions at the RHB in Annapolis. It's alright, not the best we've ever had, but a decent highway stop. The RHB in Prince Frederick is not quite as good, and the one in Leesburg is the worst of the three we have tried. That being said, I can think of far worse options when driving home after a long day on the Chesapeake. I do miss TX BBQ, however! My hubby misses Carolina pulled pork- eastern style, of course :angry: There a couple places that we like- Black Hog in Frederick and Carter Que in Mt. Airy. Every once in awhile, Urban BBQ fixes my Texas dive food cravings!

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I've eaten at the Arlington location a few times (generally at the request of friends who live in that general vicinity and almost always a few months apart). I love BBQ and find myself, after driving by a few times saying, "maybe last time was an outlier" only to be smacked upside the head when they deliver my (always) bland food.

I don't think Rocklands is any bastion of great BBQ but I would much rather enjoy their onion rings and a sandwich than set foot in Red Hot and Blue.

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Funny enough, that is exactly what I have felt! Smacked my forehead after eating stumbling out of the Wilson Blvd. branch. Every three or four years or so, I used to step into the place and leave with head shaking. Earlier on, when Atwater was involved, the brisket, pulled pork and ribs were much much better. Of course, my memory is addled so that assessment could be unduly charitable.

I always felt the take out site (since closed) further up Wilson offered - for whatever reason - better quality than the restaurant. Take out pulled pork and ribs were significantly better there. Of maybe it was the New Amsterdam beer consumption at home that made it seem so much better in those days.

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I always felt the take out site (since closed) further up Wilson offered - for whatever reason - better quality than the restaurant. Take out pulled pork and ribs were significantly better there. Of maybe it was the New Amsterdam beer consumption at home that made it seem so much better in those days.

No, it was not an alcohol induced haze, the carry-out location was decidedly better in quality. They also offered a butter basted hard roll you could buy to make pulled pork sandwiches as an alternative to the crummy white bread hamburger bun they insist upon using to this day which has all the quality and taste you find in a hambuger bun at McDonald's. I was sad to see it close. There. I said it. I miss a chain restuarant outpost.

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I ate at the Laurel location for a while, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Then on subsequent visits, just as in the OP's experience, the quality tumbled. By a lot.

It's gotten to the point where I've sworn off Red Hot and Blue altogether, which is a shame, because it was a decent option there for a period of time. I haven't eaten there in nearly two years, and I never plan to again.

With that said though, if you put a gun to my head and made me choose, I would choose Red Hot and Blue over Famous Dave's any day of the week. I guess it has that going for it?

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We used to like the 19th St location. That's long gone now though.

I have also been to Rossyln (I think? Maybe Crystal City?) when a friend had a rehearsal dinner (!) there. It was bad. Oh, and I've been to the Annapolis location. Also not what I remembered from 19th St.

I want Dinosaur here.

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We used to like the 19th St location. That's long gone now though.

I have also been to Rossyln (I think? Maybe Crystal City?) when a friend had a rehearsal dinner (!) there. It was bad. Oh, and I've been to the Annapolis location. Also not what I remembered from 19th St.

I want Dinosaur here.

We tried two of their places in Annapolis. They were consistently terrible from beans to BBQ. Would it be fair to call it a fast food place trying to pass itself off as something more?

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Red Hot and Blue in Arlngton to close 

I suppose I've been there somewhere in the range of 10 to 40 times over the decades, maybe more.  I've probably been there twice in the last year or two and it was miserable.    Years ago I thought it was great.  This particular spot was an institution in my perspective, and it means another institution bites the dust.

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In the article you link, there's this comment by one "Willie Horton":

Considering RHB was co-founded by the late Lee Atwater, I suppose he'll still be able to roast meats quite easily in his current location.

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In the article you link, there's this comment by one "Willie Horton":

That was clever, but *harsh*. I remember reading an article (in the Post, I think) when Atwater was *really* sick, and I felt really badly for him - he was a changed man. It showed how he enjoyed just being driven around town so he could enjoy the sunlight. The Grim Reaper is the great equalizer and humbling to all.

Jason, thanks for the info about Sticky Fingers.

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That was clever, but *harsh*. I remember reading an article (in the Post, I think) when Atwater was *really* sick, and I felt really badly for him - he was a changed man. It showed how he enjoyed just being driven around town so he could enjoy the sunlight. The Grim Reaper is the great equalizer and humbling to all.

Jason, thanks for the info about Sticky Fingers.

I forgive my friends. I leave it to others, including a suppositious Providence, to forgive others.

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We were surprised to find the Red, Hot and Blue in Falls Church closed about a month ago. I had not heard anything about  it, and we were psyched for their bar-B-que. We found the place empty with a space available sign in the window. I hope they are not leaving the area, I like what they do, 

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The Falls Church location apparently suffered from low turnover, so they closed it.  I liked it because it was quick, casual and self-service (unlike the other locations that are all sit-down waiter service places).  The other locations are still going, but I have the feeling RH&B has its best days behind it.

Check out Dickie's Barbecue, a Dallas Texas chain now open on Gallows Road near the Dunn Loring Merrifield metro.  I think it's excellent value.  Hope it has enough turnover in this location to continue in the area.

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