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Bob Wells

Willard's Real Pit BBQ, Owner Chris Janowski near Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly and in Reston

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Sthitch said:
I have not been to Dixie Bones, but reading the menu does not lead me to battle I-95 to try it. I have yet to find a place that can successfully pull-off smoking more than one type of meat (i.e. pork, beef, chicken,). I have found a few places that can smoke a mean shoulder and equally as good rips, but never a decent shoulder and decent brisket in the same place. Also, if you are going to smoke chicken, why would you only smoke the breasts? It is the least flavorful piece of meat on the bird, and dries out way too quickly to be properly smoked.

Sthitch: have you tried Willard's in Chantilly? For a jack-of-all-trades place they do a good job. Don't miss the cobblers!

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Sthitch: have you tried Willard's in Chantilly? For a jack-of-all-trades place they do a good job. Don't miss the cobblers!

I have, and did not care much for it. I think that the main reason why we cannot find decent 'Que in these parts is that the restaurants try to be all things to all people instead of concentrating on one thing and perfecting it. If you go to one of the truly great barbeque places you will find that they have very little other than the primary meat and the supporting cast (sides). I think that the economics of running a restaurant in this area will always make it cost prohibitive to keep a single meat establishment open for very long.

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I have, and did not care much for it.  I think that the main reason why we cannot find decent 'Que in these parts is that the restaurants try to be all things to all people instead of concentrating on one thing and perfecting it.  If you go to one of the truly great barbeque places you will find that they have very little other than the primary meat and the supporting cast (sides).  I think that the economics of running a restaurant in this area will always make it cost prohibitive to keep a single meat establishment open for very long.

 
Did you try the brisket? that's our favorite.

Good point about the single-meat theory. Willard's has a "Wall of Fame" listing great 'cue joints around the country and most are single-meat spots -- and of course that's because they are in single-meat barbecue areas. This being an area with no real barbecue tradition, there's no single meat to coalesce around.

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Did you try the brisket? that's our favorite.

Good point about the single-meat theory. Willard's has a "Wall of Fame" listing great 'cue joints around the country and most are single-meat spots -- and of course that's because they are in single-meat barbecue areas. This being an area with no real barbecue tradition, there's no single meat to coalesce around.

 
Do I feel a separate Willard's thread coming on? I hope so. For the last year I have been locked in a debate as to whether Willard's or Urban BBQ is my favorite joint in the area. Willard's definitely wins for menu diversity and portion size. Has anyone ever eaten one of their platters in a single sitting? They must give you at least a pound of pulled pork when you order it. Sides are excellent too, but last time I was there a friend complained about the beans. Doesn't matter to me, since I'm not a beans guy.

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Willard's is pretty ordinary as straight Q goes, but you can get it in a burrito, which does wonders for ordinary Q. And the sides are quite good.

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Did you try the brisket? that's our favorite.

Good point about the single-meat theory. Willard's has a "Wall of Fame" listing great 'cue joints around the country and most are single-meat spots -- and of course that's because they are in single-meat barbecue areas. This being an area with no real barbecue tradition, there's no single meat to coalesce around.

I did try the brisket, and thought that it was a little unbalanced. It tasted like they used the same Hickory to smoke it as they did the pork. I believe that hickory is a very poor wood for beef, and that oak (or even better oak augmented with Pecan) to be a superior wood for beef (I hate the overpowering flavor of mesquite). This comes back to my contention that multiple meat establishments are always going to be the pinnacle of 'Que. All of that being said, Willard's was not bad, I just feel that if I am going to trek out to Chantilly I might as well just go to Leesburg and get a mighty midget pulled pork sandwich.

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Do I feel a separate Willard's thread coming on? I hope so. For the last year I have been locked in a debate as to whether Willard's or Urban BBQ is my favorite joint in the area. Willard's definitely wins for menu diversity and portion size. Has anyone ever eaten one of their platters in a single sitting? They must give you at least a pound of pulled pork when you order it. Sides are excellent too, but last time I was there a friend complained about the beans. Doesn't matter to me, since I'm not a beans guy.

We would concur with your friends that the beans at Willards are NVG. But, forgettable beans seems to be a common problem at cue joints.

The cornbread has been very variable, ranging from moist to almost inedibly dry.

Speaking of their menu diversity, I like their gumbo a lot.

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Two f'in stars for Willard's "Real" Pit "BBQ"? I know it's not TS, but there has to be some kind of consistency. And this place is not. good.

 
It is 1 at best.

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Yeah, but is "alright" half a star less than a whole bunch of places that have been reviewed recently?

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The cornbread has been very variable, ranging from moist to almost inedibly dry.

 
After reading this thread, I wanted to make sure to order a Texas Sliced Beef Brisket Sandwich ($6.59, with Mac & Cheese and Mashed Potatoes). This is fun brisket (if brisket can be "fun,") but I preferred the KC Burnt Ends Platter ($9.59, with Black-eyed Corn and Baked Beans) which sounded risky, but had better flavor from the occasional charred piece, and the meat was thick enough so that the pre-saucing didn't get to it as much, although the cornbread was almost inedibly dry. A Bud Light ($2.75) and an outsized Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie ($1.29) rounded out the meal.

I'd never been to Willard's before, and consider it in the second tier of area barbecue, side-by-side with Urban Barbecue (*). In fact, I may prefer Willard's to Urban, and in that context, consider it underrated.

Cheers,
Rocks.

(*) I have not been to the Rockville Urban since they got their new smoker.

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I decided a long time ago that my favorite oversauced meat in that strip-mall was the General Tso's Chicken at the take-away at the other end.

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Went for lunch today. IMO willards is on the top 5 for BBQ around DC area, not necessarily the hardest to do but it still has solid Q with consistant sides.

I go once a month and alway get Brisket. Today, once again order brisket. However, it was different. Had a nice mild smoke flavor and it was incredibably juicy, soft and beefy. I have eaten at willard's a lot and their brisk is good but never been great. Today, it was great. Was it a one time thing or have they step it up a notch or two. I hope the latter but I'll see in a few week.

I kid you not. It was as good as the stuff I've had in TX and for the first time at willard's I did not use their sauce. I'm still thinking about that brisket.

YUM!!!

Soup

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I am so far behind on my reviews that I'll never catch up - but this is one that I really want to get out there because it involves a now-funny anecdote (it wasn't so funny at the time), and a kindhearted, good Samaritan.

This afternoon, I had lunch at Willard's, and ordered a Kansas City Burnt Ends Platter ($11.99) which came with two sides, baked beans and collard greens, and a Diet Coke ($1.56, not a typo) for a huge, 24-ounce styrofoam cup, with a self-service fill at the fountain.

First, a congenital defect that I have (it's either congenital or it's happened slowly over time). We've all taken a gulp of liquid and had it go down our windpipe, right? It happens to me on occasion, and after the inevitable 45 seconds of coughing, it goes away - no big deal, and it doesn't happen very often. Yet, 5-10 years ago, I noticed a pattern that makes it happen, consistently: I take a gulp of liquid, then turn my head to the right before swallowing, then swallow, and if I'm not thinking (and who thinks when they take a gulp of a drink?), that is when it goes down my windpipe. Not when I turn my head to the left; only to the right - so there's some anatomical asymmetry that causes my windpipe to open up, only when my head is turned to the right.

I got my food, filled my drink, walked over to the sauce counter, and noticed about a dozen different sauces, some in a bottle; others house made. Well, I chose a house-made sauce for my collards, and squirted about three squirts of what was labeled "XXX," not even giving it much thought. They also had a separate habanero-pepper sauce, and I'm pretty sure that what I selected was the hottest-of-the-hot. I really wasn't thinking, and I don't have any huge problem with a small amount of hot sauce, so what was the big deal?

Well, the big deal was that I took a seat at the far left of the front counter, along the window looking outside the restaurant. Down the counter from me, on the right, were two men who I only indirectly noticed out of the corner of my eye. I noticed them when I took a bite of the collard greens, and I guess I must have turned my head towards them and swallowed.

Then, a few seconds later, I began to cough. And not only did I begin to cough, I began to feel like someone poured acid inside my windpipe. Only then did I realize that a couple droplets of that XXX sauce must have seeped into my windpipe as I took that bite of collard greens. As the seconds, and then the minutes, passed, it got worse and worse. I would cough perhaps every fifteen seconds, and the burning was on an ever-increasing slope. After several minutes of this, I realized that, wait a minute, this isn't supposed to happen like this. I took ice from my soda, but what was I supposed to do with it, cram it down my windpipe? There was nothing I could do - water didn't help, cornbread didn't help (it came with cornbread, too), and I was really hurting. And I started coughing more-and-more, as this XXX sauce was irritating my windpipe.

About five minutes passed, and things continued to decline. I finally accepted the fact that, okay, sometime in the next twenty seconds, I was going to throw up, and there wasn't a damned thing I could do to stop it. I got up, left my food and book on the counter, walked out the front door, put my drink on the roof of my car, opened the door, started the engine, and blasted the air conditioner - somehow, the cold air blowing on my face made things a little less terrible. I was sitting there, with the car door open, like a rag doll, unaware of any of my surroundings, and just praying for the passage of time. I'm not even sure if I was fully in the car, or if my legs were dangling out the door - I don't remember.

What I do remember is that I started to feel a bit better, just a bit, and noticed one of the men sitting at the counter walking up to my car. I didn't realize at the time that he was approaching me; I just thought maybe he was walking to his car. He leaned in the door, and said, "Hey, man, are you okay?" It was then that I realized that these two guys thought that I was having a major medical episode.

I felt well enough to stand, so I got up, and said, "Thanks for asking. You're a good person," and patted him on the shoulder. We walked back in as I told him what happened, and I said, "You must have thought I was having a heart attack." He responded, "I did." At this point, the tension eased in his mind from witnessing a major medical trauma, to watching some dolt getting nailed from hot sauce. I heard him tell his friend, "He had hot sauce go down his windpipe," and I looked at his friend and said, "I thought I was going to die!" All three of us laughed at that point, because it had turned into slapstick comedy, and no damage was done.

I got my stuff (I was still pretty worn out from this), got into my car, wrote my email address down, and walked back inside. "If either of you two ever need any help with restaurants, just write me," I said. They looked up and thanked me, and I thanked them back. The truth is: the gentleman who came to my car is the *only person* who was in a position to notice that I may have been having an acute medical emergency, and he actively did something about it. You read all these stories about people ignoring Joshua Bell playing violin in the Metro, and some injured girl lying there in Chinatown being ignored, but this story is the exact opposite: this good Samaritan could have made a life-or-death difference because of what he did. I was never in any danger, but I sure as heck could have been.

So, whoever you two are, THANK YOU. And I meant what I said about writing me for help, even if it's ten years from now.

The barbecue was finished over the course of the afternoon - there was too much sauce (the meat was pre-sauced), and the collards really weren't all *that* hot; it's just that the trachea isn't necessarily fortified against ghost peppers, or whatever Satanic mixture is in that XXX sauce!

This portion of food was so large that it is the entirety of what I'm going to eat today.

NB - Chicago Dawg House (in the same strip mall as Willard's) is permanently closed, and they closed recently because I could swear they were open when I drove by there a couple of weeks ago.

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Ha! Feel you, bro.

My kids are used to my love of hotness. I once aspirated Pucker Butt Carolina Reaper hot sauce from a taco. Daughters thought I was going to die. So did I. They won't go anywhere near that sauce because of what it "did to Dad"

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Willards BBQ is apparently close to opening a 2nd location, which will be in Reston at the Home Depot Shopping center.  Signage is up, not sure of date.

BTW - they are open now and business appears brisk.  Line was out the door on Thursday of last week around dinner time.

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Made it by today and got a pulled pork sandwich and 1/2 rack to share.  Fantastic as expected - was a steady stream of people and it was later than the typical dinner time rush.  Nice people, and a welcome addition to the Reston area.

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2 hours ago, Mark Dedrick said:

When I first moved to DC just over 20 years ago we would go here frequently. To someone who at the time had never been to the American south I thought the barbecue was good, the atmosphere was fun, and Georgetown was one of just a couple of happening neighborhoods in DC for young people, so we'd meet friends and go out after. And it wasn't that expensive which was key because we didn't have much money at the time. The first five years we lived here this was also probably the restaurant we took guests to the most often. I suppose I'm sad that it's closing, although I also don't think I've been here in at least ten years. 

We were also just talking about bisque, and although there is a growing barbecue presence in the immediate area, I thought I'd mention that I had lunch at Willard's in Chantilly yesterday (a KC Burnt Ends Platter with Cole Slaw, Collard Greens, and Corn Bread). Like Old Glory, Willard's is a really *fun* restaurant - even getting carryout there is fun - the barbecue is always good if not profound, and they give you a *lot* of food for the money. And it's right down the street from NOVATTC. :)

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On 2/27/2018 at 5:27 PM, DonRocks said:

We were also just talking about bisque, and although there is a growing barbecue presence in the immediate area, I thought I'd mention that I had lunch at Willard's in Chantilly yesterday (a KC Burnt Ends Platter with Cole Slaw, Collard Greens, and Corn Bread). Like Old Glory, Willard's is a really *fun* restaurant - even getting carryout there is fun - the barbecue is always good if not profound, and they give you a *lot* of food for the money. And it's right down the street from NOVATTC. :)

I got a Beef Brisket Platter today, instead of the KC Burnt Ends which I had last time - I prefer the Brisket, as the Burnt Ends weren't all that crispy, and were extremely fatty (to a fault); the Brisket is plenty moist without having undue amounts of pure fat, and for my palate, it's a better choice here. 

For sides, I got Baked Beans, Black-Eyed Corn (yes - it's Black-Eyed Peas mixed with Corn, and works pretty well together), and Corn Bread (which is always included, and is always merely average). The Beans are intensely sauced - they aren't *over*-sauced; the sauce is just pretty intense, with a blackstrap molasses-type of sweetness. 

With a drink, this meal was in the $15s, and it was quite a lot of food - enough to feed a husband and wife who aren't exceedingly hungry - Willlard's hasn't missed a beat despite having opened a second location. This is not great barbecue - not great enough to take a vacation for; it's very good barbecue - good enough for a visit if you're in the area. I have Willard's ranked as the #1 Multiple Locations barbecue house in the DC area - if anyone disagrees with this, please let me know. I keep choosing Willard's over Mission Barbecue (which also has a branch in Chantilly), and I'm thinking next time I'll mix it up a little bit with a visit to Mission.

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