Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fear And Loathing In Virginia

The first real stop in our summer sojourn to the Outer Banks took place at the Frostop Root Drive Inn in Charleston, West Virginia. Since all I got from that establishment was a Root Beer it's reviewed only at the Root Beer Blog. We did stop for a late lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Charleston, breaking a 6 year hiatus from eating there. I must say that, as Cracker Barrel's go the one in Charleston outshone any of the ones which made us stop eating there. While I likely won't be going into another any time soon, I was glad that the service and quality had improved.

We drove on through West Virginia to Charlottesville, Virginia, snacking and noshing on this and that until we got to our hotel and started getting serious about dinner. I figured that Barbecue might well be in order seeing as we were in Virginia and there might be something decent around. So, I asked the front desk and they recommended a place called "Big Jim's". I also picked up a dining guide for the area and they too seemed to think Big Jim's was pretty good. How wrong could they be? Plenty!

Big Jim's is stuck in a tiny row mall of about three fronts and a small parking lot. It looks a lot like a neighbourhood bar, which it is. The patrons of the place were a mix of locals and University folks of many stripes. The waitress was really nice despite and obviously overworked since she was the only person out there on the floor. We got a booth and placed our orders for drinks (Sweet Tea for me, a draft Redhook for my wife and lemonades for the kids) and sat back to decide on our food.

Now, everyone had recommended Big Jim's for the BBQ and that was what I had my heart set on. A nice pulled pork sandwich on a, a yummy taste of heaven! So that's what I ordered, and it came with fries which I don't particularly care for one way or another. My wife ordered a cheeseburger and onion rings and we got a hot dog and a grilled ham and cheese for the kiddies.

Little did I know that everyone else was getting the better of this deal and that it was the beginning of my Summer Sans Q! When everything arrived I was presented with a sandwich on a Kaiser bun, some food service fries and a serving of what some people might call cole slaw (I would not be one of those people). My wife's burger, on the other hand looked like a pretty good burger, hand shaped, thick and juicy with a side order of gleaming onion rings.

Let's talk about the barbecue for a moment, shall we? This poor imitation of barbecue was some stringy pork with no smoke taste and was drowned in sauce, insuring that any barbecue taste that might have been in the meat was killed forever. I have paid $.99 cents in gas stations for better "barbecue" than Big Jim's sells. This stuff likely came from a food service tray of frozen pork gloop that was rejected for use by the military in their MRE's. Not good. The fried were standard bagged and frozen food service fare, something to put on the plate to fill out the space. The cole slaw? Yuck. Nobody even tried with this stuff. It was limp, soggy and flavourless.

The cheeseburger, on the other hand was decent (my wife let me have a taste of hers to get the taste of the "barbecue" from my mouth). Thick, meaty and worth the price. The onion rings were a bit on the greasy side but that seems to be the norm in many places that serve "beer battered" rings. So, in the end the high point of the meal was their sweet tea, which was good.

All in all the good folks of Charlottesville, Virginia who gave me recommendations were dead wrong. Big Jim's Barbecue sucks, on any level. I definitely do not recommend them for a stop in and if Jim's is the best they have where Q is concerned....well, the less said the better. Next time I stop in Charlottesville it'll be with something other than BBQ in mind and Big Jim's won't be on my list of places to eat. You could save yourself some time, too by avoiding this place. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pork shoulder on the grill and I need some more hickory.

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