Updated: Oct 1, 2019
One of the best parts about this trip is that we're able to try amazing regional food, that we don’t really get in New England. And the further south we go, the more new cuisines start to pop up. First crab & grouper began appearing on more and more menus, now collard greens & grits are pretty much a given at any place we go. And we can’t wait to try some true Cajun & Cuban inspired meals. But there’s been one type of cooking that we’ve really been searching for that’s proven quite elusive: barbecue. Whenever I had a southerner at my bar back in Massachusetts, they would always tell me about this BBQ joint that was so good it would change my world. We’ve stopped at a few places up north that hailed for being “the best barbecue around”, but I wouldn’t say any of them changed my world. That is until we met Dave.
We were in Virginia Beach for a couple of days, enjoying the beach, sampling the local food & beer, generally getting a feel for the city. We love talking to the locals where ever we go. They always give better recommendations and help us avoid the many tourist traps. And on Virginia Beach, you can bet there are a lot of them. Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to restaurants, but two kept popping up more than any others: Doc Taylor’s & Dave’s BBQ. We stopped at Doc Taylor’s first and it was awesome, but we were a little hesitant on Dave’s at first. We had some disappointing BBQ up until then, and we really weren’t expecting good BBQ until at least South Carolina. It was our last day at Virginia Beach and so we decided to give it a shot. But when we looked up their hours, they had already closed. We looked through the menu on the website to see what we would be missing, but when we read the about page, we knew we had to stay another day. We were sold.
Dave’s BBQ is Virginia Beach’s best-kept secret. It’s hidden away about three miles away from the beach right off of Virginia Beach Blvd. It’s not visible from the road, just keep your eyes peeled for a little hand-painted ‘Dave’s BBQ’ A-frame sign. With all the hype we heard about Dave's BBQ, I made sure to stay incredibly vigilant so we wouldn’t miss that turn. Entering in with our Blog Bus we found a tiny unassuming building with a flaming pig on wheels for logo hanging above. Sweet, we found it, let's go in!
We entered in around noon to a room full of business people on their lunch break. Ties flung over shoulders, sleeves rolled up, and makeshift napkin bibs aplenty. The interior was quaint, a couple of tables of four on the left wall, and a short counter with another four seats on the right. Dave’s has outdoor seating as well, with a little six-seat counter right on the front porch, and a couple of picnic tables off to the side. Looking around inside, the walls were decorated with tons of kitschy tin signs proclaiming to all who enter, pretension isn't their thing—we absolutely loved that! Even their menu was as dressed down as could be, handwritten on pieces of butcher paper and hung above the counter, just to tell you one last time before you order—we got meat. And there, below the sheets of butcher paper, is the maestro himself, Dave. A man is as talented as he is humble. At Dave’s BBQ the menu is straightforward & delicious.
Brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, sausages, and ribs, all smoked in-house over a wood-fire pit. All of Dave’s signature smoked meats are available to go by the pound, served as platters with your choice of classic BBQ sides, or even as a sandwich. We decided to get a little bit of everything (mostly because we couldn’t decide so we just went with it all), their smoked chicken salad sandwich, a two meat platter with beef brisket & pulled pork and a jalapeño & cheddar sausage sandwich. Since the inside was full, we opted to sit out on the porch. We got settled in and I just couldn’t believe how good this food smells. Seriously, the aroma just filled the air, totally surrounding me, I could even see the smoke. Wait….I think I smell the smoker. I'm a curious one and I just had to see where it was coming from. Just around the corner, past the picnic tables, the smoker revealed itself. And like an oyster with its pearl, the smoker opened to reveal it’s hidden delight—smoked ribs! It looked so good my mouth was watering uncontrollably, for the first time in my life, I could really relate to a dog. Once the smoker was closed, I snapped back to reality and realized I left Chris alone with the food. So I ran back to the porch to take some pictures before he ate it all.
First up, we have the smoked chicken salad sandwich, served with lettuce, tomato and spicy mayonnaise on a buttery croissant. It was extraordinary. Such a creamy, savory, smokey paradise, There was such an intense smokey flavor from something so creamy, I could barely wrap my head around it. I had to take a moment with each bite, savoring every last bit. We also got a side of Dave’s spicy coleslaw to go with the chicken sandwich. If you don’t know, Chris loves a good coleslaw. He also gets it whenever it's available, and unfortunately, coleslaw is one of those dishes that doesn’t vary too much from restaurant to restaurant. That being said, Dave’s spicy coleslaw has cemented its place in Chris’ coleslaw-of-fame, beating out his hometown favorite, and that’s saying something. This coleslaw was interesting & deliciously complex, it’s tangy, savory, a little smokey, and just when you think you’ve sorted out all the flavors, this wave of spiciness gently washes over your palette. I was surprised by how much he loved it (he’s not one for spicy), but to be fair he wasn’t even sweating too bad.
Next, we had the double meat platter with pulled pork & brisket. Now, to say that the brisket was just tender is an insult to the cow. It was so tender, just picking up your fork caused it to fall apart. And once you took a bite? There are not enough words in the English language to describe what I tasted. So I just kept eating instead. The pulled pork was equally fantastic. Me & Chris would always make pulled pork in a crockpot while we were working on the bus. But our crockpot pork compared to Dave’s smoked pulled pork? We might as well have cooked cardboard, there was no comparison. Along with smoking his own meats, Dave also makes his own sauces (a sweet bbq, spicy bbq, hot sauce, and—what we think is—a chili-infused oil). But please, as Dave himself asks, try it without the sauces first, sometimes too much sauce can kill what's underneath—and believe me—you do not want to be missing out on the naked version of these meats!
Last, but certainly not least, we tried their special, Jalapeño & Cheddar Sausage sandwich topped with, again, that amazing spicy coleslaw and with a side of baked beans. Coming from 'Bean Town' you would think I had some phenomenal baked beans... strangely enough, it's a common misconception. Dave's baked beans make Boston's look inedible! Seriously, as for a side dish that most owners look the other way? Dave decided its all about the details & added flavor to his beans with a surprise of smoked pulled pork- it was truly amazing. The jalapeno cheddar stuffed sausage was my holy grail. Spicy & cheesy smoked sausage? That has Ally Voner written all over it. Three links were cut in half and piled high atop a bun creating a monster sandwich that must be devoured. Chris was feeling the spice on this one, but luckily the coleslaw provided him relief (that is until the spiciness of the slaw kicked In!) But for a heat lover like myself, this was absolutely phenomenal. The sausage was cooked to perfection, hot, spicy, smokey, and oh so juicy. We were quickly approaching a meat overdose, so we had to cut our losses and get a box to go.
Dave's BBQ is the real deal. No propane, no electric smoker, just wood, fire, and meat. It is clear as day to anyone that tries his food, Dave knows what he’s doing. If you're ever in Virginia Beach, stop looking for a place to eat on the touristy shoreline. Put the ocean to your back, and go find that little white sign, because Dave's BBQ (excuse my language) makes damn good smoked meat. If you’re hosting an event or gathering, check out Dave’s BBQ, they do catering as well, and are sure to impress. After weeks of searching, we’ve finally found what real good barbecue is. The locals had our back with their recommendations, and we are so happy we made a point to stay an extra day. Because this barbecue changed our world!
More Pictures of Dave's BBQ below!
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