Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company

3471 Washington Blvd
Arlington, VA  22201
Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company on Urbanspoon

I drive by Rocklands every day on my way to work and on my home.  I remember eating there when I first moved back but that's about all the I remember.  It's pretty much just the land mark I use to remind me to make a left turn into the local Giant Food Supermarket.  That being said, it's the summertime and I'm being inundated by specials about grilling, barbeque, etc...which makes me crave some good barbecue.  Since it is a regular part of my day, I decided to eat dinner there three times over the span of about two weeks so I could sample a few of their types of barbecue.

Even though its a bit away from the busier areas of Ballston and Clarendon, you can't miss the place. There's a big ass sign that says "Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company" on the side of the building that you see from pretty far away coming from Clarendon  Inside, place is pretty big with a large main dining room that has an upstairs and an outdoor patio deck.  I really like the decorations which are an eclectic mix of odds and ends that doesn't really lend itself to definition.  It just seems like all the stuff fits together from DC subway maps to old style promotional posters.  When you walk in, you order straight from the cashier, pay up, receive a little cardholder thingy and then they'll find you and bring you your food.

The first time I went there, I ordered their Blue Plate Special of the Day.  This was pulled chicken with a red rooster barbecue sauce along with two sides which were macaroni & cheese and mashed potatoes.  I think generally the idea behind their sandwiches is to slather as much meat onto a plain bun as possible and let the seasoning, the meat and barbecue sauce do the talking.  I've never had pulled chicken before and hopefully when I have it again, it will be good as the first time.  The BBQ sauce had quite a bit of heat mixed with some sweetness but wasn't so overwhelming that it obscured the smoky flavor of the chicken.  The mashed potatoes felt a bit too dried out to me and a bit chalky.  I liked the consistency and creaminess of the mac & cheese and I've always had a soft spot for mac & cheese that used shell pasta so in my mind this was great even before I tasted it.

I decided to order take out the next time I went to Rocklands.  I felt like if I was going to eat at a barbecue place then I should try their classic barbecue.  Unfortunately, they were out of pork spare ribs so I got a half order of baby back ribs with baked beans and something called Texas Corn Pudding.  They wrapped the ribs in some wax paper and foil and when I unwrapped it, the ribs were still steaming hot.  The barbecue sauce was in a separate container along with the sides.  I piled it all on a plate and went at it.  I didn't drown the ribs in BBQ sauce but I was pretty generous.  The meat fell off the bone easily but I found that the sauce was a little too sweet for my tastes.  The pork itself a little dried out and overcooked.  The same could be said for the sides as when I ate both the beans and the corn pudding, I found myself looking for moistness.  I think that the food may have continued cooking in their takeout containers/wrappings and was pushed past their optimal done-ness.

For my third time there, I went with their brisket and decided to eat there again.  For sides, I got red beans and rice along with the apple compote.  The brisket was piled high on a plain bun and covered with a deep rich sauce.  The smoky brisket flavor really came through and the sauce was perfectly balanced between being sweet and savory.  I liked that the rice was served a little on the fluffy side as the texture melded well with the red beans.  The apple compote was a  great cool, sweet companion to a pre-dominantly savory plate.  I especially liked that there was more brisket than bread so that you had to eat pieces of brisket separately as they dropped off while you desperately try to manage the sandwich.

I don't know if I would necessarily call Rocklands a really good barbecue joint as my three visits over the past two weeks only produced a Meatloafian result ("Two out of three ain't bad..." -- yes, it's in your head now).  That being said, I don't think I was necessarily looking for that.  Rocklands is convenient to my apartment and it's easy enough to stop by if I want a quick dinner or lunch.  The setting is pretty cool and the food will hit the right spots if you're craving barbecue.  So, what I think I was looking for was a reliable place to get a quick and flavorful bite that wasn't fast food.  Rocklands totally fits that bill and while it won't be the Salt Lick anytime soon, it will be like my favorite sweater:  comfortable, dependable and nothing too fancy.


  1. Rocklands is a great neighborhood restaurant, even if it doesn't have the "best" BBQ in the area. I go there for the convivial atmosphere, beer, patio and chopped pork sandwiches.


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