Arlington, VA 22201
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.
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.
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.