Finally, Good BBQ Is Located In Virginia
My search for really good BBQ in Virginia is over. Not that I won't continue to try and find what I consider good BBQ in the Commonwealth, but I must admit that yesterday I stumbled across the best BBQ I have had in Virginia since relocating here in early '71. I say stumbled because I had never heard of the place before and accidentally saw it as I was pulling into a 7-11 to ask for directions. It was near lunch time, so Dave and I decided to give it a try.
The building looked like something out of the 50s and sho 'nuff, there was a sign outside the somewhat aged looking brick building that read "Herb's BBQ" Across the bottom of the sign were the words "since 1951." I had a feeling I was going to like this place.
Inside, we were greeted by an attractive young waitress who looked and talked like she might be from 'down home.' The interior was definitely not fancy but clean and neat. There must have been enough seating for probably 30-35 people and I noticed a handmade sign on the wall which read "Welcome Back Herb." By this time, I was having a really good feeling.
The prices were reasonable and the menu showed that Herb's had what you would expect in a BBQ joint. For you newcomers, don't think because I am calling Herb's a "joint" that I intend it as a put down. That's simply what we used to call these places when I lived in North Carolina.
Restaurant and cafe just don't seem right.
My capacity is not as great as some so I ordered only a sandwich instead of a full meal. Man, did that sandwich bring back memories. It tasted just like so many sandwiches I ate growing up when there was no shortage of eating establishments (joints) that served them. Chopped and with slaw. Bun slightly steamed at $2.25. They had "pulled" BBQ but I'll leave that for others.
I asked if the owner was in and the waitress replied that he was so I sent a message that I would like to talk with him if he could spare the time. In a few minutes Herb Brinkley came from the kitchen and we engaged in a little BBQ talk. He is 75 and conversation with him was as easy as it would have been with an old friend. He told me of beginning to work at Herbs in 1951 when it had another name and his several attempts to retire. Each time things didn't work out with the new owners so he has returned each time. I asked if he had any plans to leave anytime soon and he said that he did not. He looked contented and the customers looked the same.
We agreed that years ago a "combination plate" meant that both BBQ and Brunswick Stew were served on the plate. In recent years, "Combination Plate" has come to mean both BBQ and Fried Chicken. Pulled BBQ is another term that is fairly recent and we agreed that it probably came from the early 60s when "pig pullings" or "pig pickins" became the vogue.
I asked Herb if he was familiar with Jim Early's book on North Carolina BBQ and he said his son had given him a copy of a couple of years ago. I told him I had met Jim several months ago in Whitley's in Murfreesboro.
I bought a pound of BBQ to go at $6.00 and I now wish I had gotten more. Next time I will do better in this regard.
Oh yeah, I just realized I haven't told you where Herb's is located. It is on Highway 13/32 west of Suffolk, Va. not too far from the private airport on the same side of the road. If you get on the right numbered highway, just stop and ask somebody where it is. Chances are that Herb's will have been there longer than the place where you stop.
One other thing Herb told me that I would like to pass on. A former waitress at Herb's attended night school and received her degree from Old Dominion University some time back. After graduation she worked for the Norfolk Virginian Pilot for several years but has now moved to Los Angeles where she is a tv producer. Her stories revolve around Christmas and she has had several aired with such titles as "Santa and Pete", 'The Christmas Wish", "The Christmas Box" and "Guess Who's Coming For Christmas." Now she has written a book entitled "Secret Santa" and this past Christmas she returned to Herb's for a book signing. Approximately 200 people came to purchase her book and to have it inscribed by Beth Polson, the former waitress at Herb's. Bet there's not another BBQ joint that can lay claim to that kind of fame.
I'll write later about our visit to the Suffolk airport. Eight World War 11 airplanes are being restored there and we had a wonderful time for an entire afternoon talking with the restorers. I plan to return and maybe next time I will take a camera along. This site is still a little weak in the photography department and I think I'm going to have to talk to my Head Photographer who is me. I always wanted to head up an entire organization and now I getting a chance to do it. It has problems that don't show to the public. Maybe I need a Board of Directors. That ought to be fun.