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GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY FOR PORK BARREL BBQ

The Del Ray BBQ Boys Celebrate Their New Restaurant (and a food writer inadvertently becomes part of the story)
Jordan Wright
Whisk and Quill
October 2009

Investor "Mango" Mike and wife Donna with their Pork Barrel BBQ bus - photo by Jordan Wright

Investor Mango Mike and wife Donna with their Pork Barrel BBQ bus - photo by Jordan Wright


I arrived early on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray last week. Brett Thompson and Heath Hall, creators and owners of Pork Barrel BBQ were setting up the tables, pitching the tent and catching up with old friends and supporters in anticipation of the day’s groundbreaking ceremony for their new restaurant venture. In July I wrote about the “Del Ray BBQ Boys”, as I had nicknamed them, for localkicks.com after meeting them and sampling their delicious wares at National Harbor’s Food and Wine Festival. NBC News Washington had picked up my story and it had skyrocketed to tens of thousands more “eyes” on it.

Thompson walked over and said, “This restaurant is all because of you and your story about us. We want to thank you.”

Stunned, I stammered, “What are you talking about?”

“Well, “Mango” Mike read your story on us,” he revealed. (“Mango” Mike, of the eponymous restaurant on Duke Street.) “He googled it up and that’s how he found out about us and offered to back us in this restaurant.”

cut the ribbon with Mayor Bill Euille (center) - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

cut the ribbon with Mayor Bill Euille (center) - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Of course it was also because back in September they had appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank series and considerably more people had come to know them and their story as former Hill staffers and Virginia-based entrepreneurs.

I looked around at their dream come true. On hand were Alexandria’s Mayor, Bill Euille, Vice Mayor, Kerry Donnelly, Councilman Frank Fannon and Linda and Steve Hubbard, dressed in their UPS chocolate brown and gold uniforms, who own the fulfillment center, where over 1,000 bottles and jars of Pork Barrel BBQ’s fabulous sauce and rub are shipped to eager customers around the country. Everyone came ready to cheer on the boys. Restaurant backers “Mango” Mike and Bill Blackburn, arriving in their massive gold touring bus, were doing the meet-and-greet, while pork smokers wafted waves of heavenly barbecue aroma over the crowd of supporters who milled around with neighborhood business owners and Del Ray’s artsy crowd.

Breaking ground in Del Ray with ABC's Shark Hunt film crew  - photo by Jordan Wright

Breaking ground in Del Ray with ABC's Shark Hunt film crew - photo by Jordan Wright

A couple of local newspaper publishers doing their own event coverage added to the eclectic local crowd along with a “P-O-R-K” fan club made up of four skinny half-naked pig-snouted students from Bishop Ireton High School, all eager to be in on the celebration and tasting. It was the usual set up for a groundbreaking. Golden shovels and giant scissors gleamed in the warm September sun.

But one thing was different…stunningly noticeably different…from any other ribbon cutting in any other town in North America, or the world for that matter.

Because, for this small groundbreaking ceremony for two nice guys in business for less than a year, taking place in a small suburb of Alexandria, Virginia across from the local farmers market held on Saturday mornings in a dentist’s parking lot, Hollywood was on site to cover it. Big time!

ABC’s Shark Tank film crew had shown up full tilt with cameraman, soundman and microphones to record the event for a later show in the boys continuing success saga; and invitees, who knew about the planned coverage in advance, were checking out the action…playing it cool for the cameras.

Pork Barrel BBQ Fan Club chows down - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

Pork Barrel BBQ Fan Club chows down - Photo Credit Jordan Wright

After all the picture-taking and filming died down lunch was served on the “lot” and I again tasted Bret and Heath’s barbeque pork that they coat with olive oil, massage with their secret rub and smoke for 13 hours. I savored it. I gave it time to process the deep and complex flavors. I palate-checked. I concluded. If they recreate this in their new restaurant, poised to open in Spring 2010, the tiny village of Del Ray will be on America’s food trail map forever. For, dear readers, this is the best barbeque I have ever tasted…smoky, juicy, tender and sweet. Pork nirvana. I can hardly wait till spring!

If you can hardly wait, you can order their products at www.porkbarrelbbq.com.

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