There's a little piece of yesteryear situated along Route 3 as you pass through Fredericksburg, VA; a subtle reminder that there was life before fast food establishments dotted and perhaps, blighted, every corner of the landscape.
At one time, folks gathered at local eateries like this and chatted, bonded and actually shared a meal without feeling the need to text between bites.
It was a simpler time and remnants of that vanished era are becoming harder and harder to detect.
I am a lover of both history and auto racing, and being such has brought me through Fredericksburg, Virginia many times over the course of the years. In particular because ~ first, this area of northern Virginia is a hotbed of history for Civil War buffs with several battlefields such as Fredericksburg (1862), Chancellorsville (1863), the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (1864) traversing the same swath of ground. And secondly, it is along the route to such iconic and historic race tracks as Richmond International Raceway and Martinsville Speedway, which together, play host to NASCAR's top three series' a total of seven times per year.
Though each for separate reasons, my jaunts through Virginia have been similar in execution each time ~ get within striking distance of my main objective, and see as much as there is to see of the surrounding sites along the way. This approach, though rewarding in the sightseeing sense, does not often lend itself to go off in search of the next hidden"foodie" gem. When in Virginia, it always seems that reveling in Civil War history or basking in the smell of burning rubber and race fuel take precedence, and my food discoveries often come by recommendation or purely by accident.
The discovery of Allman's Pit Cooked Bar-B-Q happened quite by chance while traveling to a race in Richmond with a dear friend. Kim and I can blabber for hours about every topic under the sun and barely come up for air, and this occasion was no different.
It was during one of these extended periods of verbal elaboration that he happened to mention a local barbeque joint that he discovered with his brother on a earlier trip. He related how the place was nothing to look at, but oozed of old-time atmosphere with pretty good barbeque to boot. This place sounded right up my alley and we settled on heading there for lunch.
"The chrome stools which lined the counter made it easy to imagine the thousands of conversations which must've transpired here over the decades..."
Although Kim tried to forewarn me, I was unprepared to be vaulted into yesteryear as abruptly as I was. I took a deep breath. I was in my element and I wanted to savor the moment.
We took our seats at one of the eight or so square tables which filled the room. I draped my jacket over my chair and made small talk, while casually canvasing and absorbing my surroundings.
I gazed at the Formica counter with stainless steel edging. It obviously was of the style popular in the sixties, perhaps even earlier. The chrome stools which lined the counter made it easy to imagine the thousands of conversations which must've transpired here over the decades; who should run for sheriff, who was robbed of a win at Saturday night's dirt track race, and perhaps a much more serious (and heated) civil rights discussion. I would venture to guess all could have, and most likely did, take place right at that very counter.
My eyes darted to the menu hanging on the wall just above an old-fashioned milkshake machine. I wondered how many pairs of eyes no longer among the living gazed upon its hand-printed lettering, and for a split second, I drifted off... I was in Mayberry waiting for Barney Fife to walk through the door and take a seat at the counter beside Andy Taylor, asking about Aunt Bee; that is until the low drone of a ceiling fan humming a chorus of "thwuck-thwuck-thwuck" woke me from my stupor to find a young waitress of college age asking, "Would you like something to drink, sir?"
I ordered a coffee and continued to observe a room which was, for lack of a better term ~ welcoming old. And if it wasn't for the young waitress's facial jewelry, I very well could've been back in the fifties.
With a little digging, I learned that Allman's has been what they term, "slingin' que" since 1954, and "Mom" Brown has been serving family recipes for the past half century.
They serve their pork barbeque two ways; pulled (sliced) or minced (chopped). Having been there several times since, I've tried it both ways, finding the pulled variety preferable.
The recipe they use is not as traditionally smoky as most barbeque, but it still has nice flavor. The one drawback I found is that although the pork is served unsauced (which I have no problem with), they only have one type of sauce available and it a tad on the sweet side for my taste. I prefer something with a bit more zing.
"And if it wasn't for the young waitress's facial jewelry, I very well could've been back in the fifties."
The pork barbeque at most times, is usually moist and full of porky goodness, although I reiterate, it is not of smoky variety. I am one who actually prefers that smokiness in barbeque, and although I miss that element immensely, I find the offering no less enjoyable.
The home-style cole slaw which is touted o be made with "Allman's Famous Dressing" was light, crisp and balanced, while the red skin potato salad was tasty, though perhaps a bit on the "heavy" side. The bun was a complete non-essential to the meal and was in fact, dry at worst and bland at best.
The beans are served thick and rich, and make you immediately realize you are south of the Mason-Dixon Line. My only complaint is that they could've been served slighter warmer. The hush puppies are golden brown and not overtly greasy, which my health-conscious, middle-aged body appreciates.
All in all, Allman's is a worthy of a visit. The portions are generous and it is a local favorite where you can get an entree for under ten bucks and get a taste of the 'Old South' while immersing yourself in a little piece of Americana that seems to fading fast.
And that alone makes it a must visit in my book.
1299 Jefferson Davis Hwy
Fredericksburg, VA 22401