Forest Gump once said that "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." The same could be said when visiting Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company.
Rocklands is a local chain that has built a reputation as one of the go-to "Q" restaurants in the D.C. area. We have been to three of its four locations. The one common factor among all the restaurants we have tried is inconsistency.
The décor of each restaurant is the first example of Rocklands inconsistency. The original location in Glover Park, outside of Georgetown, is mainly a carryout business. It has one common table, which few people tend to sit at. Its Alexandria location is the regional headquarters for Rocklands' catering and packaging business. It too has limited seating. Both locations serve canned drinks and beer; have ice tea and lemonade on tap. The newest location in Arlington is by far the most expansive. A full seating area inside and outside, big screen tvs, a soda fountain machine, and a full bar complete with happy hour prices. The only similarities between each location has been the free peanuts available while you wait, the rolls of papers towels on each table, and the magazine covers recognizing Rocklands for one reason or another.
The inconsistencies continue with the food. There have been times that we have attended that the ribs have been good. Times where it has not been bad, but not as good. There are times when one of us would have a meaty cut and the other a bony cut. Times when one of us could not finish the amount of ribs on the plate, and the other needs extras to fill full. Times when the ribs are tender, times when the ribs are tough. These inconsistencies are even noticeable from bone to bone. Times when one bone would be tender, the next bone slightly tougher. Times when one bone would be well cooked, the next bone burnt.
However, what you can expect is an above average meal for the D.C. area. The meat itself is decently cooked. Its not especially tender, nor especially tough – just somewhere in between. When it comes to the smoke flavor of the meat, one wishes there would be more of it.
The sauce, which is tomato-based and tastes like peppery tomato soup, is the star of the show. It is kept warm in a self-serving dispenser until served. We recommend ordering a roll or two to dip into the sauce.
A half-rack of ribs, containing eight bones, costs $13.99 plus tax. It does not come with any sides. In total, tonight's meal, which included a half-rack, a fountain drink, two sides and two rolls, cost $22.46. Rocklands is one of the more pricey BBQ establishments in the region.
Our ratings (see how we rate on the side bar):
Taste/Smoke Flavor: 6
Overall Impression: 6/7
Recommendation: If you are craving BBQ and you are in the neighborhood, it's a good choice. But, if you have the time, and are willing to drive outside of the city, go elsewhere.
2418 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
25 S. Quaker Lane
Alexandria, VA 22314
891 A Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
3471 Washington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201