Monk’s BBQ (Purcellville, VA)

Posted by  Alex Hannagan   in  Watering Holes     11 months ago     659 Views     Comments Off on Monk’s BBQ (Purcellville, VA)  

We get out to Purcellville, near the borders with West Virginia and Maryland, quite frequently.  Whether that’s to snag beers from a blossoming brewery scene that features Adroit Theory, Old 690, Corcoran, and others, or for some wine club memberships in one of the best places for terroir on the East Coast, that town has a lot to offer for fans of great libations.  Just a few blocks off the W&OD Trail you can also find some superlative BBQ.  And since this is a site all about Virginia beer, you know they’re going to have a great tap list, too.  Welcome to Monk’s.

Monk’s BBQ (Purcellville, VA)
Beers on Tap:  15, all from Virginia

As you’re traipsing down Hillsboro Rd. you really can’t miss Monk’s.  The pit is right out front, and the mouthwatering odors pervade your car like a side-of-the-road joint should.  We mean that in the best of ways.  As you enter, your eyes might be drawn to the rows of sauce containers.  You can get a little dipping cup or just take the whole bottle – we suggest the latter.  And just take them all for your table, too, which you should have someone grab while the rest of you cattle trudge through what can be a bit of a line on a weekend or near a holiday (anybody need a Thanksgiving ham?)  You order the food at the window, the beer from the bar, and huddle around either small or communal tables.  Easy.  The rest is in the details.

Beer:  On our most recent visit, I overheard the staff talking about the need to “up their Untappd” game.  They’re one of the many venues that are taking advantage of that app’s ability to send out alerts on events and menu changes.  It’s a different beast than just having a chalkboard, though, as thanks to check-ins you can get near real-time data that goes a bit beyond just throughput.  Shoving that rabbit hole to the side, though, a peak at their current list on there shows us we missed somewhat of a stacked deck by only a day or so.  The 100% Virginia offerings ranged from RVA (including Hardywood’s Kentucky Christmas Morning!!) to SWVA, NoVA, and Charlottesville.  The 757 gets some representation in the “On Deck” listings, too.  In all honesty, there’s a surprising amount of diversity at a place where you might expect some light macros in other parts of the country.

And here you thought a superlative BBQ joint couldn’t (or shouldn’t) have a top-flight draught menu as well.  Pun intended.  In order to save some room for stretchy pants-type grub, a flight may be in your best interests on most visits.  I have yet to get through two beers in any single visit, and others among of us only do better thanks to doggy bags.  About that food…  What we’re going to do this time around is not just give you some notes on how good the stuff is (because that would be too easy), but also suggest a few beer pairings that we’d have right there at the bar on past visits.  It can make a surprising difference for BBQ when you’re washing it down with, say, a Dunkel as opposed to a Kolsch or American Pale Ale.  That was a big lesson I learned in my year out by Kansas City.

Food:  There’s lots of starters that will do nothing save fill you up prior to the real deal.  Some of it’s good – don’t get us wrong! – but did you just drive an hour for BBQ nachos or the BBQ itself?  One could of course argue that the smoked wings are a reasonable draw if you live nearby.  We’re here to talk about that stuff you smelled out by the road…

…so let’s start with the Bacon on a Stick.  The name says it all, and this 1/3″ thick beauty bursting with maple and brown sugar is less an appetizer and more of a coronary in waiting for those brave enough to order more than one.  You may scoff at the $6 price tag, but it’s worth every penny per ounce.  The rest of the menu is an absolute steal in terms of price, so make sure you splurge a bit.
Suggested Sauces:  Carolina Mustard, Angry Texan, House Sauce
Suggested Beers:  Brothers Eight Belles (“French Toast” Stout), Three Notch’d Biggie S’mores (Chocolate/Graham Cracker Imperial Stout), Blue Mountain Spooky (Pumpkin Ale)

Pulled Pork is the essence of good BBQ.  It’s so easy to make a passable version, and so very difficult to make it stand out without any sauce on it.  If it wasn’t smoked at a low temperature, lovingly and obsessively, until you can pull it apart with your hands (without being burnt!) then it’s not worthy of adulation.  Monk’s version is nice and pink, with a solid bark that’s both tangy and moderately crisp.  It can stand alone, or take on some of the more mainstream sauces.
Suggested Sauces:  Carolina (Vinegar), Stout
Suggested Beers:  Triple Crossing Paranoid Aledroid (NE-style Pale Ale), Lost Rhino Hop Shove-It (Wet-Hopped Pale Ale)

Kansas City taught me about ribs, and I’m so happy to say that Monk’s would get itself quite a following even there.  The half-rack of Spare Ribs came out with such a solid bark, yet meat so tender, that attempts to pull apart the bones simply led to the bones coming right out the meat with everything else intact.  That got a knowing arched eyebrow from my wife.  These are among my Top 5, from anywhere.
Suggested Sauces (if you must):  Carolina Mustard
Suggested Beers:  Parkway Seeing Colors (Spiced Fall Seasonal), Midnight Not My Job (Brown Ale), O’Connor Dry Irish Stout

My family seems to really be drawn to this pulled chicken.  While the mostly white meat is certainly moist and tender, it’s more of a vessel for sauces.  The real game is in the skin, which is luxuriantly rich and fatty.  Just say yes to the love handles.
Suggested Sauces:  Alabama White
Suggested Beers:  Center of the Universe Slingshot Kolsch, Port City Essential Pale Ale, Mustang Sally Dortmunder Lager

Kansas City also taught me about Burnt Ends.  It was my very first dinner when I toured the area to look for housing, and it’s really hard to take anywhere outside of KCMO/KCKS seriously when it comes to this dish.  Monk’s is one of two places in all of Virginia that I believe gets them right.  It’s meant to be fatty, decadent, sweet, smoky, and a tad salty, all at once.  The only taste sensation you should not get is sour.  In other words, don’t get cute with all the sauces on this one, either.  But no really, Monk’s will sell out of this every day that it’s available, so go early if you want to get a chance – even 1pm is often too late!
Suggested Sauces:  House
Suggested Beers:  Fair Winds Dank & Stormy (DIPA), BadWolf Only You Can Prevent Pallet Fires (Smoked IPA), Old Bust Head Chili Chocolate Ghost Cup (Russian Imperial Stout)

Among the sides, we’re suckers for the Smoked Gouda Mac N’ Cheese and the Baked Beans, the latter of which is chock full of brown sugar and pork.  You also get the choice to either have bread for a sandwich or cornbread.  The cornbread has a cream filling that makes it practically a meal on its own.

Atmosphere:  They’ve expanded since we starting going there several years back.  It’s mostly adequate, though the bar has a nice ambience if there’s just 2-3 of you settling in for an hour.  But did you really coming to a BBQ joint for the leather booths and live band?  Straddle the bench and dig in.  Service is surprisingly prompt, just be careful to listen for your name!

Overall:  One of those among us claims Monk’s BBQ is the best in the region.  That’s bold, but the simple fact is no one we’ve taken has had a bad meal.  The Bacon on a Stick is a tourist attraction in itself.  If we’re out in Purcellville, it’s one of two places we eat, period.  If there weren’t so much damn fine beer all around them we’d be willing to trek out there for their menu alone.  As things stand, it should bookend your trip out to the Loudoun County Beer Trail one way or another.  Or wine, whichever your vice.  Bless your heart if you try to bike the W&OD Trail and stop here before pedaling home…those be the meat sweats hitting you on the way out!

Score:  8.7