Picking a dedicated BBQ establishment to visit for our second review was not simple. Our followers on twitter have been absolutely voracious in recommending eateries all across the country, let alone those within arms reach from those of us operating this site. In a few weeks we will be doing a lot of traveling, sampling and chronicling the offerings from many different styles of BBQ, however for now I felt it’s important to keep it local.
For me, local is currently central Maryland and the greater Baltimore area. Yes, I have seen the Wire. Yes, there is a lot of violence and crime here. Yes, some of the locals are incredibly… well, I think you see where I am going with this.
Andy Nelson’s was an obvious choice. From recommendations via twitter, word of mouth, and reputation alone, a Beer & Pig visit was warranted. For the “Meat Up,” we piled 50 of our closest friends and compatriots into Carolina Brothers in Ashburn Virginia. By sheer numbers alone, we were able to consume all of their BBQ. A necessary task in order to efficiently take in a BBQ joint for all they are worth. This time though, it was just me. Alone. What can one man do against such an overwhelming amount of BBQ?
Let me spoil it for you: a lot. Here is where we get a little crazy…
Here’s what I ordered:
6 Sliders, one of each BBQ
Rib sampler – Memphis Dry Rub
1/4 BBQ Chicken
Red Skin Potato Salad
Mac & Cheese
Gallon of Iced Tea
I had to eat it all. I’ve tackled many a large dish before in my day. A Trash Plate from the famed Jolly Roger in the Outer Banks of Northern Carolina, several 1 pound or greater burgers from numerous establishments. I’ve been chased out of Chinese Buffets by small angry women and had my picture put up in the front forbidding re-entry. All you can eat wings? I’ll crush 50 and leave room for ice cream afterwards.
NEVER have I set out to eat ALL the Q that could be offered before. Then Beer & Pig and more specifically Andy Nelson’s came tap dancing into my life.
I took my enormous sack of Q home, that way I would be able to eat without a spotter to insure my safety. However I took a nice look around the joint before I left. From the outside, lets be honest, they do not come off terribly impressive. The giant Hog and “Q” on top of the main building however lets you know these folks have their priorities in check. Kudos.
The general aesthetic is a wood floor and panel wall vintage setting. Some people prefer a more modern approach when dining out, however this was right in my wheelhouse. I always value a classic and vintage look over some forced modern cookie cutter establishment.
The menu at Andy Nelsons is a solid size for a BBQ joint, and it’s damn versatile. Regardless of what you care to eat on your visit, you can mix and match and create a great plate of BBQ. The aroma of hickory smoke is still lingering in my car a full 24 hours later and I hope it never dissipates. Hey, Andy Nelson, I’m speaking directly to you here. Bottle that. Sell it, make millions… AND millions. Maybe throw Bobby some sheckles on the side. Just some friendly advice.
Know this immediately: portion sizes are generous! For my purposes, I ordered a full round of sliders expecting small tastes. These were no mere sliders and upon opening the box I entered into a full on BBQ induced panic.
The BBQ sliders are a terrific choice for anyone that cannot limit themselves to just one taste of barbecue. I love variety, and with six different choices there was no shortage. Unfortunately due to a small mix up, I was unable to try each one of their six offerings, however with the Pulled Pork and Brisket I was by no means “settling.” Would you be shocked if I told you the Pulled Pork won the day? The perfect mixture of tangy vinegar and spices with underlying smoke flavor and a small mix of sauce, and a solid consistency made this as strong a pork sandwich that you can get from this region.
The sliced brisket was good. You’ would have to look really hard to find a brisket that is inedible. Unfortunately I did not fawn all over the brisket sandwich. There was no muttering of sweet nothings as I made it false promises of a beautiful life together. Just wasn’t happening for us. I prefer a more shapely and exotic pulled brisket. Just one man’s opinion.
They packaged everything with cups of their own signature BBQ sauce. This sauce is sweet, tangy, vinegary, salty, smoky, and with a slight kick. It’s a true anomaly, but is an absolute strong point being able to maintain a perfect balance of all those characteristics, with none overpowering the others.
The ribs are always a focal point in any review done, or to be done. Having a dry rub option on the menu immediately caught my attention as I feel slathering BBQ sauce over anything is a cop out. These are definitely dry, and if you are the kind of guy or lady that likes a bit of char on their ribs, this is where you want to be. The hickory and smoke flavors immediately hit you letting you know what these Nelson boys are all about. The rub is good, but it has a hard time trying to stand above the powerful essence of the hickory smoke. These aren’t the thickest cut of ribs, so if you plan on ordering ribs and ribs alone, you many want to go with the full slab over the half. Upgrade. Well that’s just sage-like life advice for you. Applies universally. You’re welcome.
Initially I was going to pass on the BBQ Chicken. But in wanting to do my best to eat all the Q, I called an audible on the line and took home a plate. Let me tell you this, best decision I could’ve made. The chicken was surprisingly soft and juicy all throughout, and regardless of the piece. The rub and light sauce on top almost stole the entire show. I still maintain the Pulled Pork won the day, but the chicken was an incredibly surprising and close second.
The side dishes were a mixed bag. Any place that offers whole pickles AND Gallons of fresh Iced Tea or Lemonade is already worth your attention. The wedge fries were a bit dry, tasted good, but didn’t blow my skirt up. The cornbread is excellent. Very strong ratio of thick classic cornbread appeal to light and buttery taste and consistency. A classic offering done well. The red skin potato salad wasn’t too thick. The mayo appears to be cut with a lot of spices and possibly a vinegar, leaving a slight spicy aftertaste. The Mac n Cheese was… well it was there. The cheese seemed a bit dry, and the chosen pasta of thicker penne style was slightly overdone. It appeared homemade, but wouldn’t stand well on it’s own.
I put up a solid fight against my lofty task. I am not ashamed to admit Andy Nelson’s bested me on this day. It was simply more BBQ than I expected. I am cursed to carry my shame as leftovers. Not too shabby though. My hands smelled of smoke and defeat. Mostly smoke.
All in all, Andy Nelson’s puts out a decent package. If you really want to taste the smoke in your BBQ, this is the joint for you. The price point is reasonable, and they offer family package deals (good for an outing or if you want to eat all of their Q without letting them know you’re going to lock yourself in your apartment and sobbingly eat alone). If you live in Greater Baltimore area and want BBQ to be part of your routine, Andy Nelson’s is as solid an option as you can get in this region.