Sloppy Mama’s Barbeque is Smokin’

The smokers at this Lee Highway eatery are fired up 'round the clock.

Photo by Joseph Tran

“We are the only people in the D.C. metro area to serve what I consider real barbecue,” says Joe Neuman, who, with his wife, Mandy, opened Sloppy Mama’s Barbeque in July on Lee Highway. Throw out the names of other respected ’cue joints in the area—there are many—and he remains steadfast in his bravado.

“If you have gas or electricity in your process, you’re not real barbecue,” Neuman contends. “If you use an oven, you’re baking the meat. We do fresh barbecue every service. We work 24 hours a day. A lot of people complain about our pricing, but we don’t turn a knob on an oven and go home. Our heat source is oak.”

The oak does its job, wrapping smoke around Neuman’s half-chickens, turkey breasts, pork butts and ribs, sausages and USDA Prime beef briskets in a suggestive hug rather than a choke hold. This is some good barbecue, folks—especially the brisket (which is smoked for 10-12 hours), ribs and chopped pork. If you feel the need to mar the simplicity of Neuman’s “happy sprinkles” rub (he toasts and grinds whole cumin, coriander and black peppercorns with freshly made ancho and guajillo pepper powder), you can dunk your protein of choice in one of five tomato-, vinegar- or mustard-based sauces. But that’s a tactical error, in my opinion.

Neuman, a former Oakton High School philosophy and history teacher and football coach, got into the barbecue business after he and Mandy catered their own wedding with a pig roast. In 2014, the self-taught pit master started a food truck, which is now parked outside their Lee Highway eatery with three 500-gallon smoking drums in front. They live in Arlington Mill with their two kids, Elise, 7, and Ezra, 4.

Sides don’t get short shrift at Sloppy Mama’s. All are made from scratch. The cornbread, mac ’n’ cheese and banana pudding—from Mandy’s recipes—are top-notch, as are the house-made sliced pickles.

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Categories: Food & Drink