If you’re looking for Super Bowl eats, check out Rocklands’ game day menu!
One step inside Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company and your senses are blissfully awakened by the smell of burning Red Oak and Hickory firewood. The smoke of the wood fire grill permeates the meat and infuses the air; the aroma is so tantalizing, you can almost taste it … WARNING: drooling may occur while waiting for food.
We met John Snedden, Rockland’s owner and BBQ mastermind, at the Chilean Chef Challenge. Snedden’s inspiring story begins in his college days. One might expect Snedden to be a culinary graduate, but surprisingly, he was a chemistry major. He spent his free time barbequing whole pigs for college parties. He even created his own sauce, which became his famous Rocklands Original Barbeque Sauce sold in Wegmans and Whole Foods. Little did he know that his casual hobby would transform into his career. His backyard barbequing grew into a catering business, and then blossomed into his first restaurant at 2418 Wisconsin Avenue in Washington DC. Its well-deserved success allowed Snedden to open three more restaurants in Alexandria, Arlington and Rockville. Snedden’s devoted passion for good barbeque is emulated in each of his dishes. He genuinely cares, and you can taste it.
The quality of Rocklands’ barbeque is only justified through descriptive superlatives. It is the most succulent and tender meat, and it’s no exaggeration when we say it’s the best BBQ we’ve ever had. We went behind the scenes to find out how the magic happens. Here are 5 secrets to their award-winning success:
- Other than the occasional chicken breast, Rocklands’ meat is never frozen. In fact, none of their products are. Their meat is primarily sourced locally from Catonsville and Thurmont, MD. It arrives fresh and is cooked shortly after so that the final product is as juicy as possible.
- Rocklands is one of the few BBQ joints in the nation that continues to use a wood fire oven and grill. The Red Oak and Hickory smoke injects an entirely new dimension of flavor. Their wood fire oven uses a patented air flow system that accelerates the air and cooks with 30% more heat (check it out above).
- They prepare their meat with no salt or sugar in order to preserve its natural juices. The meat is so succulent, you don’t need to add any sauce at all (although your heart is torn because Snedden’s sauce is dynamite).
- Rocklands makes their food from scratch including its side dishes. All their packaged products (pickled veggies, dry rubs, bbq sauces) are made without high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or dyes. Who says BBQ is unhealthy?!
- The meats are cooked slowly to maximize tenderness. Cook times include 2.5 hours for the chicken, 3 hours for the ribs, and at least 12 hours for the brisket. The meat, particularly the pork, is served so delicately you can cut it with a plastic fork as if you were slicing off a piece of flaky cooked halibut.
Don’t feel like driving over to their restaurant? No problem. Rocklands travels on wheels! They have four food trucks for each of its locations that travel to nearby stadiums, events, and local hot spots. There are limited food truck spots available in DC (spots are assigned through a lottery system), so next time you see their big red truck, stop right in your tracks and take advantage of a delicious opportunity.
One of Rocklands’ top sellers is their chopped pork, which is seductively tender and delectable. They chop the 8-10 lb. pork butt with mallets and serve it smokin’ hot. Some might ask, why not sell traditional pulled pork? Snedden’s response is simple – pulling pork often dries it out, while chopping pork preserves the natural moisture. Check out the drips below.
Their second top seller is their pork ribs. These meaty hunks are encrusted with a thick char and a quarter-inch smoke ring, which sparks a blast of flavor before your teeth sink further into the hearty rib meat on the inside. Wow. These are a must-try.
A personal favorite of ours was their brisket. Slow cooked for half a day, the brisket is sliced thin and seemingly melts in your mouth. Its sweet and smoky glaze creates a sensational blend of flavor.
Another highlight of their menu was their Barbequed Black Angus Beef Ribs. You can order just one bone for yourself (which will fill you up nicely), or you can order all four. These are comparable to a bone-in steak from your local steakhouse, but the difference is Rocklands charges you much less, and they offer you the undeniable wood smoke flavor! These ribs will have you licking the bone clean. A charred crust coats the outside hiding a thin layer of fat underneath which seeps into the meat providing that smooth, buttery taste.
Drum roll please, the chicken wings. These charred beauties are wood fire grilled and the size of a miniature turkey leg. They are meaty, smokey, and fall-off-the-bone tender.
Rocklands has fresh, homemade sides that perfectly complement the meats (and they have a few that rotate seasonally, too). We recommend trying them all, but our favorites were the (seasonal) sweet chili and cold chickpea salad.
We’re not surprised that for seven consecutive years, locals have elected Rocklands as the “Best Barbeque” in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. We know who we’ll be voting for this year! Special thanks to John Snedden for reminding us that care and dedication for your food truly make a difference. We appreciate it, John.