Red Hot & Blue
3014 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, Va. 22201
One block away from the Clarendon Metro stop on the orange line.
If you think that D.C. isn’t part of the South, the owners of Red Hot & Blue will tell you otherwise. But where can a D.C. townie get a taste of the South? Just a block off of the orange line in Arlington, Va., Red Hot & Blue brings Tennessee to D.C. with its Memphis pit barbecue and signature two guitar-playing pigs. And it’s all for a very inexpensive price.
Never one to be modest, Red Hot & Blue marks the favorites on the menu. This includes the onion ring loaf for a starter. The other appetizers are fried jalapeno bites and BBQ wings; but go all out with the onion loaf. If that isn’t appealing, try the chili (which also comes in a bottomless bowl for dinner) or the smokehouse salad. This is a layered salad with greens, smoked turkey, beef brisket, pepper jack cheese and corn relish. This salad could easily serve as a meal for even the pickiest diner.
For the big hunger that you should come with, get a barbecue platter. But this isn’t the barbecue that you’d put on a grill. This is the authentic southern pit -pulled chicken and pork, and beef brisket. These are served as a platter or on a sandwich. The Mississippi Delta catfish, which comes breaded and fried, is also a good choice.
The pulled meat tastes dry on its own, so luckily there are four types of barbecue sauces to cover it. For the vinegar lovers there is the Carolina-style Voodoo Child sauce. If vinegar just leaves a sour purse on your lips but you still like a kick for your taste buds, try the Hoochie Coochie – a really hot barbecue sauce. Pulled meat needs to be drenched in sauce to be eaten the right way, but covering it with Hoochie Coochie will be just too intense. Start with a base of Sufferin’ Sweet or Mojo Mild sauce, then add on the Hoochie Coochie. If hot just isn’t your style, then mix the mild and the sweet sauces.
Another specialty is the award-winning ribs. There are the sweet ribs, which are glazed and then grilled. Red Hot & Blue claims the ribs aren’t just sweet, but they’re “suh-weet.” The wet ribs are smoked over hickory wood and then covered with the mojo mild sauce. Dry ribs, the Memphis tradition, are sprinkled with a special blend of spices. But these might still need some sauce, so cover them with more Hoochie Coochie or Sufferin’ Sweet sauce.
If you don’t like pulled meat or ribs, there are more tame choices like the chicken breast sandwich. But what’s a meal without the prize side dishes the restaurant offers? These include BBQ beans, cole slaw and potato salad, among others. The cole slaw is standard fare, but the potato salad has a hard-boiled egg twist. If you want authentic Southern cuisine, talk the attendant into giving you a side of hush puppies when you order. These are sweet corn meal rolled into a ball and then fried to create a crispy outside and soft interior.
Also, soak up the rich decor of the restaurant. The bright red walls are covered. There are posters promoting past concerts given by blues artists such as John Hooker and a mural of the signature two guitar-playing pigs. There is also an entire wall dedicated to Memphis’ own Elvis Presley. From young Elvis, to army Elvis, to the old and fat Elvis, he is everywhere. Elvis has definitely not left the building.
There are three desserts to choose from. Between the key lime pie, blackberry cobbler and banana pudding, you might feel like you just walked over to the catering table on the “Gone With the Wind” set. However, the Southern treats might fall a bit flat. The banana pudding is sweet and filled with Nilla wafers and slices of real bananas, and then covered on top with whipped cream. But it’s still not as sweet as a Southern grandmother would make.
If you only have a minute but you still crave some soul food, you can get Red Hot & Blue take-out. Make sure to get at least a dozen little containers of the barbecue sauces, because you will undoubtedly use all of them. The prices for platters run from $8 to $12, so taking a culinary trip down South won’t break the bank.
Those not raised on hush puppies and barbecue will surely laud this as the soul food they should have grown up on, but those in the know will tell you that Red Hot & Blue falls short. But if you don’t care how authentic the food is and the closest thing your grandmother makes is grilled chicken caeser salads, then this will be your place to go “down home.”