Sloppy Mama’s will finally have a permanent home this spring, securing a space in Northern Virginia after nearly five years of serving some of D.C.’s best barbecue from a roving food truck and inside cramped quarters at Union Market and in Solly’s Tavern on U Street NW.
Fans of the mouthwatering brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and critically-acclaimed half-smokes in D.C. will have to head across the Potomac River into Arlington to visit the new place.
Last Friday, owner Joe Neuman signed a lease for his first official brick-and-mortar restaurant, slated to open by mid-April.
The two other spaces he already runs and manages as smaller vendor operations will stay put for now. But come spring, Neuman will put the food truck up for sale.
“This really is an opportunity to create what I would consider the proper barbecue experience,” Neuman says. “We’ve never really had a home. We’ve always squatted in multiple places — we smoke at one location but cook at another.”
The new space, which was once a Pizza Hut, is where the ramen restaurant Misomen once stood (5731 Lee Highway). It’s a 2,600 square-foot location that will be about twice the kitchen space Sloppy Mama’s uses now. Neuman says it’s a chance to add another smoker to the family, as well as a new executive chef — a position he’s still trying to fill.
“Our smoking capacity will increase by 200 percent,” he says. “I just got the call today that the new smoker is ready for pick up, so, I’m driving down to Georgia this weekend to get it.”
While he might be headed down south for the smoker, Neuman says the goal of this new restaurant won’t be to replicate barbecue styles made famous by other southern states like North Carolina, Texas, or Tennessee. Instead, he hopes to create a menu that’s similar to what he has now — something with D.C. flair — which means his half-smoke isn’t going anywhere.
“Texas and those other places can do their thing. We’re looking to keep our menu easy and approachable and to fine-tune things we’re already doing,” Neuman says.
But there will also be a few new meats added to the menu, including smoked turkey, whole-smoked chicken, and homemade sausages, including a jalapeno and cheese variety.
“We’ll be carving the meats in front of you, and it’s going to be a counter service-style,” Neuman says. “We’ll do two loads — a lunch and dinner load — and when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Right now, the 40-seat dining room is undergoing some minor renovations, but the biggest visual cue that Sloppy Mama’s will be open, other than a new signboard, will be the sweet scent of wood smoke pouring from smokers anchored in the front parking lot.
“I don’t even know if people will be able to see our sign when the smokers are rocking and rolling,” Neuman says.
Sloppy Mama’s is slated to open in mid-April in Arlington at 5731 Lee Highway.