After enduring a series of construction delays that set back a spring opening, co-owner Joe Neuman’s flagship barbecue restaurant Sloppy Mama’s is finally firing up the grill for its destination smoked meats.
The new standalone spot for carnivores, the first brick-and-mortar restaurant for husband-and-wife team Joe and Mandy Neuman, officially arrived on Thursday, July 4 — one of the busiest barbecue days of the year.
“It’s kind of fitting that we’re opening on July Fourth,” he says. “While it’s been tough to get the doors open, we’re now finally at a place where we’re ready to go live. It’s really exciting because we’ve never been able to cook and sell barbecue from the same space.”
For the past five years, barbecue fans have followed Sloppy Mama’s wherever it goes, from its earliest days as a food truck operator on the streets of D.C. to its expansion in food halls like Union Market and most recently at Ballston Quarter.
While the food truck is no longer in commission (Neuman says he’s actively looking for a buyer right now), he says business will continue as usual at both food hall locations and at Solly’s on U Street, where he runs Butters’ Burgers, a burger-bar concept.
“What’s different here, and what we’re really looking forward to the most in Arlington, is that it gives us more space to interact with the customer,” Neuman says. “We’re gearing up this space to be a family-friendly place where anyone is welcome.”
The interior sports a throwback vibe, thanks to its roots as a former Pizza Hut chain restaurant. Neuman decided to play off that theme by highlighting the unique pitch of the roof and adding a table-top arcade game that features Ms. Pac-Man. The wooden picnic table-lined restaurant also features a kids’ play area.
“Because it used to be a Pizza Hut from the late-70’s, we wanted to go with a design and theme that was true to the building,” Neuman says. “The architect [Grupo-7] also did a great job of incorporating some funky design elements. The ceiling is this really cool layout of triangles and colors that tie together nicely.”
The new 2,600-square-foot, 54-seat pulled pork palace is twice as big as the brand’s existing footprint across its two market stalls and commissary kitchen, which means there’s also more to the menu here.
Diners can expect original Sloppy Mama’s favorites — smoked brisket, ribs, pulled pork, mac-n-cheese, and potato salad — but there are also debut menu items, like half-and whole-smoked chickens and turkeys and several homemade sausages, including a jalapeño and cheese variety.
Craft beer and wines by the glass are also coming to the menu soon once alcohol permits are approved, Neuman says. That’s in addition to local beverage options, like D.C.’s Running Byrd Tea, served on tap.
And just like any roadside barbecue spot, Neuman says he’ll be smoking two loads per day for lunch and dinner.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 pm., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Each smoker has a 500-gallon-barrel capacity, he adds. When the location is at full capacity, he anticipates going through about a cord of oak per week.
Here’s a look at the opening menu:
Status: Certified open. 5731 Lee Highway, Arlington, Virginia; website.