The column of hickory scented smoke that drifts across busy Lee Highway south of Gainesville comes from a distinctive, custom-built trailer that is a landmark of sorts for barbecue lovers.
At Jammin' Joe's BBQ, owners Joe Van Dyke and his wife Brenda Hodges-Van Dyke make some of the best baked beans ($2.25 for a half pound) we have tasted. Their secret recipe for this all-American favorite calls for 12 seasonings, two types of meat and three beans (kidney, butter and pinto). The result is a mellow melange of legumes with just the right amount of sweetness.
Such tempting beans as well as superior potato salad and equally exceptional coleslaw ($2.25 each, per half pound) are fitting complements for the Jammin' Joe's overstuffed pulled pork sandwich ($6.50 each), meaty pork ribs (six ribs for $11.95) and smoke-flavored chicken (whole, $10.95).
A short walk away, Hodges-Van Dyke has a specialty food shop called Cracked Pepper Gourmet. Here you will find imported cheeses
as well as bottled beer from Belgium and Holland and a wide selection of Virginia wines. There's a section for entertaining with cocktail mixers, fancy glassware and serving pieces. Of special interest is the condiment department, which is stocked with dozens of unusual hot sauces, dips, salsas and high-quality teas from around the world.
If that were not enough, the couple also sells sheds and children's playhouses made by Amish craftsmen in Lancaster, Pa. Behind the cluster of little structures are picnic tables where you can enjoy Joe's barbecue or a good cup of coffee from Cracked Pepper.
Jammin' Joe's BBQ, open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; call 540-347-9700 or go to www.jamminjoesbbq.com. Cracked Pepper Gourmet, open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; call 540-349-3962. Both at 5282 Lee Highway (Route 29), New Baltimore (in Fauquier County, five miles south of Gainesville).
-- Walter Nicholls