Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Price Range: Barbecue platters $4 to $7; sandwiches and chili 75 cents to $2.45; lunch specials $1.25 to $2.95.
Atmosphere: Simple cafe, very casual.
Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Bank of Virginia.
Special Facilities: Highchairs and boosters. Parking. Carryout. Patrons in wheelchairs well have to negotiate a curb step.
If you don't like barbecue, you probably have no business going to Pepper's. Although sanwiches and chili are on the menu, barbecue is the specialty.
The restaurant is in a small, white building in the string of retail establishments that line Lee Highway. You can't miss Pepper's however. A big black and yellow sign on stilts sees to that.
Now, about the barbecue. It isn't the kind I grew up on in North Carolina. There the pork or chicken is pitsmoked over hickery fire until the sauce is absorbed to become a subtle part of the flavor. It's not so much spicy as smoky-tasting. If you want ithot, you add Tabasco.
Pepper's Texas-style variety is muchmore saucy. The meat apparently is simmered in a tomato-based sauce and then covered with more of the same before it is served.
Don't let the name Pepper's mislead you. The barbecue is tingly, but not eye-watering hot. Definitely mild enough for the kids. Our two, a little suspicious of anything peppery, toyed with the idea of a hot dog, 80, cents, or a ham and cheese sandwich, $2.45, but finally opted for barbecued chicken platters, $4. There is no children's menu.
The helpful waitress explained that the platter contained half a chicken and suggested that some sharing might bein order. She also agreed to to tell the kitchen to hold the sauce on the children's portions.
A word about the service at Pepper's. It is faster than a speeding Texas bullet. Our drinks, served in thick glass mugs, came right away, and less than 10 minutes after we ordered our dinners were in front of us. The children didn't even have time to make their usual tour through the bathroom.
Forst came a relish tray and a basket of "Texas toast," warm loaf bread thickly sliced and buttered. Just the thing to relieve burning plates.
Of the hickory-smoked meats we tried the chicken was best.It was tender and moist, in a tangy sauce that balanced nicely with the chicken flavor.
The barbecued beef, $4.75, was thinlysliced and smothered in a slightly sweet, yet tart sauce. It wasn't as good as North Carolina barbecue, but then, to me, what would be?
My husband ordered the combination platter $7, a choice of any two of the barbecued meats available -- beef, chicken, spare ribs, sausage and sliced or minced pork. The portions weren't Texas-sized, but were more than enough, and he judged his two large spare ribs and sliced pork to be finger-licking good.
With each platter came a choice of two vegetables. Predictably, the children went for applesauce and the thickly sliced Texas fries, which were outstanding.
Between us, my husband and I sampled cole slaw and potato salad, both homemade and delicious, and tasty barbecue beans, really pinto beans with a tang. Additional servings of vegetables were available for 60 cents.
Lured by the promise of homemade cake and pie and encouraged by what had gone before, we made room for dessert, $1 a slice, with selections changing daily. We weren't disappointed.
The kids, both chocoholics, feasted on the wonderfully named "Southern beau-catcher," a fudge cake with thick candy-like icing complete with nuts. The pecan pie was just as good, buttery and almost caramelized and, alas, chock full of calories.
In addition to the usual assortment of drinks including pitchers of cola for $3.25, Pepper's has several Texas and Mexican brands of beer, such as Lone Star for $1.25, Pearl for $1 andDos Equis for $1.50.
Our evening out at Pepper's with the children was a success. The food was estraordinarily speedy. No fancy touches, though. Like any barbecue place worth its salt -- I should say spice -- Pepper's is plain and down to earth. With booths and tables lining the narrow room, fans going (the air conditioning wasn't working when we werethere) and oldies on the stereo, it is reminiscent of cafes and hangouts of thelate '50s and early '60s. Somehow the setting seems just right.
And you can buy barbecue by the pound to take home.
Our bill, including tax and tip, was $36.