By Ben Orcutt - firstname.lastname@example.org
WHITE POST -- At first glance, it may seem just as easy to keep going as you ride by Mr. B's Bar-B-Que on U.S. 340.
The nondescript, old white building isn't particularly inviting and there are no fancy neon signs to draw attention to the eatery. But all you have to do is get a whiff of the aroma coming from the barbecue smoker on the side of the building -- and that can be enough to draw you in.
That's exactly what happened to Joe and Linda Donovan, of Middletown, Md., who had smiles on their faces after they finished a pork barbecue dinner during a recent stop at Mr. B's -- their first. Donovan, 62, was traveling by motorcycle while his 60-year-old wife followed him in a car.
"It smelled so good driving by, we went up the road, turned around and came back," Mrs. Donovan said.
The Donovans enjoyed their meal at a picnic table under a maple tree next to Mr. B's. They each had a pulled-pork barbecue sandwich, with coleslaw, baked beans and collard greens.
"It was wonderful," Donovan said. "It's spicy. Wonderful spices come through [and it] leaves a sort of spicy tang in your mouth. It's well-done, just wonderful."
Donovan said he and his wife will visit Mr. B's again.
"Oh absolutely," he said.
Mrs. Donovan was equally impressed with the food, calling it "delicious."
"And I really like the collard greens," she said.
Jon Bridgan, 38, of Linden, is a regular customer who also fancies the pulled-pork barbecue sandwich. Bridgan said he stops by Mr. B's every couple of months for the tasty treat that sells for $5.50.
"I tell you what, it's the best around," Bridgan said. "I send everybody I can out here. It's just one of these places that people don't know a lot about. I just got off the phone a few minutes ago with my nephew, telling him to come out here."
Mike Brown, Mr. B's owner, believes that quality and service are the essential elements of operating a successful business.
"If you can't sell yourself, nobody else is going to sell you," Brown said. "This is all authentically done."
Come July, the 66-year-old Brown will have been operating Mr. B's for 21 years. During that time, folks have been making it a point to stop at the white building with the pig ornament out front, at 14767 Lord Fairfax Highway [U.S. 340] next to the post office in White Post, situated in southern Clarke County.
A native of Baltimore, Brown was raised in the Harrisonburg area and now lives in Berryville. He said he learned how to barbecue when he was an executive chef for Holiday Inn.
"Some of the employees, their families barbecued and I kind of hung out just messing around when I was off," Brown said, adding that once he felt confident about his barbecue skills, he decided to open Mr. B's.
"It was named by a cousin," Brown said.
Brown said the key to good barbecue is "slow cooking," and he uses mostly apple wood to cook the barbecue.
While it helps to have a good smoker, it also helps to have a good crew, Brown said.
Larry Doleman has worked for Brown for about 20 years and does a little bit of everything -- from cooking to cleaning. Doleman says the ribs are boiled before they're put in the smoker.
"Slap some grease on 'em and let 'em go," he said.
Doleman has a passion for his work and enjoys seeing satisfied customers.
"I love it," he said. "I put a smile on they face and they put one on mine."
Brown, who also has the food service contract for Foxcroft School in Middleburg, a girls' boarding school, said he checks in periodically to make sure his crew at Mr. B's is maintaining the quality for which they have become known. He says there are motorcycle clubs from as far away as Pennsylvania that ride down to have lunch.
Pork barbecue sells for $8.75 a pound and a full rack of ribs goes for $18.75, with a half rack priced at $10.75. Customers can get a half chicken for $6.25 and a rib sandwich for $6. A chicken dinner costs $9, a rib dinner $9.50, a fish dinner $7.25, a pork dinner $7.50, a beef dinner $8.50 and a sampler, $12.75.
Some of the other side dishes are macaroni salad, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, candied yams and fries.
Hilton Morgan has worked for Brown for three years and calls it "a wonderful place. I like it all. Everything is just great."
Brown bragged about Alexander Green, who has been a cook there for 18 years.
Asked to name his favorite dish, Green said "Barbecue," laughing heartily.
Michael Henry, 49, of Charlottesville, makes it a point to stop by Mr. B's when he brings his show horses to Oak Hill Training Center, which is across the road.
"I stop here every time I come here, as long as they open," Henry said, adding that two of his favorite items on the menu are the chicken wing dings and the cornbread.
George Crockett, 37, a regular who lives just a mile away from Mr. B's, also likes the wing dings, which are large.
"They're nice, real nice," Crockett said. "I like the ribs they have here and the chicken. I like it all."
Brown is quick to add that you don't have to be a meat lover to get full at Mr. B's, which also features homemade pies for dessert.
"You can be a vegetarian and find something to eat at Mr. B's," he said.
Mr. B's is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Catering also is available. For more information, call 837-1323.