Located in the small town of Gordonsville, Va. The Barbeque Exchange is a bastion of culinary delight in a most unexpected place. Craig Hartman, the chef owner has had one extraordinary culinary journey that has taken him from the Culinary Institute of America to the Rocky Mountains, the Catskills and finally to the outskirts of Charlottesville. He and his wife Donna have settled here for the last 5 years but it is likely it won’t be their last stop. When I dined at Fossett’s in Charlottesville several people told me that Craig was formerly the chef at that amazing restaurant.
The food that is served at the Barbeque Exchange is not surprisingly, barbeque. However, leave behind any preconceived notions that you may have about barbeque. While the atmosphere is casual with picnic tables inside and paper tablecloths, there is nothing at all casual about the quality of the food being offered.
This is a very popular place. In an average year, they go through a quarter million pounds of meat. On both occasions that I visited here even though it was definitely an off time, it was crowded. I can only imagine what it might be like at a popular time. There is no table service, you go and place your order as at a counter where the sides are all visible. You start by choosing your plate. I won’t list all the proteins but there are platters, depending on your appetite you can choose several combinations. The typical platter has a protein with two sides and cornbread, pumpkin muffin or roll. There are platters that have more than one protein for larger appetites.
There are hot and cold sides. I was lucky enough to be given a sampling of all the cold sides and most of the proteins and I didn’t find one that I didn’t like, well almost. I have to say the Fu-Q, fried tofu was not something that I enjoyed but my guess is that it is terrific for vegetarians who usually would find little to eat at a barbeque restaurant. However, I loved the sausage enough on the first visit to order it for my protein on the second visit. One thing that I got to sample that isn’t on the menu was Sticky Love bacon, OMG I could eat a pound of it. Ask when you are there, it may be available.
All the sides are made in house and are so fresh and delicious. There are five varieties of homemade pickles, everything from sweet pickles to horseradish pickles. Try the hog wings if you get the chance, they are addictive, we brought them back to the hotel and ate them cold, still awesome.
If you prefer, you can have a sandwich, homemade soup or a sandwich combo. There are also entre salads and fried sides such as hush puppies or fried green tomatoes. You can see their full menu on their website. It is a good idea to look it over before you get there because it can be just a little overwhelming.
Once you have decided on your meal, picked your drink and maybe grabbed one of the amazing desserts that are baked by Amanda. Head to your table to decide which of the outstanding barbeque sauces you are going to use. I tried them all, Hog Fire, Colonel Bacon, Craig’s Carolina, QX Sweet and Soo-eet.
You will feel like a regular from the moment you come in the door. Someone from the staff will greet you and make you feel at home. You can help yourself to more ice tea or water if that is what you choose. I highly recommend that you try the Barbeque Exchange if you are going to be in the area. It is not too far from James Madison’s home Montpelier and after a visit there I can’t think of a better or more delicious place to have lunch or dinner.