Smoke & Star Power

Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbeque brings the heat to Alexandria.

BBQ plate with pulled pork, smoked half chicken, brisket and sides.

Photography by Jennifer Chase

Joe Corey is holding a slice of brisket by each end and gently tugging. He wants to show off the “accordion-like” texture and thick, pink smoke ring that, he says, would earn this piece of meat top marks in any one of the barbecue competitions he has judged over the past two decades.

This is the sort of “competition-level” ’cue that made Myron Mixon into a barbecue icon—and that made Corey want to name his Alexandria eatery after the white-bearded pro known as “the winningest man in barbecue.” (Mixon is also the mayor of Unadilla, Georgia.) The name recognition is a draw for barbecue disciples who’ve seen Mixon lionized at competitions or on reality TV.  

But, Corey says from a booth at the restaurant that opened in early 2017, “the only way you get to eat Myron’s food is to be a judge and get lucky enough to pull his card—or you have to come here.”

Mixon decided to open his first and only restaurant with Corey and the restaurant’s pitmaster, John Bennett, after befriending the pair on the barbecue trail. (More star power? Another investor, Chris Bassett, is engaged to one of Bravo’s Real Housewives of the Potomac, Candiace Dillard.) 

Corey, who also owns Faccia Luna in Alexandria, was looking for a concept to fill a 200-seat space formerly occupied by the American eatery Overwood: The exposed brick walls and open kitchen screamed “barbecue joint.” 

Bennett had worked with Corey since the mid-90s. As the resident pitmaster, his job is to cook like it’s game day every day—with a little help from what they all describe as the Maserati of smokers.

The sprawling Mixon-brand cooker that’s visible from the dining room burns only wood and features a four-inch water pan in the bottom. This allows the meat to cook hotter and faster and avoid the bitterness of excess smoke. 

Pitmaster John Bennett

“We want to get the essence of the smoke, the smoke ring and a little sweetness,” says Bennett.

The kitchen also wraps the meats once they’ve absorbed enough smoke and are at risk of drying out—a step that’s de rigueur at competitions, but rare at restaurants.

The result: Ribs coming out of the smoker are chock full of flavor and leave a clean bite mark when they come away from the bone (a sign, Corey says, that the cook left enough connective tissue intact). 

Moist pulled pork and pork belly come from Berkshire hogs, and chunks of rib meat make cameos in deviled eggs and sides, including rich and delicious mac ‘n cheese.

Corey is happy with the results, but he knows the customers are the real judges here.

“I have people come from Texas,” he says dramatically. “They walk out crying.” 


This article originally appeared in our Smoke & Salt 2018 issue.

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