Barbecue Exchange

Over my spring break, I got a new motorcycle!  This isn’t directly food-related, but I wanted to share the whole story of visiting Barbecue Exchange, which is a barbecue joint in Gordonsville that my family frequents often on our motorcycles.  We waited for a nice, sunny afternoon, and we set off on our bikes: me on my shiny, new orange V Strom and my Mom riding on the back of my Dad’s silver Honda.

Back to food, now though!  Barbecue Exchange is one of my two favorite barbecue restaurants in the Charlottesville area (the other one is Ace Biscuit and Barbecue!).  It’s not technically in Charlottesville, but it’s so well known that plenty of Charlotesvillians go out of their way to get their barbecue.  The chef/owner is Craig Hartman who had previously been the chef at various famous, fine dining restaurants in the area, but like Brian Ashworth of Ace, decided that the life of an executive chef wasn’t for him.  He wanted to create a restaurant which epitomized the food culture of Virginia, combining southern food, good hospitality, and delicious, slow-smoked meat.


In comparison to Ace which is quaint and small, Barbecue Exchange is spacious and bright.  A sign on the front of the building proclaims “BBQ,” calling all meat-lovers to the mecca of pork (and some beef).

FrontThe inside of the building is all natural wood, lending a bright, rustic look.  The tables are wooden picnic tables equipped with white paper on the surface and a bucket of crayons to draw with.  Pig paraphanalia decorates every available surface, and I quite enjoy all the porky statues and signs.  It all gets you in the mood to enjoy some delicious barbecue!

InsideI wanted to take some of these pig statues home!

PiggiesThey even had a sign with my name on it!  This place was just made for me!

Erin ThemeThe Barbecue Exchange hosts various swine-themed events, and one of their most famous is Porkapalooza.  Here’s the t-shirt they had designed for the event:

T-ShirtAlright, enough about the awesome decorations; now onto the food!  The Barbecue Exchange is famous for its large selection of homemade pickles that come in a variety of flavors ranging from spicy, to sweet, to garlic-y.  Their onion rings are also fantastic, with a dense but crisp beer batter that is golden and beautiful.  My family is also a big fan of their broccoli salad which consists of broccoli, a tangy/slightly-sweet dressing, cheddar cheese, shredded carrot, sunflower seeds, raisins, and peanuts.  It’s a bizarre sounding combination, but trust me when I say that it all somehow works.  The other item featured in the picture below is Barbecue Exchange’s signature dry rub, which they call “Butt Crack,” which I think is utterly hilarious.

Onion Rings and Butt CrackAlthough the sides are quite tasty, the real reason I go to Barbecue Exchange is of course for the meat!  Their pulled pork is amazing and flavorful and comes un-sauced so that you can choose which of their 6 or so homemade sauces you want.   I personally love it without the sauce, and when we bring some home, I even eat it cold straight out of the fridge!  The brisket is wonderful as well, but the real reason I love Barbecue Exchange is their pork belly.  They make dry-rubbed, smoked pork belly.  And anyone that knows me should remember that pork belly is possibly my all-time favorite cut of meat.  And Chef Craig knows how to treat it right: the super thick, bacon-y slices are slightly spicy, caramelized, and crispy on the edges and moist, fatty, and melt-in-your mouth in the center.  They normally serve up an order with three slices, but I order between 6 and 9 whenever I go and I get more to bring home for later.  Below is one of my recent plates that features double “Belly” and double cole slaw:

Double Belly

One Response to “Barbecue Exchange”
  1. Nana and Pop-Pop says:

    Erin, We agree that the Barbecue here is mouth-watering, On your dad’s recommendation, we stopped here on our way home from one of our visits to you guys last summer. Bought some of the pork belly, pulled pork, broccoli salad, and cole slaw to enjoy at home. It survived our 5 hour trip home and was just as delicious after traveling, as I’m sure it is, at the site.

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