King’s Barbecue was founded in 1946 with the mission to be known as a simple Southern Virginia family restaurant. Much like the “old Virginia barbecue’s” of the past (which were the big social events for the whole community during the 17th, 18th & 19th centuries featuring classic VA BBQ), our goal has been to continue the tradition of creating a welcoming environment and providing a home cooked meal with the very best Virginia style barbecue that everybody can enjoy. We are a full service, casual style restaurant. You can be served in our sit-down dining room or you can order your meal to go in our Carry Out area. We are true to who we are. We are not fancy but we make up for it in comfort. We do not cut corners and we take our time when it comes to our barbecue. No flashy gimmicks. No annoying ads. Just simple, authentic, affordable, fresh, quality home cooked meals that have stood the test of time.
For seven decades, our customers have established King’s as a Petersburg, VA institution for pit-smoked barbecue. Generations of families have continued to patron our restaurant and spread their pleasure of our Southern Virginia food and service. Now in our third generation ownership, we would like to thank the countless number of locals and travelers that have helped make us their family tradition .
King’s serves only Southside Virginia Style Barbecue. Virginia Barbecue is the oldest style of barbecue there is going back to the 1600’s with the first english colonists. We continue that old tradition with our pit-smoked meats and our great house made sauce that gives it a unique taste. Our sauce is a vinegar, tomato, & mustard based recipe that was created by Mr. King in the late 40’s but origins are told to have gone back over 100 years. The three cuts of meat we serve are pork, beef, and chicken. The main cut of meat that we use is whole pork shoulders from Smithfield, VA. We slow smoke them in our pit for 12-14 hours using white oak logs. Our beef is Top Butt Sirloin “Certified Angus Beef” . This brand of beef is the top quality for tenderness and taste. Smoked in our pit and can be served rare to well done. Our BBQ chicken is marinated with our original BBQ sauce and is slowly cooked in our smoker.
King’s also makes other southern dishes such as our Buttermilk Fried Chicken. We use fresh chicken that is cooked to order. Also serve, Shrimp, Hamburger Steak, Chicken Tenders, and Virginia Sugar-cured Ham. Fresh fish (usually flounder, blue fish, or local wild caught catfish from the Rappahannock river) as well as other side items made fresh in our kitchen. And for dessert we have homemade apple and pecan pies which are made daily in our own ovens from scratch. Old fashioned southern food from a long running southern restaurant!
John King and his older brother Clinton grew up in Petersburg, VA. The family’s original trade was carpentry. Both their grandfather and their father were trunk makers at the famous Seward Luggage factory in Petersburg. But with the early unexpected death of their father, the young brothers had to quickly pick up a strong work ethic to provide for their family. They worked many odd jobs though out the years. Eventually, Clinton picked up his father’s trade at the trunk factory. While John, at the age of 17, found employment with a gentlemen named Lester Alford who owned Alford’s Barbecue on Sycamore Street. It was a log cabin restaurant famous for it’s barbecue sauce and large dance hall. It is there he learned the craft of barbecue and his first taste of the restaurant business. Then World War II came around and John left to serve his country in the Army. Upon his return at war’s end, he returned to work at Alford’s. This time his older brother joined him and together they learned the trade of VA BBQ. And when Lester Alford had to sell his restaurant to tend to his family’s fruit orchard, the brothers (with hardly any money) decided to go into business for themselves. Alford’s Barbecue closed July 10, 1946 and with a loan of money from a friend and a small building on Rt. 1 at the city limits of Petersburg, King’s Barbecue opened for business on December 20, 1946.
The original restaurant was located on West Washington Street and the entire King family worked there. John and Clinton were joined by their younger brother Robert and sisters Nellie and Helen. Robert King once said that the family during that time was “as poor as they come” and “as soon one pork shoulder was done and sold they would use the money to buy another shoulder at the local meat market down the road.” One shoulder at a time, they started to gain a following. They worked long hours but always closed on Monday’s. That was their fishing time. They would fish the Coan River for blue fish and would come back on Tuesday and have it on the menu.
And after 10 years of running a successful business, they decided to open their second restaurant off of Rt. 301 on the other side of town. King’s Barbecue No.2 was built from the ground up in 1956. John King made this restaurant his own and Robert came with him to manage operations. And in 1961, Clinton started King’s Barbecue No.3 in Colonial Heights, VA. Making their restaurants the staple for BBQ in the Tri-City area.
Over the years, the King’s style of southside Virginia BBQ grew in popularity. The business was successful and the sauce was nationally known as the second generation of the King family were taking over the business. Clinton’s oldest son, Howard, was the first of his generation to work in the family business and he ran King’s No. 1 until it was taken over by the Caudle brothers (W.A. & James Caudle) in 1966. The Caudle family ran the business for over 40 years under the King franchise until they closed in 2006. Clinton’s other two son’s, J.C. and Johnny, helped their father run No.3 until Clinton’s passing in 1982. John W. King retired soon after his brother’s death and had his daughter Joan and son-in-law Jimmy Hawks III took over his restaurant. In 1994, the third generation entered the family business when John’s grand daughter Alicia took over operations.
What was called King’s Barbecue No. 2 is now the only restaurant owned by the King family. It is co-owned by mother/daughter team, Joan & Alicia, along with the help of Alicia’s husband, Matt. The family business is going strong and continues to make great VA BBQ.