BBQ & Blues
The first Red Hot and Blue restaurant opened in Arlington, Virginia in 1988, started by Lee Atwater, Don Sundquist and friends.
The first Red Hot and Blue restaurant opened in Arlington, Virginia in 1988, started by Lee Atwater, Don Sundquist and friends. Don Sundquist was from Memphis and served in the House of Representatives and as governor of Tennessee. The late Lee Atwater was an amateur blues musician and political figure that managed George H.W. Bush’s successful race for the presidency.
These men were friends who longed for authentic Memphis-style barbecue and great blues music. Unable to find that combination anywhere in the Washington, DC area they decided the only way to get it done was to open a restaurant of their own.
In the early days, Red Hot and Blue had one portable, outdoor smoker in which all the meats were smoked. The Alexandria county health department didn’t allow outdoor smokers so whenever the smoke was billowing high; a health director inevitably arrived and asked them to turn it off. Pitmaster Sonny McKnight was Red Hot and Blue’s very first employee and he recalls how he would load the portable smoker onto his truck and drive for hours until the food was cooked to avoid confrontation with the health director. “After a couple hours on the freeway, I’d come back and we’d unload the meat at the restaurant,” McKnight said.
From the beginning the mission was clear: “serve only the best quality barbeque available anywhere in a fun casual atmosphere surrounded by authentic blues music and memorabilia.” McKnight said. The Arlington Red Hot and Blue restaurant was a bipartisan hot spot. “It was common to see Congressmen from opposing political parties playing in the band together or sharing a rack of ribs and a cold brew,” McKnight said. “Red Hot and Blue was the first to introduce Washingtonians to full-flavored, authentic Memphis-style barbecue and true Southern hospitality.
The name Red Hot & Blue is taken from the title of DJ Dewey Phillip’s radio show that aired on WHBQ-AM in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1950’s. This radio show introduced the world to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash and broadened the audience for artists like B.B. Call letters’ meaning. We Have Better Quartets. (derived from WHBQ-AM)
Many other companies have tried to copy this winning formula, but Red Hot & Blue’s commitment to the highest quality ingredients has kept us at the top of the barbeque heap. In the beginning, celebrities and politicians gathered at the Arlington restaurant where they ate, played the blues, and enjoyed each other’s friendship. Now with over 30 years of history the hits keep coming; Red Hot & Blue has been:
- Recognized as the top barbeque chain in the country by a major national consumer magazine
- Named best barbeque in the Washington Post Reader’s Poll
- Named best barbeque in Northern Virginia in the Washingtonian Magazine
- Named “Best Barbeque” in Dallas by AOL City Search
There may be some barbeque players who are bigger, but there is still none better!
Our aim is to provide the absolute best barbeque and southern cuisine at a reasonable price. We will never try to be the quickest or cheapest food available. Quality takes time and the freshest ingredients don’t come cheap; but we think our customers are worth it. Don’t you!
As proud as we are of our barbeque accolades, we are equally proud of the value we provide to our friends (a.k.a. customers). In 2015 we were selected as one of seven quick picks for “good food at a good price” by a major national consumer magazine. This selection process was not limited to barbeque chains, but included all sit down restaurants from steak to Italian to Mexican. Red Hot & Blue was the smallest chain (by number of units) to garner this recognition.
Barbeque in the south is part of the culture – inseparably linked to gatherings from friends to family, to church, civic groups, sporting occasions, and business functions. At Red Hot & Blue southern hospitality is not an option. It’s an injunction. Everybody is family, and every gathering is a special occasion.
Red Hot & Blue is a full-service, casual-themed restaurant chain and caterer featuring delicious award-winning ribs, Memphis-style barbecue, smoked wings, and Southern sides and desserts. The atmosphere is steeped in legendary and contemporary blues music and delivers a large dose of Southern hospitality in a fun and entertaining dining environment.
The name Red Hot & Blue is taken from the title of DJ Dewey Phillip’s radio show that aired on WHBQ-AM in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1950’s.
This radio show introduced the world to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash and broadened the audience for artists like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Robert Cray, and Rufus Thomas. The atmosphere at Red Hot & Blue captures the essence of this timeless era with its hand picked blues memorabilia and the classic rhythm and blue tunes playing in the foreground.
The core of Red Hot and Blue’s offerings is hickory-smoked meat – ribs, pulled pork barbecue, smoked-chicken, tender beef brisket, smoked-sausage, southern-fried catfish and a line of branded barbecue sauces.
Only the finest U.S.A.-produced meat, fresh produce and ingredients are used. And all barbecue is cooked slowly using hickory logs, at low temperatures and long cooking times. All meats served are from the United States. Freshness is key, for example, the potato salad is homemade every four hours so it is always fresh!
Menus feature appetizers, salads, entrees including ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, beef, and seafood, a variety of Southern sides and homemade desserts. Since its founding, more and more delectable items have been added. Depending on location, customers are able to sample traditional Memphis-, Texas-, North Carolina- and other style barbecue. Red Hot and Blue personnel have made every attempt to design menus catering to local preferences.
Red Hot & Blue is a full-service, blues-themed restaurant chain and caterer. We feature delicious award-winning ribs, Memphis-style barbecue, smoked wings, and Southern sides and desserts. The atmosphere is steeped in legendary and contemporary blues music and delivers a large dose of Southern hospitality in a fun and entertaining dining environment.
©2019 Red, Hot & Blue. All rights reserved.
©2019 Red, Hot & Blue. All rights reserved.