It’s the first nice Friday evening of the year, and David Saville is smiling as he tends his grill.
“Put another fresh dip in a hot lick on another rack of ribs. Ring that bell,” Saville shouts, as Ed “Woody” Woodard of the Mason Neck Lions rings the bell. Saville takes a rack of ribs that were cooked in his workhorse “cater car,” dips it in a vat of barbecue sauce made from the recipe that his late father formulated, and freshens it on the grill. Hence, the dip in a “hot lick.”
Friday is the only night of the week that is open for dinner. Saville teams up with the Mason Neck Lions for the Friday Nite BBQ, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Lions.
Despite its popularity and the explosive growth that has come to Lorton in the last decade, the restaurant’s location in an industrial park off Telegraph Road has kept the dinner crowd away. But there are only so many hours in a day when you’re a family-owned business, and American Bar-B-Que does a brisk breakfast and lunch business, thanks to nearby Fort Belvoir and other local businesses.
There’s also the catering side, which accounts for half of the business. Saville’s pulled pork, homemade cole slaw and other fixings have been served at events ranging from ceremonies at the Pentagon to the Smithsonian Folklife festival on the National Mall. American Bar-B-Que also does emergency food service for Pepco and was recognized for its efforts during Hurricane Isabel, which slammed the mid-Atlantic in 2003.
In the summer, American Bar-B-Que will serve between 600 and 800 pounds of pulled pork in a week. On Friday nights, Saville will cook 1,000 pounds of spareribs over two hours in the “cater car,” which operates like a conveyor belt. Every five minutes the meat is dipped in a vat of barbecue sauce so it never dries out.
Saville’s father started American Bar-B-Que as a catering business in a two-car garage on Harley Road in 1972, when Saville was 10. The business moved to Telegraph Road in 1977, where the teen-ager sold sandwiches out of a truck. In 1982 the business moved across the street to its present location.
There was a time when the Saville family did not own American Bar-B-Que, but Saville still worked there on weekends. He was able to buy it back in 1994 and gave up a lucrative vending machine business to run it full time. Now his wife works with him, and their three young sons help out.
The restaurant side of the business continues to do well, Saville said, but catering took a substantial hit in the recession. That is just now sitting to pick up, he said.
“If you give quality food and good service people will come,” Saville said, adding, “I love serving people.”
7230 Lockport Pl., 703-550-7757, Open Monday-Thursday, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Prices: $6.50 for a bacon and egg platter, $10 for a pulled pork sandwich combo with fries, cole slaw and a drink, $8.95 for the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet Tuesday-Friday.
Owner’s favorites: Chicken wings, pork spareribs and of course, the pulled pork.