King’s BBQ named a “Legendary Barbecue Joint” in Southern Living Magazine

By Zach Armstrong

PETERSBURG, Va -- Southern Living Magazine, a lifestyle magazine focusing on culture and travel in the U.S. south, has named Petersburg’s King’s BBQ as one of ten restaurants featured on their list of “South's Most Legendary Barbecue Joints 2021”

The magazine wrote in their ranking of the restaurant: “Established in 1946 and now operated by the third generation of the King family, this Petersburg fixture offers a splendid version of Virginia’s old Southside style of barbecue. Enjoy chopped pork or tender folds of slow-smoked beef tucked inside a griddled bun with plenty of tangy orange sauce for a superb sandwich.”

The magazine, in their writing, is referring to the restaurant’s BBQ Pork and BBQ Beef sandwiches. 

“What makes it popular is the simplicity of it yet it has such a unique flavor.  It is only meat, bun, and sauce but you’ll have a hard time finding anything similar to the taste of our BBQ sandwich.” said Matt Keeler, owner of King’s BBQ. “I think what makes it “superb” to our customer’s taste buds is the way we prepared it for 75 years.  We use top quality meats for consistency.”

John King opened the restaurant in 1946 after serving in the army during WWII. He started out in a small building in Petersburg with little money working side by side with his two brothers and the business soon grew. 

By the 1960’s, there were three restaurants in the Tri-City area run by the King family. Today there is only one King’s Famous Barbecue restaurant left.  John King passed the business to his daughter and granddaughter, Joan Hawks & Alicia Keeler, in 1994 and they have continued the family tradition ever since.

Southern Living has mentioned King’s BBQ before. In 2012, the magazine listed the restaurant as having one of the “Best BBQ Sauces in the South”.  Last year, the restaurant was mentioned in Food & Wine Magazine as one of the top BBQ restaurants in Virginia.

“I think what stands out is the fact we keep two traditions going.  The first being a barbecue tradition that has been around this region of Virginia for almost 100 years.” said Keeler. “It has such a unique taste that can only be found in our area.”

“The second reason is that it's a family tradition where we have worked hard to keep our restaurant as close to it was when it opened 75 years ago.” said Keeler. “That way when a person who hasn’t set foot in the area in over 20 years comes back for a meal it’s like they never left. It’s like a taste of home. We want the customer to know the world may change but King’s will always try to stay the same.”