Around Town

At Sloppy Mama’s, a commitment to traditional barbecue — and the community

“The only 100 percent wood-fired BBQ restaurant in Arlington.”

What started out simply as a husband and wife catering their own wedding escalated to buying a food truck in 2014, and eventually turned into Joe and Mandy Neuman’s first restaurant opening in 2019.

Joe Neuman, owner of Sloppy Mama’s BBQ, can rattle off the trials and tribulations of what the years have brought them this far.

“Mandy and I catered our wedding, and had a pig roast,” said Joe. From there, family and friends asked the couple to cater for them and eventually they were doing 3-4 pig roasts a summer.

Fast forward to 2014, the Mandy and Joe found themselves inside of their own Sloppy Mama’s BBQ food truck.

“Food trucks became a thing and we bought one… as it was the most economical entrance to food industry,” chuckled Joe.

They went on to hustle and live the food truck life before getting their first kitchen in Sterling, Virginia for a couple months. From here they moved to Chantilly and then D.C. in 2015.

During that time they moved to a home in Arlington, to be closer to their business.

The business was operating in D.C., they had the food truck, a dive bar and were inside Union Market.

“Since we do real BBQ, we couldn’t find many places that would allow outdoor smoker,” recounted Joe. He takes pride in sticking with his traditional, wood-fired BBQ method, despite the challenges.

“We cook with nothing but wood,” says Joe.

They have two 1,000 gallon offset smokers right outside the restaurant, where they cook the meats every morning they’re open.

“We fire them up in the wee hours of the morning, we get started very early,” said Joe. “We time our meats to come off right before lunch and dinner.”

While Joe was on the hunt for available brick-and-mortar locations that would suit his needs, he came across an article about a restaurant closing on ARLnow.

Not before long after they signed a lease for their current space at 5731 Langston Blvd — formerly a ramen restaurant called Misomen — in December of 2018 and officially opened in July of 2019.

That 2019 summer brought loads of excitement and hungry customers.

“Lines were going down the block, it was great…we generated a buzz… it died down a little bit, but that’s when we thought about how we can make things better,” said Joe.

As winter waned in early 2020, Sloppy Mama’s BBQ was ready for prime time.

“The first week of March we sold out of everything by 6 p.m.,” said Joe. “The next weekend, Covid hit.”

The pandemic took a big toll, affecting their catering business and their Ballston Quarter and Union Market outposts — both closed up, putting an end to Sloppy Mama’s food hall era.

They also said goodbye and sold their food truck.

“The business is now half the size it used to be,” Joe said. “In speaking with others in the industry, a lot of people have very different businesses than they had in the before times.”

There were personal challenges, too. Mandy was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2022.

With the tough treatment that followed, only regulars knew what was going on. Support and meals followed, even from people they didn’t know.

“The Arlington community was looking out for us,” said Joe. “We had 2-3 meals a week during the whole time in chemo provided by friends, family and complete strangers just trying to help out.”

Joe and Mandy expressed how grateful and fortunate they are to work and live in a community like Arlington — to receive the love they did, when they did.

Back in the kitchen and looking over at the menu, Joe gave a rundown on how to get the most out of your BBQ order at Sloppy Mama’s.

“Brisket is our number one seller,” he said.

He emphasizes going for a platter, to get a good mix of it all.

“You can come by yourself and get a sandwich or burger and that’s great but my favorite is a family style platter and get a bunch of it all, brisket, pork, ribs, sausage, and bone-in chicken,” said Joe.

Sides include baked beans, mac and cheese, corn bread, potato salad, collard greens, house made pickles, coleslaw and handmade french fries. All sides, rubs and sauces — from your classic BBQ to vinegar-based selections to a hot “Diablo” sauce — are homemade from scratch.

Whatever comes next, Joe and Mandy intend to stay right here in Arlington, doing what they love.

“We are always here to serve the community,” said Joe. “Keep eating BBQ and we can figure it out.”

Open: Wednesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. & Sunday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Address: 5731 Langston Blvd, Arlington, VA 22207
Phone: 703-269-2718