The Virginia sauce—a vinegar base plus ketchup, dried peppers and a little sugar—has not changed since its creation in the early 1950s.
“There was no day care,” says Matt Shaffer, remembering working at his family’s barbecue business after school. He ran the cash register, stocked shelves, manned the smoker and, he laughs, washed “a lot of dishes, a lot of dishes.”
His grandfather, John D., started selling barbecue chicken in the early 1950s, and it was then that he created Shaffer’s BBQ Tangy Virginia Sauce. His father, George, later took over the business, and after almost two decades in the Navy, Matt and his wife, Julie, reinvigorated the brand. While the Virginia sauce—a vinegar base plus ketchup, dried peppers and a little sugar—has not changed, Julie, with her New Orleans upbringing, brought new seasonings to the barbecue menu.
The couple ran The BBQ Palace food truck in Northern Virginia before moving to the Shenandoah Valley, where they bought an old gas station and remodeled it into a restaurant with a market last fall. (His father owns Shaffer’s Catering.) This will be their first summer there, with picnic tables in view of what Shaffer says is “12 miles of mountains.”