Traveling Tidbits

BBQ at Cedar Creek – Shaffer’s

Shaffer’s BBQ and Market isn’t much to look at from the outside, but a colleague promised that looks are deceiving, and that I should give them a try.

The infamy of Shaffer’s dates back to the 1950s and 60s when the current owner’s grandfather (John) toured Virginia with his original food trailer, The Chicken Palace, attending fairs and festivals and sharing his fantastic barbeque with the public. The enterprise passed to John’s son in 1970, who continued the legacy of excellence and earned prominence across the region. According to their website, “Shaffer’s has served BBQ from our stand at the Shenandoah County Fair in Woodstock, VA, every year since 1956 and catered events large and small – including one for 5,000 people outside Atoka, VA.”

It wasn’t until 2016 when the current owner purchased a 1956 gas station just outside Middletown, Virginia and finally made a permanent place for Shaffer’s. The decision must have been easy for John’s grandson, since he was raised in the family business and has “always enjoyed the camaraderie and community spirit that a BBQ joint inspires.” The Shaffers have BBQ down to an art, using only the best meats and locally harvested oak for their smoking. Their specialties include Boston Butts, Beef Briskets, St. Louis cut Ribs, and locally produced sausage and chicken. They employ the use of home-made rubs and sauces to complement their juicy and flavorful smoked meats.

They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, and have expanded their business to include a store for BBQ products, craft beer, and local goods like jams and sauces. One can even purchase their food in bulk to take home! The family continues to provide excellent food, service, and hospitality at this little wayside venue with lots of personality.

Sliced brisket sandwich, fried chicken, fries, and corn nuggets at Shaffer’s (author photo, 2021)

I will be totally honest and admit that I’m not a big BBQ fan. Before you revoke my “Southern Card” understand that I have a very sensitive gut, so anything overly greasy or oily just turns my stomach. I’ve had some BBQ in the past that left my mouth feeling slick and the aftertaste was so unpleasant to turn me off from it entirely. I’m always nervous to try a new place, fearful that it’ll be terrible. Shaffer’s was a true exception. Their sliced brisket sandwich was neither greasy nor messy. The BBQ sauce provided at the tables is vinegar based and also sold in the lobby, but those homemade rubs make their meat perfect without it – though the sauce truly is good too. The fries that come with the meal are crispy and packed with seasoning. They’re definitely not your typical roadhouse or fast food fries and they pair wonderfully with the brisket. I decided to get a little adventurous and try their fried chicken as well. Again, I have to be wary of fried chicken with fatty skins or slimy coatings under the fried bits. Shaffer’s, once again, blew me away. I half expected a skimpy chicken leg, but this was loaded with meat and the skin was fried to perfection. The sandwich, fries, and chicken leg was enough to make me more than full – and a little uncomfortable around the waistline – but it was amazing. No regrets!

After you’ve finished eating, consider taking one of their desserts to go and definitely browse their shop. One can find preserves, BBQ sauces, flavored ketchup, soaps, shirts, hats, glasses, a variety of pickles, jarred goods, and other seasonings for sale. I personally recommend the strawberry jam. If my husband wasn’t opposed to their vinegar sauces, I would have taken some of that home too.

A Union soldier guarding the entry to Shaffer’s (author photo, 2021)

Shaffer’s is located on the side of Highway 11 and it’s easy to pass by if you’re really flyin’ down that road. If you’re going down the Shenandoah Valley and away from Cedar Creek Battlefield, once you begin to see signs of civilization (Middletown) up ahead, start to slow down. Yes, people behind you will get upset, but you’ll forget all about that once you sit down for a meal at Shaffer’s. Seating is available inside and outside, with a gorgeous view to compliment your visit. They offer online ordering and if you live out of state, never fear! You can order their famous BBQ sauce online!

For more information about their menus, products, and to order some goodies, check out their website:

Address: 8140 Valley Pike, Middletown, VA 22645
Phone: 540.508.4274
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7AM – 7PM

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