The opening in March of in Ashburn Village marks the beginning of a dream come true for one retiree—a dream persistence would not let die.
“It’s been a dream of my husband’s for so long,” said Lisa Nelson, speaking about husband Gregg as a crowd filled their restaurant behind her. “It’s just amazing. We are so grateful to the Ashburn community. They’ve been fabulous.”
While the barbecue fans have been rolling into one of the community’s newest restaurants, Gregg and Lisa Nelson had to prove their passion before the founders of Maryland-based Urban Bar-B-Que would sign off on plans for a restaurant in Virginia. When the Nelson first approached founders Dave Caulkins and Lee Howard about opening a restaurant in Virginia under the Urban Bar-B-Que banner, Caulkins admits offering a somewhat cold reception.
After all, the restaurant business is difficult and results in multiple failures. Owners must have drive and passion…and patience.
“Ten years in and we’re finally starting to see the fruits of our labor,” Caulkins said, adding that while the fruit is sweet, it does not come right away. “We get 10 calls a week from people wanting to go into business with us.”
But Caulkins said Nelson would not give up.
“’This guy’s persistent. Let’s at least give him a meeting,’” Caulkins remembers saying to Howard. “It’s my job at that point to talk you out of it. I couldn’t talk him out of it. His background is Texas and his passion is barbecue.”
Gregg Nelson said friends recommended he look into Urban and that once he did, he believed it was the right fit. Nelson is retired after 23 years in the military, investigative work for the federal government and a career in computer manufacturing for corporate America. He and Lisa have six grown children.
“I’ve always loved cooking and doing barbecue,” Gregg Nelson said, adding that his friends told him his barbecue tasted different.
He began to kick around the idea of a restaurant with his wife and some friends recommended he check out Urban Bar-B-Que in Maryland.
“They literally smoke and do their meats just like I do,” adding that he called Caulkins and Howard at that point. “They have a great product. My thought was, why reinvent the wheel.”
After a year of negotiations, Gregg Nelson became just the second new partner for the Urban founders, Caulkins said.
And so far, the location looks like a winner. On the first day, and ever since, the place has been filled with customers.
“We were in awe,” Gegg Nelson, said referring to opening day March 2. “By 5 or 6 o’clock we had this place packed. We’re still trying to play catch up.”
“We’ve always liked the community,” said Lisa Nelson, explaining the reason for choosing Ashburn. “We found this shopping center and it was a perfect fit.”
Urban offers a range of barbecue types and techniques from Texas-style brisket to Caroline-style pulled pork “with a twist,” Gregg Nelson said. The ribs are Tennessee styles, but with a St. Louis cut and cooked with a Texas method. Urban offers barbecue chicken pulled or on the bone.
Among the menu items the Nelsons recommend are the Urban Soul Rolls—an eggroll of sorts, with brisket, carmelized onions and three cheeses, served with Redneck fondue, Urban’s version of chili con queso.
And while it the menu, like most barbecue restaurants, is meat heavy, Urban offers a range of salads.
“The women can come in and have salads and a glass of wine and have their girls’ time,” explained Lisa Nelson.
With several large-screen televisions and Lost Rhino beer and root beer on tap, Urban makes a great new place in Ashburn to catch a game.