Ashworth used red oak from his farm in Barboursville to give some pork rumps their flavor.
Ace's pulled-pork sandwich, french fries, and mac and cheese.
Chef Brian Ashworth has a bit of advice for "hoity-toity" chefs who might think that leaving a fancy restaurant job to open a BBQ joint would be easy.
"No way, making good barbecue is hard," says Ashworth, a former executive sous chef at Zocalo who left and opened Ace Biscuit & Barbecue at 711 Henry Avenue in late August. "And when you have your own place, there's an awful lot to think about."
Indeed, just ask Craig Hartman, the former executive chef at Keswick who left to open the BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville and once told Dish that 37 years in upscale kitchens didn't quite prepare him for the art of creating great barbecue.
It's clear that leaving what he calls a "cushy" job at Zocalo to open Ace has been a bit of a shock for Ashworth too. He says they've been doing a "crazy" lunch business, and breakfast is picking up.
He describes his BBQ as "kind of North Carolina-style, but I like to think of it as unique to Virginia and Charlottesville."
Ashworth's pork BBQ is dry-rubbed and smoked for 10 hours, and he's not a big believer in sauce.
"Good barbecue doesn't need sauce," says Ashworth, "but, of course, we make our own just in case someone wants it."
They also make their own buttermilk biscuits.
Located not far from Jackson Burley Middle School, where Ashworth was a student, the space on Henry Avenue may be a little out of the way, but was once Dotties Cafe, a soul food restaurant. Ashworth says that the southern soul food tradition is what inspires him. But he's bringing his own style, too.
For instance, he says he's into "bastardizing the classics." What does that mean? Well, one of the most popular items on the menu is something called the Ace Dip, Ashworth's version of the popular French Dip sandwich. It's a pulled pork sandwich on a parsley- and garlic-buttered bun with caramelized onions and a special smoked pork gravy that Ashworth makes from pork bone stock. Coming soon, an Ace version of the popular Cuban sandwich. Oh, and they cater.
For Ashworth, trading in a fancy kitchen for a smoker is a kind of homecoming.
"I always really loved barbecue," says Ashworth, "it was always something I helped my Dad make."
Correction: The address is 711 Henry Avenue.–ed.