By C. Todd Lopez
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (July 06, 2007) -- A tiny little dining establishment on the east side of Andrews has been serving up homemade barbecue for nearly 20 years now.
But the place, Loretta's Barbecue, is easily missed. It looks as if a trailer had partially melted into the ground and reinforced with paint, a wooden overhang and a walk-in cooler.
But what Loretta's lacks in style, it makes up in taste. The most popular dish there, the pulled pork sandwich, regularly has customers lined up to the curb.
The popularity of the food is renowned, claims the proprietor, Loretta Windsor. Pilots and aircrews from around the country come into Andrews and send runners to her barbecue shack to pick up their fix.
"When they fly in, they show up here and say 'we just flew in from California and we heard about your barbeque,'" she said. "And once a month, a guy comes in from Arkansas, he flies up here and gets a pound. When folks land here, they come over and bring a crowd with them."
Loretta's was originally called "Denny's Real Pit BBQ." It opened on base in 1989, under a contract with the 316th Services Squadron.
"Denny and a friend started out with a 'roach coach' here," she said. "It originally started with just that, a little trailer, and two people were working it. From there, Denny built on."
Improvements to the place amounted to a small addition to the side of an existing trailer, a walk-in meat cooler, a wooden overhang and some picnic tables.
Recently, Ms. Windsor took over the place from Denny and changed the name to match her own. She'd been working for Denny since 1991, just two years after he opened shop. She said she took over the business because she had enjoyed serving the Andrews community for so long.
"Well, I loved what I was doing, so I wanted to stay," she said. "I'm a people person and I love the customers."
The change in name hasn't changed the quality of the barbecue, however. After nearly 16 years of making lunch for the Andrews community, Ms. Windsor is well versed in how to prepare the meat and how to make the sauce.
"Denny showed me before he left," she said of the recipe for the homemade barbecue sauce they use. "People want to know, but it's always been tradition that Denny said not to tell it. We don't disclose our sauce."
The menu at Loretta's includes pulled pork, chicken, sweet tea, baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni salad and chips. And the prices aren't bad. A lunchtime customer can get barbecued chicken -- two legs and two thighs -- for only $3.25. The lunch menu also includes a pork barbecue sandwich, chips and a drink for only $5 dollars -- it's one of the most popular orders, Ms. Windsor said.
Senior Airman Patrick Stout, a reservist called to Active Duty, works in the ramp section of the 69th Aerial Port Squadron. He said when he first showed up at Andrews he'd been unaware there was a barbecue place on base. A friend told him about it.
"I didn't know this was here," he said. "I had a friend that asked if I wanted to go to the barbeque shack, and I figured it was some place off base."
Airman Stout said he's recently become a regular at Loretta's.
"I've eaten four times here this week," he said. "Most of the time I get the minced pork sandwich and the macaroni salad. I've had the same thing four days in a row now."
Despite the repetition, he was ready for something different after having been deployed.
"I've been in Germany, so I've had schnitzel and Taco Bell and McDonald's, and I got tired of all that stuff," he said. "So it's a nice change, and they make great food here."
Loretta's Barbecue is under contract with the 316 SVS to provide food services to Team Andrews. Ms. Windsor said money from the business goes to support youth programs on base.
Loretta's will undergo some upgrades this summer. Those changes include new paint, new tables and some flowers. But Ms. Windsor said the changes won't be too drastic because she knows the look of the place is part of its charm.
"You don't want to change it too much," she said.