It wouldn’t just be hackneyed to say the Washington-area barbecue scene is on fire, it’d be downright false, too. That’s because the scene is actually ablaze.
In recent weeks, Smoke Signals has written about no fewer than three restaurant openings: the Texas-themed Hill Country Barbecue Market in Penn Quarter, the smallish beer garden Standard on 14th Street NW and the humble Upper Marlboro joint Chuck’s Wagon.
You know what has been happening in the meantime? All hell has been breaking loose, that’s what.
Food trucks. Fancy restaurants. Even Nationals Ballpark. You name it, there is probably barbecue going on there.
This week, Smoke Signals gives you a rundown of where you can find some of the new additions to the city’s barbecue landscape. I’ll write about some of these more in-depth in the coming weeks. But I wanted to make sure you pushed the pins of these newcomers into your barbecue map..
Carnivore BBQ . Having trolled the Maryland farmers markets for three years, this flame-painted food truck is practically an old-timer. But its entry into the D.C. food-truck cavalcade is new, having just hit the streets last month.
From his 1988 Chevy C20 pickup, owner Stephen Adelson serves up two sandwiches — beef brisket and pulled pork. Both are slow-roasted over red oak and white oak for 22 hours in a hand-built smoker and served on Uptown Bakery buns. The three homemade sauces include a mild tomato-based one, a vinegar-and-peppers sauce and a mild-burn, mustard-based scotch bonnet sauce. The optional, sandwich-topping slaw is vinegar-based.
BBQ Bus DC . Run by two partners, this truck just entered the D.C . food-truck fray on Friday, primarily working the H Street NE party scene and, on Saturday, Chinatown. The guys dish up a “Hawaiian BBQ Pork” that’s seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt and spices, wrapped in ti leaves (long, wide green leaves used in traditional Hawaiian barbecuing), wood-smoked and served with a teriyaki-barbecue sauce. The other three offerings are more traditional, and all are pulled: pork, chicken and beef.
Jammin Island BBQ, Nationals Park. Located in the Red Porch area, this new addition to the park paints its ribs and chicken with a fiery homemade jerk sauce and, after some time in a regular oven, grills the meat to a lovely char over lump hardwood embers. The operation also serves cole slaw, potato salad and corn on the cob.
Blue Smoke , Nationals Park. As of this writing, the barbecue brainchild of New York restaurateur Danny Meyer hasn’t yet opened, but the stand, which replaces local fave Five Guys, is supposed to start serving its wood-smoked brisket and pulled pork in “late spring,” according to a Nats release.
Blue Smoke’s menu in New York offers up a travelogue of regional styles, from Kansas City to St. Louis to Texas to Memphis. No word yet on whether the Nats outlet will be the same.
Bourbon Steak Look! On the plate. It’s an appetizer. It’s a side dish. It’s a dessert. It’s…a smoked pork cupcake? Actually, it’s mostly a big tease because the savory treat is not on the menu. But the Georgetown restaurant confirmed to Smoke Signals that if you request it, the chef will make you the XL-sized barbecue-threaded cheddar-scallion cupcake.
Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert . Last Friday, chef de cuisine Joe Palma launched his weekly take-out barbecue lunch. Served from the restaurant’s patio, the smoky lunch includes what is described as “Texas-style” brisket (careful or they’ll douse it in thick red sauce), “North Carolina-style” chicken in a vinegar-based sauce and “Carolina-style” (in this case, South Carolina) pulled pork in a mustard-based sauce. The barbecue is served on crisp, airy sub-style rolls. More to say about this later.
Pork in the Park . This isn’t yet another new barbecue restaurant. It is a barbecue competition, and it marks the first of the season’s contests that comprise the Mid Atlantic Barbecue Association. Drawing more than 140 teams and 36,000 attendees, this Kansas City Barbecue Association-sanctioned event is one of the nation’s largest.
There are live bands throughout the weekend and, on Sunday, the second annual Backyard BBQ Amateur competition for those enthusiasts who want to try competing on a low-key level. Runs from April 15-17 at Winterplace Park in Salisbury, Md.
Pickin’ the Pig. And now a little something for the old-timers. All four Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling locations are serving free samples of wood-smoked pig today. The pig pull starts at 11 a.m. and continues until they run out of meat.
Can’t make it to Rockland’s today? Then stop by the Arlington location of the barbecue chain on Thursday, April 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. This week’s “Doggy Yappy Hour” (a weekly patio gathering of pooches and the people who love them) is a benefit for Doorways for Women and Families, a temporary shelter and resource center for abused and homeless women and families. The restaurant will serve whole roast pig sandwiches and cocktails. Donations, coats and non-perishable food items requested.
Preview of Coming Attractions. Set your DVR now for Saturday, May 28, at 2 p.m. That’s when CBS will air the one-hour special, “Ultimate Barbecue Showdown,” the latest in a spate of TV shows about barbecue competitions.
This one features Tuffy Stone, founding partner of Richmond’s Q Barbeque and its award-winning competition team, Cool Smoke. Another competitor is the redoubtable Myron Mixon of perennial top-contender, Jack’s Old South, and a judge last season on TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters.