BCS Barbecue

$$$$ ($15-$24)

Editorial Review

Good to Go: BCS Barbecue in Bethesda

By Bonnie S. Benwick
Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011

The Washington area is on a roll, lobsterwise, with food trucks and counter-service places offering their versions of the classic New England sandwich. So Arnie Fainman figured he'd sell lobster rolls like the best ones he's had in Maine.

Except the 59-year-old owner of the historic Bethesda Community Store passes his through the sliding window of a faux-log cabin, with a hulking Southern Yankee Barbecue smoker on its back porch. The stand has been open since February, perched on the corner of Fainman's store lot and strategically located across from an entrance to the sprawling National Institutes of Health complex in Bethesda.

"All you're supposed to do is a buttered hot dog bun and lobster with a little bit of mayonnaise. I'm getting comments that mine are better" than the local competition's, he says.

Fainman's upbringing as the son of deli owners in Northeast Washington and the 10 years he has served takeout food at the store have taught him to work with good ingredients. He orders freshly steamed lobster meat from Maine, delivered almost daily. The application of mayonnaise to chilled knuckle, tail and claw meat is akin to vermouth misted over a martini. The portion is generous enough to keep the bun (not a split-top) from closing.

Consequently, his rolls are going like hotcakes, at $15, or $17.50 with two sides. Arrive early enough and you might get the chance to try Fainman's sleeper hit: a shrimp roll ($15) featuring wild-caught Texas crustaceans steamed with Old Bay Seasoning.

Does that mean seafood options have overtaken the ribs (full rack, $22; half-rack, $11; single ribs, $2.25 each) and the chicken (whole, $12; half, $7; quarter, $4) that come off the Southern Yankee? Or the pulled pork, pulled chicken and brisket sandwiches ($6)? The four or five cords of red oak burned through each month suggest otherwise. Fainman has developed his own sauces, mild and spicy, that are subdued enough to let the smoky meat do the talking.

Overall, the barbecue wouldn't cause a Kansas City pit master to watch his back. But for Bethesda, it's a treat. The ribs achieve that balance of chewy tenderness with slight adherence to the bone. And among the sides - red beans and rice, potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, corn bread, mac and cheese - that last shines as the one mostly likely to rival your favorite recipe (each $1.50 per four ounces; larger quantities available).

Beginning this fall, Fainman says, he hopes to deliver BCS food within a radius of five or six miles, perhaps into Potomac. Rolls, wheeled to your front door: another move forward in Washington's lobster era.