Epic Smokehouse

$$$$ ($15-$24)
A barbecue restaurant with a keen sense for design.
11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday
11 a.m.–10 p.m.
(Crystal City/Pentagon City)

Editorial Review

Dining high on the hog
By Tom Sietsema
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wayne Halleran and Joon Yang appear to be channeling their former employer, the Palm Restaurant in Tysons Corner, with their new Epic Smokehouse. Based in the Millennium at Metropolitan Park, near Pentagon City, the 86-seat dining room overlooking a tidy expanse of grass raises the design bar for barbecue joints.

The booths are indeed epic and swathed in dark leather. Sleek copper lights illuminate the tables. The slender backdrop for smoked food feels bigger than it is, thanks to tilted mirrors near the ceiling that capture the action below like a film strip.

Much of the menu originates in a wood-stoked Southern Pride Smoker, including the beef for the meaty chili and the pork ribs that ricochet from sweet to sassy with their seasoning of brown sugar, dried chipotle and (spoiler alert!) Old Bay spice. The latter dish, portioned as if for Fred Flintstone, comes with golden hand-cut fries and coleslaw that could use more binder. Shored up with leek-sweetened smashed potatoes, Epic’s plump chicken benefits from brining before it is roasted.

Sidestep the dry, dull “Pig Rolls” made with wonton wrappers. And avoid the temptation to try the bacon-topped cupcakes. Halleran, who is the kitchen head as well as a co-owner here, says the dessert sells “like hot cakes.” I’ll take the hot cakes over the cloying alternative.

The chow begs for beer or wine, neither of which was poured during my early visit. Once they get approval to serve the strong stuff, the restaurateurs hope their 60-bottle wine program will further distance Epic from the barbecue-joint competition.

Already, the place stands apart thanks to a handy fixture at the side of the upscale dining room: a big white sink for removing evidence of a pigout.