Call it WWE for BBQ: This year's fourth annual Washington D.C. Meat Week, which runs from Jan. 27 through Feb. 3, has fired things up with the launch of a BBQ Food Truck Face Off.
Pitmen from four area trucks will compete against one another on Feb. 1, near the end of the week-long celebration of local barbecue. The general public (as opposed to certified judges) will help decide the winner as each team cooks two meats and two sides. But here’s the rub: They won't all be cooking the same thing.
All four are serving smoked pork and baked beans. But while the BBQ Bus, Carnivore BBQ and Curley’s Q BBQ will dish out slow-smoked brisket, PORC is plating its house-made pastrami. (Yeah, I know. Pastrami is brisket. But while all pastrami is brisket, all brisket is not pastrami.) Three of the trucks are preparing coleslaw, while the fourth (Curley’s) is whipping up mac and cheese.
The trucks will prepare the food on their own equipment and serve it from 6 to 8 p.m. at Living Social’s 918 F Street events space. For $49, attendees will get a “passport” that gets them the offerings from all four trucks (eight meats, eight sides), plus three PBRs. The passport includes a scorecard based on the whole shebang, awarding one (lousy) to nine (fabulous) points per vendor, with the winner announced at 10 p.m.
“It’s a very exciting development in D.C. Meat Week history,” said David Gootzit, the event's "captain, " or lead organizer. “We always want to try to do something new each year.”
Other new additions to the 2013 Meat Week itinerary: Arlington’s Epic Smokehouse, which is offering a prix-fixe menu; and a barbecue brunch at Kangaroo Boxing Club in Columbia Heights. Both events require reservations in advance; at other venues, BBQ seekers can walk in.
The eight-day barbecue sprint ends, as is tradition, at Mr. P’s, a converted bus in a Safeway parking lot in Northeast. The 77-year-old Fate Pittman (great name for a barbecue guy, huh?) has been serving toothsome spareribs and tangy pulled pork from his vehicle since long before food trucks were cool.
“Mr. P’s is, in my mind, the best possible way to close out the week,” Gootzit said, “because it brings it all back to the tradition of a guy who does it part-time out of love and you have to drive to get there.”
If you're still hungry, another Meat Week addition is the "High on the Hog Eating Challenge" at Alexandria's Pork Barrel BBQ. A contestant must devour a gargantuan Big Daddy Sandwich (1/2 pound of pulled pork, brisket sausage, cheese sauce, coleslaw, and BBQ sauce), a slab of ribs, two sausages, a side each of mac and cheese, baked beans, and coleslaw. Eat all that in 45 minutes, and the $49.95 entry fee is waived. You also get a $50 Pork Barrel gift card, your name in the “High on the Hog Challenge” Hall of Fame, and a T-shirt (a size larger than when you entered the contest, no doubt).
Jim Shahin writes about barbecue for the Washington Post Food section. Follow him on Twitter at @jimshahin.