Rob Sonderman, the pitmaster behind the District's first great barbecue joint, is leaving DCity Smokehouse to focus on a new project. His last day will be either Friday or Sunday, Sonderman says.

"I just felt I had done all that I could do with DCity," Sonderman said by phone on Tuesday. "I've always been interested in learning more."

A formally trained chef with stints at restaurants as diverse as Bistro Bis and Hill Country, Sonderman will leave a significant void at both DCity and Wicked Bloom DC Social Club, the sister bar owned and operated by the same parent company, Southeast Restaurant Group. The company's "Brisket Squad," which has worked under Sonderman, will take over the smokers at DCity, which temporarily moved its production to Union Kitchen in Ivy City while waiting on a new space at 203 Florida Ave. NW.

DCity Smokehouse opened in October 2013 on Florida Avenue NW and quickly established itself as the gold standard of barbecue in the District, an admittedly low bar compared to those American regions with a rich history of smoked meats. But Sonderman's signature sandwiches and barbecue platters, featuring meats cooked low and slow in a J&R wood-burning smoker, raised the expectations of what's considered high-quality barbecue in Washington.

Southeast Restaurant Group is confident that DCity, in its current pop-up format at Wicked Bloom, can continue smoking meats to the standards that Sonderman set. Shawn McWhirter, who worked with Sonderman at both Hill Country and DCity, will become kitchen manager in charge of quality control. Desmon Demar and Dennis Geddie will handle smoker duties.

"Rob Sonderman has been a great asset to DCity Smokehouse and we wish him the best in his next endeavor," says Southeast co-owner Scott Jacobs in an email statement.

"DCity Smokehouse fans can expect the same great food integrity they have always loved," Jacobs notes. "There is much more coming from Southeast Restaurant Group. Stay tuned!"

At present, DCity is operating as a pop-up at Wicked Bloom, 1540 N. Capitol St. NW, where diners can order from the bar's regular menu or from DCity's pared-down barbecue and sandwich menu. The twin-concept arrangement is expected to continue until the spring, when Southeast hopes to open the expanded DCity operation.

As for Sonderman's next move, he cannot officially comment on it yet. But the project will remain focused on barbecue in the District, which is perhaps just enough information to keep Sonderman's fans breathing easy.

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