Brisket carries the highest risk-reward ratio in the barbecue business. Pitmasters can spend a lot of time and money smoking this unruly cut of beef, only to find the brisket has resisted all attempts to transform it into high-quality barbecue.
But when it's done right? Nothing compares to a jiggly slice of brisket, outlined with a pink smoke ring and a crusty bark of seasonings, rendered fat and sweet, heady wood smoke. These five restaurants set the standard for brisket in the D.C. market.
1. Texas Jack's. Pitmaster Matt Lang has perfected the art of smoking briskets. Order from the moist, or deckle, side and marvel at how this ungainly slab of meat can be transformed into something so rich and rewarding with only a few seasonings, smoke and time.
2. Smokehouse Live. Co-owner Jim Foss used to be the director of D.C. operations at Hill Country, where he mastered the techniques of Texas-style brisket. Smokehouse Live's briskets now surpass those at the Penn Quarter meat market.
3. Hill Country. This East Coast ode to Central Texas barbecue produces a solid brisket, even if the meat cutters will, without permission, chop the beef instead of serving it in slices.
4. Sloppy Mama's at Solly's. You'd never know that owner Joe Neuman reheats his brisket at the U Street tavern. The beef has the suppleness and crusty bark of beef straight from the smoker.
5. Garden District. An underrated performer in the category, pitmaster Tad Curtz serves his brisket in sandwich form. Ask for it without the bun and request meat from the moist side. You'll realize the bread is an unnecessary distraction.