Archive | Barbecue RSS feed for this section

DCity Smokehouse: Best 'Cue in the District

2 Oct

It’s no secret that I love all things barbecue, but let’s face it, up until the last few years the District has been devoid of some really good BBQ joints. That’s not a slight on mainstays like Rockland’s or Hill Country, they just don’t particularly move the needle for me. And considering that I have had some outstanding barbecue in places like Austin and Kansas City, I’ve been craving a place that can really fill that niche here in the D.C. area. (On a side note, I really need to check out KBQ in Lanham, which I still have sadly not been to and have heard wonderful things about).

Anyway, I had recently read Tim Carman’s review of DCity Smokehouse in the Washington Post and quickly made it a priority to check out this establishment, so a coworker and I headed to NoMa during our lunch hour a few weeks ago. Firstly, this is strictly a carryout venue. Sure there are four seats nestled inside the small storefront, but chances are that they’ll be occupied given the amount of people waiting for their orders near the pickup counter.

DCity SmokehouseDCity SmokehouseDCity Smokehouse

It’s hard not to fall in love with the aroma of smoke and hickory as soon as you walk in, making the choice of which of their 14 sandwiches to order from that much more difficult. On top of that, they offer combo platters, meats by the pound, wings, and even chicken and waffles.

The Brisket Champ

I opted for the first sandwich listed on the menu – The Brisket Champ, because you can never go wrong with brisket when it comes to barbecue. The sandwich featured generous layers of sliced brisket topped with crispy fried onions and housemade pickles, and was sandwiched together by two slices of Texas Toast. After the first bite, I had fallen in love.

The Brisket Champ

The brisket was some of the smokiest, most flavorful ‘cue I have come across in the District. A bit fatty in places, each bite was a mouthful of succulent, tender brisket gorgeously complemented by the crispy onions and crunchy toast. And that brisket crust, my goodness. This is how brisket is done, folks.

Crispy Brussels sprouts

I also ordered a side of their crispy Brussels sprouts which made for a great side dish, though between the greasiness of The Brisket Champ and this, it was a little too much oil in one sitting. That’s not to say I still wouldn’t recommend them because they’re a great preparation, right up there with Red Hen’s in fact, but I would probably pair the sprouts with one of their sampler platters instead.

Meanwhile my coworker was raving about their BBQ chicken but didn’t really care for the smoky brisket chili. I tried the latter, and while it sounds decadent, you’re better off just ordering the real thing instead of its soup variant. Speaking of which, you should just order it by the pound. It’s that good.

DCity Smokehouse has been only open less than a year but already features some of the best barbecue you will find in the city. My coworker and I are already debating what to order on our next visit. I’m personally eyeing the Meaty Palmer, a sandwich of smoked turkey and pork belly with smashed avocado and jalapeno aioli. Tell me that doesn’t sound amazing.

DCity Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Denizens Brewing Company

4 Sep

Rachel and I have only lived in Silver Spring just shy of three months, but Denizens Brewing Company has quickly become one of our favorite neighborhood spots after just two visits.

The brewery, which opened in July, currently features two of its own beers as well as a variety of local brews on tap such as Port City, Flying Dog, and Devil’s Backbone, with all pints priced at $6.50 (you can also get sample pours for $3.50 or a flight of four for $9). A full lineup from Denizen’s is expected soon as their in-house brewing started last week.

IMG_1515

The two beers currently available are their Southside Rye IPA and Lowest Lord ESB. The former was my favorite of the two – it had a nice balance of grapefruit and spice, so much so that it’s a quality contender for a locally brewed IPA.

IMG_1508

The food, meanwhile, is provided by the guys behind BBQ Bus. Their preview menu (an updated menu is expected later this fall) features pulled pork, brisket, and chicken which can you order either as a sandwich or platter. They also feature baby back ribs and four sauces made in-house which pay homage to North Carolina, Kansas City, and Memphis. My suggestion? Try the brisket paired up with Sauce #5 as there’s nothing better than smoky brisket smothered with a sweet, tomato-based sauce. The pickled onions are a nice touch, too.

IMG_1513

And while the beer and food is great, it’s the atmosphere of the beer garden that really stands out. It’s just incredibly refreshing to not only find a biergarten with a wide open layout, but one that is accommodating to both families and pet owners. Each time we have visited, the outdoor patio was packed with families and dogs, all enjoying the summer sunshine while partaking in a pint and some ‘cue.

IMG_1511

In fact, it’s quite possibly the most baby-friendly brewery we have ever been to. Not only do they have changing stations in the restrooms, but there’s even Diaper Genies! As a family with a two year old, we greatly appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into this when Denizens opened up shop. They know who their clientele is and know how to cater to it.

IMG_1507

With cornhole playing areas as well as being walking distance from the Silver Spring Metro, this is a great spot to have a brewery. And even if you have to drive, the Kennett Street Garage is right nearby and free after 7pm and all day during weekends.

Between the great beer selection, terrific barbecue, and super-friendly service, Denizens Brewing Company has already become one of our go-to places in downtown Silver Spring. It’s a great addition to the neighborhood and we can’t wait to see what’s in store once they launch their entire beer lineup and full-service restaurant.

Korean Barbecue at Honey Pig

30 Mar

Rachel and I had never tried Korean barbecue before, so when we saw a LivingSocial deal for the renowned Honey Pig last month, we were instantly swayed. We drove out to Annandale with our friend Betsy to finally see what all the buzz was about.

When we arrived, the place was full to the brim, parking lot inclusive. With K-pop music blaring and colorful menus affixed to the tin walls, brace yourself for sensory overload once you step inside. It certainly brings its own authentic charm to the restaurant as we have never encountered a dining environment like this before. Oh, and they’re open 24 hours a day.

Banchan

Our wait was only 15 minutes or so, and then we were seated to our table – complete with portable butane grill. Our waitress introduced herself and then handed us a multitude of small plates (banchan) which ranged from kimchi to seaweed to apple & raisin salad.

Seafood Pancake

After looking over the menu, we started off with the seafood pancake. Unlike the rest of the meal, this was the only dish that was prepared in the kitchen. Regardless whether it was cooked right in front of us or in the back, it was a terrific appetizer. The pancake was crispy on the outside but not too greasy. The mixture of shrimp, squid, scallions and carrots was very satisfying while the value was even better – the portion was tremendous for $6.99.

Bulgogi

For our entrees, we went with the marinated short ribs, bulgogi, and of course, the pork belly. Our server started cooking away right in front of us, with oil splattering just inches from my face. The short ribs (kalbi) were sweet and savory and I really enjoyed dipping them into the sauce it came with.

Cooking the pork belly

The bulgogi (seasoned tender beef) was tender, but incorporating some of the lettuce and garlic helped bring out some more of the flavor. The pork belly (samgyupsal) might have been the blandest of the meats, but that may have been due to the fact that it was overcooked. It was the last meat to be served, but I think our waitress simply forgot about taking it off the grill while we were enjoying our other plates. By the time it was served, it was dry and lacking some flavor. I did however enjoy the kimchi, bean sprouts, and onion mixture that was served with the pork belly.

Pork belly and kimchi

The service wasn’t the greatest as our waitress/chef was bouncing from table to table, not to mention the aforementioned pork belly oversight. But the price was right, especially with the LivingSocial discount. There were plenty of leftovers between the three of us, but after sharing three different plates of meat, it was hard to look at any sort of protein for a few days. On top of that, you’ll want to air out your clothes as they will instantly reek of Korean barbecue. I would have washed them when I got home, but I was pretty much in a comatose state after ingesting too much meat.

Honey Pig (Gooldaegee) on Urbanspoon

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: Upstate New York BBQ

18 Apr

When one thinks of Upstate New York, barbecue is typically not the first thing that crosses your mind. Yet when I had heard that Syracuse staple Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was opening a location near my hometown, I was pretty enthusiastic. Considering that we were in Albany this weekend to visit my family for Passover, this was an opportunity we could not pass up.

With several of my friends from home, we drove down to Troy for an early dinner on Saturday for our first experience of Upstate ‘cue. Situated right off the Hudson River in the former Fresno’s space, Dinosaur BBQ has an optimal location in the downtown area.

Once we stepped inside, we were overwhelmed not only by the massive space, but also by the wait for a table. Bear in mind that we arrived around 5pm, and there was already a 40 minute wait!

Ultimate Sampler

With our party of five in tow, we made our way towards the bar, which featured one of the better beer selections in the Capital District. New York State’s finest breweries were repped as Southern Tier, Ommegang, and Lake Placid were all found on the restaurant’s very impressive beer list.

It didn’t seem like too long of a wait, especially while enjoying a Southern Tier IPA draft, when we got the call that our table was ready. After looking over the menu, Rachel and I decided that we might as well sample as much BBQ as we possibly could and ordered the Extreme Samper.

It was an apt title for the combo given that it came with a) a half a rack of ribs, b) a half chicken, c) sliced Texas beef brisket, d) two sides, and e) corn bread. Yeah, you could say it was A LOT of food. But for $24.95 between two people, we weren’t really complaining.

So, how did this barbecue stack up to the likes of Kansas City, Austin, North Carolina, and even DC? I have to admit, I came away rather impressed.

Let’s just get right to the ribs: incredible. Honestly, these St. Louis-style cut pork ribs were some of the best I have had since Oklahoma Joe’s last year. The smoky, tender meat came right off the bone, and unlike Hill Country, you could take more than a handful of bites of each rib. And while I have grown used to dry ribs, I really enjoyed how Dinosaur’s were gently glazed with their homemade BBQ sauce. It was a beautiful mess.

Dinosaur Ribs

The chicken was also a hit as both Rachel and I enjoyed how moist and delicious it was. Pit-smoked and apple brined, this was some quality ‘cue. There was clearly no way we were going to be able to finish a leg, thigh, breast, and wing in one sitting, but we (or mostly I) tried our hardest.

The only disappointment, at least for me, was the brisket. Now that may be because we have had sliced variations of this cut in other regions, but in all honestly, it just didn’t wow me. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, but Dinosaur’s version made me want to use more sauce instead of less of it. Hill Country did a better job in this department, both in taste as well as thickness.

As for the sides, we ordered the maple whipped sweet potatoes and the mustard greens. We devoured the former faster than the latter, and we would have ordered seconds had we had the opportunity.  These were arguably some of the best mashed sweet potatoes either of us have tasted. It’s a must-order when it comes to Dinosaur’s side items. Meanwhile the BBQ sauce wasn’t anything to write home about, although their Wango Tango variation captured a nice balance of sweet and spicy.

Overall, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was outstanding. Our entire party loved it and walked away more than satisfied. Rachel and I probably consumed at most 60% of our plate, but my dad was more than happy to eat the leftovers once we got home. Considering that we are going to be in the Albany area until Tuesday, I will go on record and say that a second trip is a very, very realistic possibility.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Hill Country Barbecue Market: Texas Love from New York

29 Mar

Meal TicketJust a couple of weeks after its grand opening, Rachel and I finally had the opportunity to try NYC import Hill Country Barbecue Market. That’s right, I said NYC. And while Hill Country features Texas barbecue, this isn’t your traditional BBQ stand.

The space is completely massive, with the upstairs being completely dedicated to a huge dining room as a well as a bar in the front of the house. Meanwhile, the downstairs “club level” features more tables, a bar, and a stage for live bands.

When we arrived, we were greeted by our hostess who then handed us a “meal ticket”. Each person who dines at Hill Country receives a ticket as it is required by the restaurant to keep track of all of its orders. Even if your party only uses one ticket for the whole table, make sure to hang onto them regardless. Otherwise, you might get penalized with a $50 fee!

We arrived right in the heart of their happy hour which runs from 3pm to 7pm, seven days a week. Considering it was a Sunday evening, it was an added bonus. Hill Country featured specials on pitchers of Shiner, $5 margaritas, and two-for-one bottle specials. But as much as we want to discuss drink specials, we were here for one purpose: to eat some Texas ‘cue!Collard greens and campfire baked beans (with burnt ends)

The thing that sets Hill Country apart from other BBQ restaurants is that the waiter only serves you drinks, not food. You’re wholly responsible for ordering and picking up your BBQ from the “market” located on the main floor. Customers get in line and then tell the pitmaster what meats they want, ordering by the pound. Then, patrons head over to a different counter where sides and desserts are served.

Being the incredibly indecisive couple that we are, we decided to go all out and order the Pitmaster’s Combo instead of individually select certain items from the meal ticket. For $24, you receive a quarter pound of lean brisket, one pork spare rib, one beef rib, a quarter chicken, and two 8oz sides. It’s an additional dollar should you choose sides from their “Hot Favorites” portion of the menu.  We did just that as we got both the campfire baked beans (with burnt ends!) as well as the collard greens with applewood smoked bacon. Still, for $26, it’s A LOT of food.

And how was it, you ask? Well, I was big fan of the brisket. Smoked for hours, it was incredibly tender and, despite receiving lean instead of moist (less fat versus more), it was delicious. It was the star of the show and some of the best brisket I’ve had in DC proper. The chicken was incredibly juicy, and while it didn’t capture the smokiness of the brisket, it was still very good.

Pitmaster's Combo

While the beef rib tasted great, I’ve had much larger ribs elsewhere. The pork spare rib was even worse as there was barely any meat at all on the bone. Let’s put it this way: I’ve found more meat on spare ribs at Chinese buffets than what Hill Country served me.

I also have to admit, I was pretty disappointed with the baked beans. Considering that they were prepared with burnt ends, one of my favorite BBQ dishes (and a Kansas City specialty), these beans just weren’t very good. Too watery, barely smoky, and just not a whole lot of overall flavor. Considering I’ve had Jack Stack’s version of the dish, there is just no comparison. If you’ve had it, you know what I’m talking about.  Rachel thought they were good, but then again, she hasn’t been to KC. The collard greens weren’t bad, but it’s kind of difficult to mess those up.

Despite all the hype, I wasn’t really blown away. Sure, the brisket and chicken were great, but the mediocre spare rib and baked beans brought things down to earth. The meal ticket was also kind of a nuisance as we only ended up using one for our table but still had to hang on to the others when checking out at the register. It’s a similar gimmick Vapiano uses that I’m just not a fan of.

All and all, it’s nice to see another entrant in the DC barbecue market, but I think I’m just going to stick to Urban Bar-B-Que Company for now.

Hill Country Barbecue Market is located at 410 Seventh Street NW in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Hill Country Barbecue Market on Urbanspoon

Adventures in Austin

22 Oct

I have been fortunate over the years to travel to many places across the country, but there have always been a few cities I have always wanted to visit. One of them is Austin, Texas, and this past week I traveled there for a meeting for work, and got to try some local favorites along the way.

I knew that Austin was famous for both its barbeque and Tex-Mex cuisine, so I had to make sure to try some of each at least once while I was there. Over the course of only three days, it is safe to say that barbeque may have won out.

Stubb's Chicken PlateOn Monday, for a late lunch I decided to try some barbeque, and noticed on a map at the hotel that the famous Stubb’s Bar-B-Q and music hall was only a few blocks away. I went straight there and was surprised how empty the place was, but then again it was 2:30 in the afternoon.

I was told to order at the counter, and straight ahead of me I saw various options for platters. I was hungry by that point and wasn’t sure what to get, so as a last second choice I opted for the smoked chicken platter with a side salad, mashed sweet potatoes, and cornbread. It seemed like a lot of food, but it looked like the smallest option. Little did I realize till after I got my food and looked over to the right that I completely missed the sign next to the platters that was for sandwiches, which came with one side.

Granted, the chicken I got was extremely moist and delicious, prepared with a blend of mesquite spices and seasonings, but it was not the real type of Texas barbeque I was expecting. I thought it would be pieces of smoked chicken covered in sauce, but it was day one in Austin, so I figured that there would be plenty of time to try the real thing.

Guero's Fish TacosLater that night, we decided to get some Tex-Mex, and with a recommendation from our association’s president (and also an Austin resident), we headed to Guero’s Taco Bar in the South Congress area. It definitely seemed like a dive restaurant, but we were told it was a longtime Austin establishment and had great food and atmosphere, so off we went.

We each started off with a different type of margarita, as well as chips with three kinds of salsa. The menu was fairly large, but given that the restaurant has the word “taco” in its name, I figured I should try one of the tacos. I decided to get the fish tacos, which featured marinated and grilled fish, shredded cabbage and corn, topped with a chipotle tequila mayonnaise and served with black beans and rice. We had a choice of corn, white or wheat tortillas, and I went with the latter.

Some of the other diners had the carne guisada, which was marinated beef tips, and the al pastor, which was pork. Overall I really liked mine and thought the flavors meshed well together and weren’t too heavy. I added some extra salsa, black beans, and guacamole to the tacos, and it was a very satisfying dish. I’m curious how these tacos were compared to the many food trucks there were in the area, and the fact that most places I passed offered various taco dishes. But considering it was my only time having Tex-Mex food in Austin, I was happy overall.

Stubb's BBQ BrisketThe next day, I told my colleague about my meal at Stubb’s, and how delicious it was, but I wish I had ordered the beef brisket sandwich instead. She had no idea that the place was so close to our hotel, and I was happy to make a return visit. Again, the restaurant wasn’t crowded, and you could see they were already setting up outside for that night’s show.

This time, I got the beef brisket sandwich, with a side of Serrano cheese spinach. And what a great sandwich it was. The brisket was perfectly sliced with a layer of sauce on top and a toasted bun. Of course, I added extra sauce from the bottle on the table. The side I chose was really unique, it looked like typical creamed spinach, but the combination of the spinach with the spicy cheese gave it a nice kick.

Sadly, I have no dinner post to write about for that night, because Stubb’s was just that filling.

Last day, after going for a run on the trail by Lady Bird Lake, I decided to get some breakfast at somewhere other than the hotel’s fake Starbucks. Coming back from the run, I noticed a Jo’s, which I knew from the other day had great coffee. They also had a sign for breakfast tacos, so I figured I should have something more local for the last day. They didn’t have many pre-made, but were nice enough to make a taco filled with egg whites and cheese, from scratch! I ate it back in the room with fresh salsa, and it was a perfect breakfast treat with refreshing iced coffee.

Salt Lick BBQ (to go)I thought that would be the end of my Austin culinary adventures, but when I was at the airport, I decided to scope out the food outposts to see if there was anything decent to get for lunch on the plane. Sure enough, with Austin being such a great city, even the airport had local offerings, such as Amy’s Ice Cream, and their famous Salt Lick BBQ.

I had actually seen this restaurant on Yelp when looking up barbeque in Austin, and was amazed this actually existed in the airport terminal. I couldn’t resist, and bought both a beef brisket and a smoked turkey sandwich to go. Since Brett was drooling over my dining experiences this week, I figured bringing him back a sandwich was the least I could do. It was a tough call debating which BBQ was better – Stubb’s or Salt Lick. I guess we’ll have to try to head to Austin next year for ACL to test it out again.

Oh, and I got Brett this…

Everything Goes Better With Bar-B-Q!

Arthur Bryant's: If Ben's Chili Bowl was a BBQ Joint

24 Sep

The next stop on DMV Dining’s Kansas City BBQ tour took us to the equivalent of Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC. You know, an institution. That staple restaurant serving up what the city is fundamentally known for. Of course, I’m talking about Arthur Bryant’s.

The man behind the counter assertively slices the barbecued beef for an extended period of time before plopping it in between two slices of white bread. Then, he tops it off with an enormous pile of freshly cut French fries, not forgetting some pickles on the side. The result? This:

Arthur Bryant's Beef Sandwich

You know what the worst part about this was? Just like Homer Simpson’s senior yearbook quote: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

I mean the picture speaks for itself. It was rather delicious. The fries were made to order while the layers upon layers of beef stacked on the sandwich demonstrated why Kansas City is such a great barbecue destination.

The only problem I had was the sauce. It just wasn’t very good. My coworker mentioned that people love to take Arthur Bryant’s meat and top it with Gates sauce. I wish I could’ve done this, but alas, we were eating in the dining room and were relegated to the three or so varieties the restaurant offered.

The Sweet Heat Sauce might have been my favorite out of all three Arthur Bryant’s has on their tabletops, but compared to the other KC venues, their sauce is by far the weakest.

It’s definitely an experience, and although I certainly paid a price throughout the day consuming the entire sandwich, you simply can’t find food like this in DC.

Arthur Bryant's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Oklahoma Joe's – Best Ribs in the Country

23 Sep

One of the perks of having to travel to Kansas City for work every so often is the chance to have some of the finest barbecue in the country. Yeah, I said it.

I’m not the biggest fan of Carolina BBQ, but that’s mostly because I prefer a thicker, spicier sauce. Kansas City not only offers that, but their meats are just so well-prepared in terms of smokiness and flavor.

I’ve been to Oklahoma Joe’s several times in the past, but I’ve always stuck to their trademark dish, the pulled pork sandwich.  It’s incredibly delicious as the pork is exceptionally tender while the in-house sauce is excellent yet just a step behind Gates (DMV Dining’s all-time favorite BBQ sauce).

Anyway, my coworker suggested that I should try the ribs this time around. We split a half a slab and, well, now I can’t go back.

Oklahoma Joe's Ribs

Oklahoma Joe’s took great care in preparing these bad boys. The meat nearly fell effortlessly off the bone as they were slow-cooked to perfection as evidenced by how pink the meat was.

Ribs Platter

Between the smokiness and the dry rub used, they were arguably the best ribs I’ve ever had. I only added a touch of sauce because they were already that flavorful.

We also split a brisket sandwich which was, of course, top-notch. I added more sauce to this item since it wasn’t nearly as juicy as the ribs, but it was still good nonetheless. I even used some of their spicy Night of the Living BBQ sauce. When I was putting some on my sandwich, one fellow customer came up to me told me that I “was one brave soul.” I mean sure it had some kick, but it wasn’t like I was drinking the sun or anything.

Brisket Sandwich

All and all, barbecue doesn’t get much better than this. In case you’re unaware, Anthony Bourdain recently listed Oklahoma Joe’s as one of the 13 places to eat before you die. Sounds like I’m on the right track.

Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue (Kansas City) on Urbanspoon

'Tis the Tailgating Season

16 Sep

There’s nothing better than grilling some food in the crisp, autumn air while standing in the middle of an asphalt parking lot.

I’m talking about tailgating, people.

We’re in the midst of football season and it’s about the only time I get to enjoy the use of an outdoor grill. Then again, you can blame that more on Montgomery County and their strict ban of grilling appliances on balconies, but I digress.

Anyway, Rachel and I finally had the opportunity to pull the grill out of storage a couple of weeks ago while tailgating before the Maryland/Navy football game in Baltimore.

We threw on some hot dogs, sausages, burgers, and plenty of veggies. Let me tell, it’s hard to top some grilled onions atop a freshly cooked burger.

But the biggest hit of the day might have been the corn. We decided to grill several corn on the cobs right in their husks over a medium heat for a good 15 minutes or so and the results were excellent.

Our only lapse in judgment was that we did not soak the corn in water before throwing them on the grill which led to some partial dryness. Lesson learned for next time but it wasn’t a deal breaker by any stretch.

Speaking of college football and, well, eating, Patrick Stevens (one of the Interweb’s best college sports bloggers in my honest opinion) compiled a list of the best restaurants in the ACC.

Having already visited seven of the eight listed establishments in College Park, Marathon Deli is hands down the one you must step foot in should you ever be in the area during game day, or any day for that matter.

That place warrants a post of its own, and it will definitely deserve one down the road, but their gyros are undoubtedly the best in the entire Washington metropolitan area.

On that note, DMV Dining wants to ask you: What’s your favorite eatery from your alma mater?