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An Early Look at Smoke & Barrel (Pictures)
The ground floor of Adams Morgan dive bar Asylum is now a less rowdy bourbon-and-barbecue spot.
Smoke & Barrel brings craft beers, Memphis-style ribs—and even pulled-pork-stuffed eggrolls—to Adams Morgan’s main drag. Photographs by Erik Uecke
Smoke & Barrel—an ambitious new ‘cue joint housed on a strip of 18th Street, Northwest best known for bar-stumbling—is trying to defy two Washington stereotypes: You don’t come to DC for barbecue, and—with a few exceptions—you don’t go to Adams Morgan for its restaurants.
Owner John Andrade—who is also behind the Columbia Heights craft beer haven Meridian Pint—knew he was up for a challenge when he decided to install a barbecue spot in the street-level space of Asylum, the 20 year-old watering hole where he’s managed to make heavy metal and vegan food coexist. First came an extensive renovation that turned the dim dive into a warm, 60-seat pub with exposed brick and wood-paneled walls, leather banquettes, and bar stools fashioned from old barrels. Then came the creative team, which includes Meridian Pint’s beer director Sam Fitz, former Rustico general manager Matthew Heffernan, and chef Vinni Waide, who manned the kitchen at Memphis’ Pig N’ Whistle. The result: a list of 24 craft beers, 50-odd whiskeys, and a menu mostly dished up from the Southern Pride smoker in back.
A barbecue tofu sandwich is the first sign you shouldn’t expect a traditional menu. Waide grew up in a military family that moved around southern barbecue country, but aside from Memphis-style ribs—a smoked slab doused with tomato-based sauce—the offerings tend to be offbeat. Brisket gets rubbed with ground Arkansas coffee beans before its stint in the hickory-and-bourbon- barrel-fueled smoker; pulled pork pops up in egg rolls with tangy, mayo-less slaw; and there are studs of bacon in the crème brûlée. Downstairs at Asylum, the barbecued meats and tofu can be stacked on nachos and piled into tacos; the menu and beer offerings are similar, so it’s a good (if dingier) bet if upstairs is packed.
There’s plenty of beer and whiskey to go with all the meat. If you can’t decide, an Asylum bouncer introduced the concept of “boiler crafters”—essentially beer cocktails— to the bar crew, and they’ve concocted items such as the Brooklyn Manhattan, made with Old Overholt rye, sweet vermouth, and Brooklyn Lager, and the Double Double, which mixes espresso vodka and Young’s double chocolate stout.
The hours are still in the works, but Heffernan says Smoke & Barrel will offer dinner from roughly 5 to 11, and then a late-night chalkboard menu featuring whatever’s left. “We have everything until we don’t have it anymore,” he says.
Smoke & Barrel. 2471 18th St., NW; 202-319-9353. Open Monday through Thursday, 5 PM to 2 AM; Friday, 5 PM to 3 AM; Saturday, 10 AM to 3 AM; and Sunday, 10 AM to 2 AM.