Smoke & Barrel: A Little Bit Country
Smoke & Barrel offers bourbon, barbecue, and an escape from Adams Morgan’s hard-partying main drag.
Reviewed By Jessica Voelker
What was once the first floor of the Adams Morgan dive Asylum is now a 66-seat dining room/bar. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Comments () | Published April 18, 2012

Smoke & Barrel
Address: 2471 18th St., NW, Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202-319-9353
Neighborhood: Adams Morgan
Opening Hours: Open Monday through Friday for dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner.
Nearby Metro Stops: Woodly Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan
Dress: Informal
Noise Level: Rowdy
Best Dishes Smoked wings; jalapeño-shrimp poppers; smoked sausage; baked beans; coleslaw; vegetarian chili.
Price Details: Starters $5.95 to $9.95, entrées $11.95 to $16.95.

Not long ago, finding well-prepared casual food--not to mention a decent beer list--along Adams Morgan's 18th Street wasn't easy. Enter John Andrade, owner of the 20-year-old dive Asylum, who converted the street level of his bar into Smoke & Barrel, a barbecue-beer-and-bourbon destination, hiring a chef from Arkansas and compiling a beer list to rival the one at his other place, Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights.

The low lighting makes eating here feel like dining inside a whiskey barrel, an effect reinforced by the boozy aroma. Service is casual but attentive and knowledgeable. While the menu--slowly cooked meats served on their own and in sandwich rolls, taco shells, and egg-roll skins--is uncomplicated, many diners may want some guidance when it comes to the brews, curated by beer expert Sam Fitz, and Kentucky whiskeys, of which there are more than 25.

Smoke & Barrel's sweetish house sauce is unlikely to win favor among heat seekers, who may find themselves reaching for the squeeze bottle on the table marked "spicy." Smoked sausage is the star among the meats, but the most successful dishes often show up on the side. Bacony baked beans work well, and fresh cabbage shines through a simple slaw. Appetizers are strong, too, including a trio of smoky wings--try them "muddy" with both sauce and dry rub--and bacon-wrapped jalapeño-shrimp poppers, a delicious example of what can happen when real ingredients show up in junk-food-inspired dishes. There are also, believe it or not, ample meatless options, including vegan "wings" made from seitan, a smoked-tofu sandwich, and a rich veggie chili.

Dinner at Smoke & Barrel isn't transcendent, but if this is the direction Adams Morgan bars are moving, we may soon be spending more time in the neighborhood.

This article appears in the April 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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  • AdmoMaven

    Agreed. Smoke and Barrel is a great addition to the already great dining destination that is Adams Morgan. There is something here for everyone and every pocket book. Also the beer lists at many other main-stays in Adams Morgan (Black Squirrel, Ventnor's, Toledo Lounge, Jack Rose, the Reef, Mellow Mushroom, Bourbon, the list is many and long) would rival Meridian Pint.

  • Trulygr8fl

    I'm confused. It seems like the author really likes this place, but then assigns it a meager 1 1/2 stars? Doesn't this normally mean it was subpar?

  • Lisa Duperier

    Yes, Smoke and Barrel is great, but your characterization of Adams Morgan simply repeats old stuff and is a bit tiresome. There have been, and are, a variety of good choices. What about Black Squirrel, Bossa, Columbia Station, The Reef, Meze, Rumba Cafe and Bourbon which have been there for years. Jack Rose and Southern Hospitality are new, but La Fourchette, Casa Oaxaca, Duplex Diner, El Tamarindo, Meskerem and L'Enfant Cafe are Adams Morgan mainstays. Mintwood may be new, but Cashions, Napoleon, Perry's and Grill from Ipanema have been great destinations. Interesting and/or unique and/or useful are places like Muzette, VietThai, Bardias, Mellow Mushroom, Tryst, Wok & Roll, and Dahlak.

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Posted at 04:15 PM/ET, 04/18/2012 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Restaurant Reviews