Dixie Bones

Smoking is a great thing at this roadside barbecue place.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

Ever wonder why it's so hard to get good barbecue in the city? Nelson Head can tell you why. His place used to be located on Capitol Hill. But even he confesses it wasn't a real 'cue joint, not with all the salads he cranked out to satisfy his audience of young professionals. So he moved out to Woodbridge ten years ago and renamed his operation Dixie Bones.

He hasn't regretted leaving the city. And no wonder–the line at the door seems to never diminish.

A trip out to Dixie Bones is a trip back in time, a roadside diner where the display of old typewriters and radios is meant to evoke nostalgia for what we've lost, the arrangement of police-department patches is intended as a tribute, and the low-and-slow method (low heat, slow cooking) is cherished as a fading art in a time when speed governs everything in our lives.

The pork shoulder and beef brisket are cooked overnight over hickory logs in gas-fired pits. The ribs take four or five hours, the chicken four hours. The smoke, not the sauce, is the key, and both the pork and brisket come to the table with hardly any blanketing. There are four sauces on the table. The brisket benefits from, but hardly needs, a shake of the tangy red sauce. The ribs, barely slicked with sauce, are wonderfully smoky, the pink-tinged meat a mite short of luscious. The chicken is the standout, a juicy, tender, and smoky bird.

In most 'cue joints, the sides rarely measure up to the meats. Here they do. The potato salad is rich, eggy, and sweet, the leaves of cabbage are slicked with pork juice, the beans are house-made and full of smoke and tang, and the cornbread is as good as any version we've tried, a pan-griddled cake full of sweet butter.

No meal here can be considered complete without a slice of the pecan pie. The filling is made with Karo syrup and brown sugar while the top is given a second crust with a dense layer of thickly chopped pecans. It's as fine a pecan pie as you're likely to find outside of the Deep South.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.