Food

The Best Cheap Barbecue Joints Around DC

Ribs, sausage, pulled pork, brisket, and chicken at Texas Jack's. Photo by Scott Suchman.

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Black Hog BBQ

Photo by Scott Suchman.

Frederick, Ijamsville

Our favorite ribs in the area can be found at these cheery barbecue houses. The St. Louis–cut racks are available two ways—dry (rubbed in brown sugar and spices) or wet (mopped in thick sauce). We can never decide, so spring for a half rack of each. Brisket is best shown off in a Baltimore-style sandwich with horseradish sauce, or doused in crimson sauce for the destination-worthy Arkansas beef.

Federalist Pig

Adams Morgan

Rob Sonderman, an alum of Bistro Bis, made his name running the show at DCity Smokehouse. In 2016, he left to open this spot. If you were a DCity fan, you’ll recognize some of his all-star sandwiches—such as a pile-up of brisket and fried onions on Texas toast. Sides (chipotle green beans, mac and cheese with smoked cheddar) are another clue that a pedigreed chef is in the kitchen.

Smoky pork shoulder meets cheddar-jack at the Federalist Pig. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Sloppy Mama’s

Union Market, U Street corridor

Joe Neuman started as a history teacher, then ditched textbooks in favor of a food truck. These days, you’ll find his ’cue at a stall in Union Market and at Solly’s Tavern. Pulled pork is the best reason to visit—it’s as good heaped on a brioche bun as it is alone with a splash of flame-red vinegar. His pickle-topped fried-chicken sandwich is a close second.

Hill Country

Hill Country’s beef brisket nearly melts in your mouth. Photo by Scott Suchman

Penn Quarter

You might think of this Texas-style hall as big-box barbecue, complete with a zillion staffers (who sometimes seem on autopilot) and a sprawling setup. What it lacks in personality, it makes up for with its stellar moist brisket and superb sausages, imported from Texas’s legendary Kreuz Market. Sides are feast-worthy—especially fluffy corn pudding and baked beans dotted with burnt ends.

Texas Jack’s Barbecue

Arlington

We’d be happy dining at this cavernous place even if we didn’t eat meat. The sides—whether corn done up elote-style with cilantro and cotija, an eggy potato salad, or crispy Brussels sprouts—are that tasty. Still, A-plus accoutrements aren’t enough to land on this list. Killer brisket, addictive wings, and a tasty pulled-pork sandwich with Sriracha pickles are.

Cheat Sheet

Drinks

Because sauces and sides such as baked beans can be plenty sugary, we tend to stay away from the ubiquitous sweet tea and instead grab a lager or IPA.

Condiments

Depending on the place, you’ll see molasses-tinted Kansas City sauce, tangy South Carolina mustard sauce, peppery Vinegar, and a few smoky, spicy creations of the restaurant’s own.

Pro Tip

Many vegetarians have long loved ’cue joints for the sides—mac and cheese, slaw, and potato salad (not collards or baked beans, though, which typically contain pork).

Desserts

Still hungry? Most places serve Southern-style sweets such as banana pudding or a pie or two.

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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 Logan Circle.