Like folks in DC, New Yorkers think they turn out decent barbecue—and experts in “real” barbecue regions love to tell us we’re both delusional (remember #BrooklynBBQ-gate?). So what will happen when NYC-based, Texas-meets-Carolina-style barbecue joint Mighty Quinn’s opens in Washington? Only time and brisket trolls will tell.
The chain got its start as a vendor at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg food market. Its first permanent East Village location earned a glowing 2013 review in the New York Times (yes, yes, we know a good New York Times barbecue review holds a much value as the Venezuelan bolivar). Classics like brisket put them on the map, though the menu of all-natural meats and sides has grown to include new-wave items like smokehouse rice bowls and adobo ribs. Currently there’re ten Mighty Quinn’s corporate locations in the US—including a kiosk in Yankees stadium—and five franchises overseas, from Dubai to Taipei. Co-owner Micha Magid says the company is looking to open its “freshman class” of US franchises on the East Coast with a branch somewhere in the greater DC area, and is currently searching for both the right partner and space.
Might Quinn’s bills itself as “the first authentic barbeque experience in a fast-casual setting,” which sets off all the usual authenticity alarms before you even hear the term “Texalina” (part Texas-style, part Carolina) or note the presence of kale salads and “pommes frites” on the menu (pitmaster Hugh Mangum trained under Jean-Georges Vongerichten). Still Magid says “authentic” speaks only to Mighty Quinn’s cooking process: on-site with an all-wood smoker.
“There are places that call themselves ‘barbecue’ that are just grilling meats, or cooking them and lathering them with sauce,” says Magid. “Despite the fast-casual service line, our food takes hours and hours to prepare.”
Barbecue nerds can be sticklers for the all-wood rule, which is one of the reasons DC’s ‘cue scene is dinged so often. In a densely packed city it’s tough to find a restaurant space that’s vented properly for a real wood smoke-producing smoker—even top-ranking darling Federalist Pig runs partially on gas (and the owners are also searching for a space that’ll allow for a legit smoker). Magid says he’s hopeful Mighty Quinn’s will find a place with the right setup—and is confident customers will embrace DC-by-way-of-New York barbecue.
“The whole regional conversation has kind of become yesterdays news,” says Magid. “We used to hear it in the beginning, but at the end of the day, great barbecue is great barbecue.”