How DC Barbecue Joint Federalist Pig Ended Up on “House of Cards”

"I've been told it's the next best thing to Freddy's," says Seth Grayson

House of Cards gets a lot of things wrong in its portrayal of Washington. But perhaps most disappointing is its depiction of the barbecue scene. Locals would be hard pressed to find anything resembling Freddy’s BBQ Joint, Frank Underwood’s favorite destination for ribs.

By season six, it’s a moot point, because Freddy’s has closed. Thankfully, the show has found a new source of barbecue that Washingtonians will actually recognize. In one scene, character Seth Grayson brings some ribs to Doug Stamper “from a place called Federalist Pig.”

“Don’t know it,” Stamper says.

“Well, I’ve been told it’s the next best thing to Freddy’s,” says Grayson.

Stamper turns them down.

“What kind of man says no to ribs?” Grayson asks, before taking a bite.

Indeed, Federalist Pig is about as good as it gets when it comes to barbecue in DC. The Adams Morgan barbecue joint, owned by entrepreneur Steve Salis, is ranked among the city’s best by Washingtonian and the Washington Post. Even Texas Monthly‘s barbecue critic Daniel Vaughn recently gave it his nod of approval.

Federalist Pig pit master Rob Sonderman says someone from House of Cards‘s art department reached out to his catering director in May about ordering some food for the show. “I guess one of the members of their team was a big fan,” Sonderman says. He isn’t sure who.

The barbecue joint prepared eight racks of pork ribs and six portions of six types of sides, including smoked cheddar mac and cheese, chipotle garlic green beans, and red bliss potato salad. The show also requested extra sauce and extra Texas toast. The catering director delivered it to Jessup, Maryland, where they were filming.

Sonderman says he wasn’t sure at the time whether they’d actually use the barbecue in an episode. So he’d pretty much forgotten about it until one of his regulars sent him a Facebook message on Friday asking if he’d seen the cameo.

When he finally tracked down the clip, Sonderman was surprised how prominently his ribs were featured. “I imagine people pay big money for stuff like that most of the time,” says the pit master, who has watched the first couple seasons of House of Cards.

He says he’ll do his best to live up to the reputation of fictional Freddy’s. Already, customers who binge-watched the show have been inspired to come in for a fix.

The only bummer?

“I was kind of disappointed that Doug didn’t eat any of the ribs.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.