The Washington area doesn’t claim its own regional barbecue like Texas or the Carolinas. What do we have? An exciting mix of global barbecue styles, as international as the city itself. Here’s where to find fire-licked meats from Africa, Japan, and beyond.
Côte d’Ivoire: Spicy Water African Grill
You’ll smell the smoke outside Eastern Market on Tuesdays and weekends before you spot chef/owner Duraine Kouassi tending the grill of his West African street-food spot. Poulet braisé, marinated and barbecued chicken (Kouassi’s mother’s recipe), is a delicious specialty, as is whole grilled rockfish or snapper smothered in citrusy fresh-chopped salsa and Dijon-onion sauce. Round out a platter with sticky plantains and sips of “spicy water,” a zesty ginger drink.
Senegal: Koité Grill
College Park, Silver Spring
Siblings Omar and Adja Koité are behind these homey Senegalese spots, where charcoal grills turn out gorgeously charred meats alongside stews and rice dishes. Try a dibi combination platter: lamb, goat, and/or chicken marinated overnight in garlic and spices, then served with grilled onions and spicy peanut sauce. Suya, another meaty treat, stars spice-rubbed beef skewers. For sides, jollof rice and attiéké (ground cassava with vegetables) are the must-gets.
Pan-Asian: Wild Tiger Barbecue
No fixed location; wildtigerbbq.com
A trio of talented Asian American chefs—Kevin Tien (Moon Rabbit), Scott Chung (Bun’d Up), and Andrew Lo (AiYa)—are behind this eclectic barbecue pop-up that mixes Asian flavors with American smoking traditions. The operation, previously out of Bun’d Up Pentagon City, is taking its sticky ribs, ramen-spice-rubbed meats, and smoked brisket and broccoli on the road this summer, popping up around DC on weekends.
Japan: Gyu S’hige
This massive yakiniku (tabletop barbecue) franchise from Japan boasts more than 250 locations worldwide—and the first American branch just opened in the Mosaic district. Claim a table in the sleek, clubby space, where meats, seafood, and vegetables—plain or minimally marinated—are presented on artful platters. Marbled A5 Wagyu is the house specialty, but if you don’t feel like spending $50-plus for a few prized slices, try simpler pleasures such as beef tongue, garlic chicken, or miso salmon.
China: Mark’s Duck House
The beauty of siu mei, Cantonese barbecued meats, is embodied in the duck at this 35-year-old dining room and dim sum hall. Whole crackling-skinned birds are presented tableside, their tender meat slipped into ethereal pancakes with scallions. But don’t neglect the larger barbecue menu, which includes such finds as sticky spare ribs, spiced duck tongues, and soy-sauce chicken.
Korean: 9292 Korean BBQ
This Korean-barbecue newcomer from Georgia feels brighter and airier than much of the competition, with its tall ceilings and wide booths. Group combos are the way to go, particularly if they include marinated beef or pork short ribs. Every meat platter comes with a generous selection of panchan, such as sweet soy-glazed peanuts and beet-pink slices of pickled daikon. Bonus: muskmelon ice-cream pops come gratis for dessert when they’re in stock.
This article appears in the August 2021 issue of Washingtonian.