20064 Riverside Commons Plaza, Ashburn
The folksy Frederick-based barbecue chainlet opened its inaugural Virginia location ear-lier this year. Customers order slow-smoked meats such as justly famous St. Louis ribs—go for a mix of wet and dry—and tangy sauce-soaked Arkansas brisket at a counter before taking a seat in the dining room or on the patio. Joining classic housemade sides and pies are a crowd-pleasing mix of burgers, wings, and sandwiches including the Ashburner, with thick-cut brisket, housemade pickles, and spicy horseradish.
5504 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville
Federalist Pig pit master Rob Sonderman recently openedFedMobile, a smoker-equipped Airstream-like trailer parked outside what will be a huge full-service barbecue restaurant (slated for fall or winter). In the meantime, we’re happy to hang at one of the picnic tables for platters of smoked and spiced crispy pork belly, brisket burnt ends, and arm-dripper sandwich-es (including tasty vegetarian options such as a tofu “burnt ends” hoagie).
8630 Fenton St., Silver Spring
Plenty of pandemic-born ghost kitchens have, well, ghosted. It’s a testament to Edward Reavis’s smoking skills that his ’cue concept, which he runs with wife/business partner Jennifer Meltzer, solidified and expanded to two food trucks. In the parking lot adjoining their Silver Spring seafood spot, All Set, Reavis turns out oak-and-cherry-smoked brisket, chicken, blackened salmon, and ribs. The Southern Virginia native, who grew up on the North Carolina border, often cooks to his roots—pulled pork in mustard sauce is terrific, as are sides such as creamy slaw and pork-laced beans. But his ritzy steakhouse background shines, too. A spice-crusted beef short rib was the best hunk of meat to grace our outdoor table.
3411 Fifth St. S., Arlington
The most traditional thing about Matt Hill’s 11-month-old place is the spindled chairs in its dining room. Otherwise, the Charlie Palmer Steak and Liberty Tavern alum takes plenty of license with Southern staples. His dirty rice, for instance, laced with kimchee, or, even better, his giant sticky spare ribs, glazed with honey, soy, and five-spice powder. They, like plates of oak-and-hickory-smoked pork shoulder and brisket, come with housemade pickles, fluffy milk buns, and a slew of side options. The meats also show up on Hill’s daily breakfast menu, with brisket turned into hash-and-egg sandwiches or pulled pork heaped over grits.
1051 N. Highland St., Arlington
If your idea of barbecue is simple, inexpensive heaps of smoked meat, look elsewhere. Owner and pit master Andrew Darneille—formerly of the late Georgetown restaurant Old Glory—hit barbecue competitions for years before opening his Clarendon spot. He doesn’t skimp on ingredients or ambition. Duroc pork belly, prime brisket, and steakhouse-level rib eye make their way into gas-assisted smokers with six varieties of wood. Dinner and brunch menus go well beyond classics—nibble on house-smoked salmon/goat-cheese crostini or a grilled Caesar before digging into crabcakes or a campfire-like s’mores dessert. That’s not to say piles of meat such as tender pulled chicken aren’t satisfying—you’re just paying for quality over quantity.
4700 Riverdale Rd., Riverdale Park; 1309 Fifth St., NE
What started as a farmers-market stand has quickly evolved into one of the region’s top destinations for Texas-style barbecue. Salvadoran immigrants Fernando González and Debby Portillo turn out thick, buttery slabs of American Wagyu brisket, peppery pork ribs, and jalapeño-cheddar sausages from their oak-fueled smoker (not to mention humongous sandwiches at their new Union Market outpost). Don’t skip the side of pineapple caramelized with cinnamon and honey—a tangy-sweet complement to the rich, smoky meats.
This article appears in the August 2021 issue of Washingtonian.