Not every pandemic project turns into a business—but former Birch & Barley chef Jarrad Silver is one of the lucky ones. What started as a makeshift barbecue operation out of his Kensington home is now Silver and Sons BBQ, a truck armed with a wood smoker that will turn out a diverse menu of Jewish and Mediterranean-influenced meats, vegetable sides, platters, and sandwiches. It’ll open in the parking lot of Captains Market in Bethesda on Saturday, March 12, and serve dinner Wednesdays and Saturdays moving forward—there will also be regular neighborhood drops and private events.
Silver started experimenting with smoked meats when he was furloughed from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which owns Logan Circle’s Birch & Barley and several other restaurants. He injected it with flavors from his Jewish upbringing and the Mediterranean kitchen experience he gained over seven years working with Mike Isabella Concepts.
“I was messing around for a little at the beginning,” says Silver, who started making meals for neighbors—and then entire neighborhoods once word spread. “I have a two year-old, born just before the pandemic started. My wife was an ER nurse. To continue to slowly build this from home and spend time with my son was incredible—I thought I’d never have that time.”
Now, Silver is going full-throttle. To call the operation a food truck is a bit misleading—the massive meat wagon is equipped with a full range, fryer, a deck oven for baking fresh challah, a plancha griddle (look for dishes like smoked lamb-and-cheese arayes, which Silver likens to a Middle Eastern quesadilla, down the line)—and most important, a gas-powered wood smoker that Silver fuels with Virginia oak and hickory that he cuts himself at his in-laws’ farm in Central Virginia.
Silver intentionally riffs on barbecue classics, brightening smoked chicken with a 24-hour brine of citrus and fresh herbs; making spiced lamb merguez sausage; and curing short ribs for a week in a pastrami brine before coating the meat in deli-style cracked coriander and pepper. You won’t find pork—instead there’s pulled lamb marinated in garlic, ginger, and cumin.
Vegetarians can do equally well here. Pastrami-spiced mushrooms stand in for beef. There are also a bunch of meatless starters and sides: spicy whipped feta dip with charred jalapeños; smoky Spanish paprika deviled eggs; a citrusy chickpea-cabbage-cucumber slaw; and lemony schmaltz potatoes with oregano.
“DC just doesn’t have a barbecue identity like other places do. I knew I wanted to do something that would put me apart from everyone else,” says Silver of his use of spice blends, citrus, and fresh herbs. “Barbecue is such a heavy meal, I want for people to find a way to get through the meal without feeling they’re stuffed to their seat.”
Every order comes with fresh-baked challah—Silver’s grandmother’s recipe—instead of white bread, plus pickles and sauces such as baharat-spiced mustard or date-molasses-spiked “bulldog” sauce.
Customers can walk up for their dinner, or pre-order for pickup. On Thursdays and Fridays, the barbecue truck will also make neighborhood drops around Montgomery County (check their social for details). Eventually Silver wants to open a brick-and-mortar, but for now, he’s built the kind of food truck that can drive business.
Silver and Sons BBQ. 7607 Macarthur Blvd., Bethesda (in the lot of Captains Market). Open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 4:30-7:30 PM.