The DC Area’s Best Barbecue Restaurant Is Coming to Mount Vernon Triangle

2Fifty will open a new outpost for its Texas-style smoked meats in early 2024.

A barbecue feast at 2fifty. Photograph courtesy of 2fifty.

About Restaurant Openings Around DC

A guide to the newest places to eat and drink.

2Fifty, 414 K St., NW.

There’s a reason why more legit barbecue restaurants don’t open in DC. Debby Portillo González and Fernando González, owners of Riverdale barbecue destination 2Fifty, found lots of city landlords didn’t want to go anywhere near them, despite their popularity and many accolades. For starters, a lot of property owners were nervous about smoke nuisances or fire hazards. Many also wanted set lunch and dinner hours, whereas 2Fifty is open until it sells out. “They wanted us to change the way we cooked in order for us to be able to lease their space, which is ridiculous,” Portillo González says. “Who goes around telling a chef how to cook their food?”

But after a long, frustrating search, 2Fifty has finally found a DC location that embraces what makes its Texas-style ‘cue so special. It’s set to open in Mount Vernon Triangle in mid-January, shortly after closing its Union Market stall.

Rendering of 2Fifty’s new home in Mt. Vernon Triangle courtesy 2Fifty.

Initially, 2Fifty plans to smoke all its American wagyu briskets and pork spare ribs for DC in Riverdale, where the team will operate a commissary smokehouse with double the number of smokers. They’ll be towing two custom thousand-gallon smokers from Mill Scale Metalworks in Lockhart, Texas, which manufactures equipment for some of the Lone Star State’s best barbecue joints. But the long term plan is to construct a smokehouse in the back of the DC restaurant. Portillo says they’re looking to replicate a specialty ventilation system that’s used by the likes of Truth Barbeque in downtown Houston. “If it works, it would be something amazing, because it’s very hard for metropolitan areas to allow this to happen,” Portillo González says.

Permitting and technical challenges aside, it will take some time for 2Fifty to build up the funds it will need for a DC smokehouse. “We don’t have deep-pocketed investors. We do not have anything except for Fernando and me and our personal guarantees,” she says. When 2Fifty first opened in April 2020—in the thick of Covid lockdowns—the owners couldn’t even afford tables and chairs for the restaurant. Most people thought the lack of furniture was intentional since every restaurant was doing carryout only at the time. The couple has since invested every cent back into the business.

Meat will be priced by weight at the new location. At the Riverdale outpost, customers pay before the meat is cut, which Portillo González admits hasn’t been the savviest business move: “Sometimes he cuts a little bit more. He can never cut a little bit less, because then we wouldn’t be serving correctly. So we lose money every time that we serve, basically.” (That said, there are no plans to change the model there.) The pay-by-weight model means that the DC location will not take phone or online orders. They also won’t do big catering orders since a set amount of meat will be allocated for the restaurant each day.

Otherwise, the core menus will be pretty similar across locations, with rotating sides that often reflect the owners’ Salvadorian roots. The new spot does have a bigger kitchen with more grills and fryers to allow for more specials. And the dining room, which will be designed by Debby’s brother, is bigger too, with 82 seats.

“This is the location that we wanted to open in Riverdale,” Portillo González says. “Riverdale is like that first child that you have and you can’t give him everything… You have more money for the second child.”

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.