Where to Eat BBQ This Summer
'Tis the season for smoked meats galore.
Barbecue season is here and connoisseurs will find a veritable smorgasbord of local options, from Carolina mustard-and-vinegar to sweet and smoky Kansas-City-style ‘cue. The following eateries offer a variety of slow-smoked meats (and lots of ’em), as well as some unique menu items like duck foie-gras sausage and veg-friendly barbecued jackfruit. Some offer weekend brunch with all-you-can-eat spreads.
4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington (Ballston Quarter Market)
5731 Lee Highway, Arlington (opening in June)
Earlier this year the beloved D.C. food truck opened a permanent stall in Ballston Quarter’s new food hall, serving its signature oak-smoked fare to hungry carnivores. Now it’s adding a standalone brick-and-mortar restaurant on Lee Highway in the former Misomen space. Owners Mandy and Joe Neuman say the new place will be family-friendly with space for kids to play, old-school arcade games like Ms. Pacman and Galaga, and expanded sausage offerings to include options like cheddar jalapeño, bratwurst and Italian.
370 W. Broad St., Falls Church
Housemade sauces – including a spicy chipotle and sweet and tangy tomato “Boss sauce” – crowd the tables at this popular barbecue joint in the Little City. Brisket and pulled pork are daily top-sellers, not to mention the all-stars of an all-you-can-eat weekend brunch buffet that also includes everything from fried chicken with hot honey to cheddar grits and bacon-topped deviled eggs. The brunch dessert table features soft serve and an array of brownies and cookies from sister bakery Northside Social. Kids eat free on Mondays from a special menu.
2761 Washington Blvd., Arlington
Everything at this rustic Lyon Park restaurant is made in-house, including the sauces. Brisket, smoked over red and white oak, is the bestseller, followed by St. Louis-style pork ribs (a cut that makes them more manageable to eat). The Cutlass Supreme Nachos are great for groups, featuring corn tortillas topped with the works, from queso to radishes, and piled even higher with pulled pork, chicken, chili and brisket, if you please. If they are available, don’t pass up specialty sausages like wild boar and garlic; bison chipotle; and duck foie gras.
3471 Washington Blvd., Arlington
The elder statesman of the local barbecue set (this outpost of the regional chain opened in 2007) recently added an expanded tap system for craft beers, and is known for its extensive bourbon selection. Rocklands’ Bourbon Club offers more than 50 different types of bourbon – including its own house spirit – and members can work their way through the list for prizes. In addition to offering both beef and pork ribs, the Arlington location also has a super special on Mondays: Order a beer at the bar and get a chopped pork sandwich for free. You can buy Rocklands sauces by the bottle if you want to take some home; Spicy Mustard and Sweet and Smoky are the two newest flavors in the lineup.
2910 N. Sycamore St., Arlington
Dylan Kough opened his second Smoking Kow location earlier this year in the former Backyard Barbeque space in Arlington’s Williamsburg Shopping Center. He makes five sauces in-house, including two Kansas-City-style (one sweet and one with a chipotle kick) as well as his love-letter to D.C., Mambo sauce made with pineapple juice, Sriracha, ginger and vinegar. Brisket and ribs are top sellers, with the two stores (Alexandria and Arlington) now going through 20 cases of brisket combined each week.
2312 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria (Del Ray)
This award-winning barbecue joint in Del Ray has been serving smoked meats for a decade. The pitmaster nachos – piled with hot cheese sauce, pico de gallo, jalapeños, cole slaw, sweet BBQ sauce and either pulled pork, brisket, beef sausage or pulled chicken – reign as the bar’s blockbuster favorite. The Kansas City Style “Burnt Ends” – cubed brisket ends that are double-seasoned and double-smoked – always sell out early. Insider tip: If you’re sitting at the bar and craving a burger, the bartender can put in a call to sister restaurant Holy Cow next door.
1330 S. Fern St., Arlington
The Virginia-apple-wine-glazed baby-back ribs, which are smoked overnight with hickory wood, have been the star since day one at this 7-year-old Pentagon City restaurant. But wait, there’s more. The horseradish-crusted, 13-hour-smoked prime rib (reserved as a weekly or holiday special in most establishments) is available nightly here, and it’s offered in three sizes: 12, 16 and 20 ounces. Epic recently updated its brunch menu. Avocado & Egg Benedict or Creamsicle Apple French Toast, anyone?
2670 Avenir Place, Vienna (Dunn Loring Metro)
To go-to at District BBQ’s metro-adjacent Merrifield location is burnt ends, which are available daily. To make this cult-favorite meat snack, the point of the brisket is separated from the flat and smoked for 14 hours. The beef ends are cubed, mixed with brown-sugar-based KC sauce and finished with a mix of hickory, pecan and white oak smoke. The restaurant also makes nine different buffalo wing sauces, including Thai curry, and offers a vegan barbecue option made with jackfruit. For a sweet finish, try the banana pudding topped with traditional Nilla wafers.
6811 Elm St., McLean
Rana Sersy’s Mediterranean café in McLean occupies the space that was once Boss Hog’s, and has carried forth the tradition by serving barbecue platters of chopped pork, pork ribs, pulled smoked chicken and brisket. It’s the sides that are unique — think creamy tzatziki, falafel and hummus. Consider it the best of both worlds. Sersy recently started harvesting fresh herbs grown on site and incorporating them into her summer menu.