All photos Laura Hayes
All photos Laura Hayes

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Pitmaster Shawn McWhirter is all smiles because there’s room at his new DCity Smokehouse digs for two J&R smokers from Mesquite, Texas. “This is Biggle Smalls and this is 2Pac,” he says, giving them names. One will burn mild red and white oak to gently introduce a little more flavor into brisket, ribs, and pork butt, while the other will use hickory and cherry wood to pump smokiness into poultry and pork belly.

Shawn McWhirter

McWhirter continues with the music theme when he talks about the anticipation for opening day. “Everybody’s waiting; it’s like a new Usher CD,” he jokes. “We’re that Usher CD everyone wants because we got the moves.”

The release date, er, opening day arrives Jan. 4, about one year after co-owner Scott Jacobs bought the ground floor retail space at 203 Florida Ave. NW. Nine lucky condo owners live above and are treated daily to the wafting aromas.

What attracted Jacobs to the space is the outdoor area, which will seat 45. Inside, the restaurant seats 35. It is outfitted in warm woods, quartz, and metal. Two sliding garage doors can make the inside feel like the outside when the weather is good, and there’s a mural by local artist Sofale.

The new space is still intimate but much larger than the original four-seat cubbyhole around the corner on North Capitol Street where Rob Sonderman (who now runs Federalist Pig), and later, McWhirter tended to the smoker.

Regulars will recognize menu favorites like the “Meaty Palmer” sandwich piled high with turkey, pork belly, avocado, tomato, and chipotle aioli ($10); the “Brisket Champ” with sliced smoked brisket, pickles, crispy onions, and barbecue sauce ($10); hushpuppies ($3 or $6), and fried Brussels sprouts ($3 or $6).

Barbecue meats such as brisket, turkey breast, pulled pork, and half smokes will also be available by the quarter, half, and full pound. For the best deal, bring a crew and tackle the “Smokehouse Picnic Basket for 5,” which includes a full rack of ribs, brisket, smoked wings, five sides, and five drinks for $70.

McWhirter says he gets his inspiration from the best barbecue regions in the country including Texas, North Carolina, and Memphis. “Say you got a person who comes in from Texas who says, ‘Man, this is on point,’ or if I get a lady from North Carolina who gets a pulled pork sandwich and says, ‘That’s dead on.’ I’m smiling all day.”

House-baked rolls

Perhaps the biggest new addition is the house-baked bread that general manager Andrew Chiou calls a cross between a milk bun and a yeast roll. “It’s really sad when all you get is some Wonder Bread,” he says. Baking bread in house means the overnight cook manning the smokers will have some company. 

To pair with barbecue, bar manager Lance Smith built a draft list of local beers, including suds from Right Proper Brewing Co. and 3 Stars Brewing Co., plus Shiner Bock and a rotating Sam Adams seasonal. He’ll also serve bottles of ANXO Cidery from down the street; classic cocktails and a few originals; and a handful of wines. 

Come Jan. 4, DCity Smokehouse will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight. In the future they hope to stay open later to attract the bar and restaurant industry crowd. If you’re craving barbecue at home, DCity Smokehouse will offer take-out and delivery through UberEats and GrubHub.

DCity Smokehouse, 203 Florida Ave. NW;