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More than four years ago at their Rockville location, Urban Bar-B-Que owners David Calkins and Lee Howard were turning out barbecue with an overtaxed metal smoker approximately the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. It was as much a convection oven as a smoker, a contraption that required employees to fill (and refill and refill) a tiny wood-box with enough chips and chunks to generate the plumes of black perfume vital for any real barbecue. It worked, but only if your experience with ’cue was limited to the city-slicker stuff. More than a year ago, though, the guys installed a giant Southern Pride unit that burns split seasoned logs. The smoker reflected their need for more capacity as well as their desire to hang their hat on the Texas branch of American barbecue. These days, despite their East Coast roots, Calkins and Howard have the souls of true Texas pitmasters. They keep refining and simplifying, looking for that mysterious combination of time, smoke, and seasoning that defines Lone Star State barbecue. If they keep moving in this direction, they might be able to retire their house-made sauces in a year or so. Their smoked meats just won’t need ’em.

2007 Chapman Ave., Rockville (240) 290-4827