Meat Week, if I’m truly honest with myself, is not designed for cities like Washington D.C., where barbecue joints have to cater to the many different styles of American smoked meats. The smokehouse that dares to specialize in, say, Texas ‘cue or Carolina pulled pork is the smokehouse destined to fail in the District. At least that’s what a veteran restaurant consultant once told me.
This more than explains the mediocre barbecue we have in the metro area. Perfecting one style of barbecue is hard enough; perfecting them all is a task more impossible than landing an unauthorized helicopter on the White House lawn.
The best pit men we have are those who try (if not always succeed) to master a particular style, like Fate Pittman who specializes in western North Carolina ‘cue at Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish or David Calkins who fell in love with Texas barbecue and has been working hard to duplicate Lone Star State brisket at Urban.
But after those two places (as well as the smokehouse in Clinton and possibly, with more visits, Branded ’72), my interest in local barbecue drops off significantly. I don’t think I could ever muster enough interest, let alone appetite, to hit seven straight local smokehouses. (In Texas, by contrast, I think I could eat the stuff straight for a month and not tire of it.)
The beauty of Meat Week, though, is that you don’t have to attend all of the gatherings — not unless you’re Mr. Capital Spice, Mike Bober, who’s leading the charge for the D.C. Chapter of Meat Week. Talk about talking a bullet for the team.
Of course, I’m not saying anything that Bober doesn’t already know.
“The biggest headache I ran into was trying to set the schedule,” Bober e-mailed Y&H earlier today. “[U]nless you’re willing to drive outside the Beltway, it’s hard to find seven really good barbecue joints in the area. I went with a few of the names everyone knows because they really are representative of what’s available in DC right now (for better AND for worse), but I also tried to balance them out with some of the less well-known establishments.”
Bober certainly knows good ‘cue when he tastes it. He’s a Kansas City Barbecue Society-certified judge. To his palate, the ‘cue offerings are on the uptick in the area.
“Thankfully, it seems like DC’s barbecue prospects are improving as we speak. Washington may not be a world-class barbecue city yet, but we’ve already got a few places that are doing it right and there are a couple of big names on the horizon. I’m really excited that we were able to work something out with the guys from Pork Barrel BBQ to get a sneak peek at what they’ll be bringing to Del Ray this year.”
The best way to judge for yourself is to take part in one, or all, of the Meat Week 2010 gatherings.
Meat Week 2010 Schedule
Jan. 31: Urban Bar-B-Cue (Rockville) 7 p.m.
Feb. 1: Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling (Glover Park) 7 p.m.
Feb. 2: Red Hot & Blue (Arlington) 7 p.m.
Feb. 3: Pork Barrel BBQ at Mango Mike’s (Alexandria) 7 p.m.
Feb. 4: Capital Q (Penn Quarter/Chinatown) 7 p.m.
Feb. 5: Branded 72 Pit Barbecue (Rockville) 7 p.m.
Feb. 6: Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish (Safeway parking lot at 5th St., NE) 3pm
Feb. 7: Free Day. Enjoy your favorite ‘cue at a Super Bowl Party. 6 p.m.
Photo illustration by Brooke Hatfield