The Dish: BBQ pork panini
The Location: EatBar, 2761 Washington Blvd., Arlington, 703-778-9951
The Price: $10
The Skinny: Chef Nathan Anda has a smoker set up in an enclosed space just outside EatBar, but he doesn’t use it for his pulled-pork panini. Why? Apparently in that tight space, the damn thing runs too hot because Anda can’t harness the winds to control temperature, leaving the pork too charred or too dry. Instead, the chef cooks his pork in duck fat, pulls it apart, and mixes it with a barbecue sauce spiked with bacon, which provides the only hint of smoke in the entire sandwich. Sure, purists might scoff at a chef who dares to call pork confit “barbecue.” I would have, too, but then I sampled the dish. The meat is tender and rich, and it’s topped with a red cabbage cole slaw just barely dressed with an apple-cider-laced aioli. The sauce is tart, and the panini bread is thin, crisp, and oh-so-toothsome. This may not be any barbecue sandwich recognizable to Carolinians or Texans——-hell, it’s not even really barbecue——-but it’s a smart, city-savvy interpretation of ’cue. And it tastes a lot better than much of the real stuff for sale in these parts.