Dishes from Silver and Sons Barbecue
Dishes from Silver and Sons Barbecue Credit: Nevin Martell

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I smell the truck before I see it. The sweet scent of smoke mixes with a pasticcio of seasonings and spices, some familiar, others that avoid quick identification. This intoxicating haze makes my mouth water, as my belly reminds me lunch was a long time ago. Coming around a turn, the source materializes: Silver and Sons Barbecue.

The dapper black truck is parked in a lot outside Pine Crest Elementary School in Silver Spring. Inside is chef Jarrad Silver, along with Joey Jones, who helps him run the truck. They’re setting up for an evening of pickups and walkups, their guests drawn to Silver’s unique blend of American barbeque accented with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Jewish flair, flavors and traditions he began exploring while heading up the kitchens at Birch & Barley and ChurchKey.

His non-traditional barbeque venture is a direct result of the pandemic. When the shutdown hit in March 2020, Silver initially kept his job—“I survived the first draft pick,” he jokes—rotating through several Neighborhood Restaurant Group properties, helping with the company’s newly launched delivery service, Neighborhood Provisions, and creating meal packages for holidays. But when fall arrived and business slowed, he didn’t survive the next round.

To save money, he and his wife, who was then working as an ER nurse, pulled their 9-month-old son, Charlie, out of daycare. Silver was on full-time dad duty. “I got all day, every day,” says Silver. “We went on a lot of walks. It was incredible.”

After several months, bills had piled up. Silver began thinking about how he might start working again, but from the comfort of home. “I really wanted to focus on spending time with Charlie,” he says. “That was not time I expected to have with him. Watching him grow and develop was an amazing thing, so I wanted to take advantage of that.”

He landed on the idea of getting a smoker. He would fire it up one day a week to barbeque, then people could swing by the house to pick up orders. Though he never worked in a barbeque joint, he smoked meats at home and worked at Kapnos, where he cooked over a live fire, so he felt confident he could pull it off.

There was just one problem: He needed a smoker. As luck would have it, he found one for sale on Facebook. Then there was another problem: The 1,600-pound Lang BBQ Smoker was in New Jersey, so he had to get a hitch installed on his car and haul it back after doing some test driving in a parking lot to make sure he could handle the extra load.  

For a month, he developed his barbeque technique and sauces. Silver and Sons Barbecue debuted in December 2020—the moniker is a nod to Charlie and Silver’s father, who loves the restaurant industry. “The name is more of an inter-generational thing,” he explains.

By March 2021, people started asking for him to bring the smoker to their neighborhood. He eventually upgraded to a food truck with a smoker, doing his prep out of a shared cooking space in Rockville, about 15 minutes from his home in Kensington. To keep the workload manageable, so he still gets time with his son, the truck is only on the road Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Desserts from Silver and Sons Barbecue Credit: Nevin Martell

Meats take center stage, of course. Brisket is the standard by which all pitmasters are judged, and Silver sources prime beef from Creekstone Farms. Cuts are rubbed with just kosher salt and a mix of freshly ground peppercorns: green, white, pink, black, and Sichuan. The results keep the focus on the meat, which arrives deeply smoked under a crusty bark.

Pulled lamb shoulder is a standout, the meat well-seasoned with a mix of freshly toasted and ground spices, including coriander, Aleppo pepper, and fennel seed. But the pastrami may be the best of the batch. After a 10-to-14-day brine, it’s coated with the five-peppercorn blend and plenty of cracked coriander, then smoked for four hours. The same spicing is used for Silver’s lone vegetarian main dish: pastrami spiced button and oyster mushrooms. The smoked shrooms work well as a sandwich, slipped into a challah bun based on a recipe learned from his grandmother.

“Barbecue shouldn’t need sauces,” Silver asserts, but he still labored diligently to create three to slather on as you see fit: one mustard-based and laced with Middle Eastern Baharat seasoning, giving it a punch of warming spice vibes; another sweeter, standard, sauce; and a Carolina vinegar riff with a bang of tang.

The sides generally eschew tradition, except for mac and cheese topped with a crunchy layer of garlicky breadcrumbs. Though that is delicious, I advise being more adventurous. Order the two dips—whipped feta spiced up with charred jalapeños and pomegranate molasses-sweetened muhammara powered by smoked walnuts—and use the challah buns to savor them.

Mac and cheese from Silver and Sons Barbecue Credit: Nevin Martell

Even the sweets have a smidge of smoke. The baklava’s layers of flaky phyllo dough hide walnuts that spent some quality time in the smoker, while Rice Krispies treats are punctuated with smokey mini marshmallows and lots of chocolate chips. The latter tastes like a childhood camping trip in the best way possible.

After spending an hour with Silver and getting to meet Charlie—now a wide-eyed, wide-smiled 2-year-old—I leave just before patrons begin arriving. As I drive away, our CRV fills with the intoxicating scent of barbeque, dinner for that evening. The car carried that smoky fragrance for a few days afterwards, the best air freshener ever.

Jarrad Silver and his son, Charlie Credit: Nevin Martell

Silver and Sons Barbecue, find locations every week at silverandsonsbbq.com

Got a tip on a new restaurant opening? Email goodtaste@washingtoncitypaper.com. Follow Nevin on Instagram @nevinmartell and on Twitter @nevinmartell.