Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where to Eat Barbecue in D.C.

Perhaps it's because I grew up in Cincinnati. It's a much-ballyhooed fact that in 1835, the city was America's hog-packing headquarters and was affectionately dubbed "Porkopolis" as a result. It's a history the Queen City has taken to heart, holding the swine as divine and decorating downtown with these little ethereal piglets:

The Flying Pig, the unofficial mascot of Cincinnati.
In any case, these pigs have apparently flown across my radar one time too many because I'm obsessed with them. Call it a porcine predilection, a hog hunger, a passion for pork. Whatever words you choose, it is by far the most delicious meat, and I want nothing more than to have it smoked, pulled, slathered in barbecue sauce and lining the insides of my belly.

And even though my hometown is not known for its barbecue, my desire to dig in to a plate of Babe has made me strive to find the best barbecue in D.C. Now, unfortunately, with the forthcoming list, I can't necessarily promise you anything to rival your Texas, St. Louis or North Carolina favorites, or even guarantee very much authenticity. The District hasn't quite caught on to the scrumptious barbecue of the South yet. But, my beloved adopted city definitely tries, and there are a bevy of options for those of you who want to fill your ribs with... well, ribs.


Hill Country Barbecue, 410 7th St. NW

One of the newer dining options in Penn Quarter, the basement level of this barbecue chain feels very much like an Austin honky tonk, according to a Texas-native pal. Upstairs in the dining area, you have to wait in line cafeteria-style to get your meat, which I personally hated doing, but they served my drink in a mason jar and the meat was tasty so all was forgiven.


Memphis Barbeque, 320 S. 23rd St., Arlington

The most awesome thing about this place? They serve you hush puppies in the way that most restaurants serve you bread. Can I tell you how much I loved that? I loved that. I loved that so much I nearly kissed our server on the mouth. Oh, and the food was pretty delicious, too.

Red Hot & Blue, 1600 Wilson Blvd., Arlington (among others)

A chain, which automatically knocks it down a peg or two in my opinion, but I liked the sweet potato fries.


Pork Barrel BBQ, 2312 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria

Talk about supporting local businesses -- the founders of Pork Barrel are former Senate staffers who swapped days of dry paperwork for dry rubs. They created various barbecue accoutrements, started selling them at local stores, and eventually partnered with local restauranteurs for this brick-and-mortar establishment in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. It's definitely worth the trip out to the suburbs!

Smoke and Barrel, 2471 18th St. NW

In the heart of Adams Morgan, this little place serves up a variety of vegan options alongside their meats, proving that vegetarians and carnivores can actually be friends. There's quite a craft beer list here, too.

Old Glory Bar-B-Que, 3139 M St. NW

This was the first barbecue joint I tried when I moved to D.C., so even though it is located amongst the riff raff of Georgetown, it will always hold a special place in my heart. It's one of those places that gives you about six different sauce options splayed out on your table, so you can switch from a North Carolina sauce to a mustard-based sauce to something else with every bite. This place is also known for its extensive bourbon offerings.

Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company, four locations in Washington, Alexandria, Arlington and Rockville

Pretty standard barbecue from a guy who dropped out of medical school once upon a time. That's quite the turn-around on the whole health situation, huh?


Epic Smokehouse, 1330 S. Fern St., Arlington

This is the only restaurant on this list that you need to dress up for (and even then, only slightly). It's the newest barbecue joint to open in town, in the unfortunate and exceedingly unappetizing location next to the Dumpster/loading dock at CostCo in Crystal City. Still, it serves a maple bacon cupcake for dessert, so just don't look out the window and you'll be fine.


Hogs on the Hill, 2003 Bladensburg Road NE

Oh my God, this place should not be delicious but it is. This is a hole-in-the-wall, carry-out only barbecue joint just off New York Avenue on your way out of the city on 295. The sticky, sweet barbecue sauce will coat your insides with happiness. TRUST ME.

In hog we trust!


  1. Even though its further south in Woodbrige, Dixie Bones beats all of those and then some. I highly recommend the stuffed potato with chicken -- that sauces are yummy, sweet tea is great and the chocalate pie is also awesome.

  2. Hold the phone-- what about Acre 121 up in Columbia Heights? It's low-country, not Texan, but it's still barbecue!

  3. If you're driving to Woodbridge, you might as well drive to North Carolina! Though I'm sure you're right and it's delicious. And I've actually not tried Acre 121, but I'll put it on my list!

  4. Wow...I see Hogs on the Hill ALL the damn time, but never once would I have thought to try it. Now based on this post, I just may have to do so one day. Hmmm