Best: Urban Bar-B-Que Co.
2007 Chapman Ave., Rockville, (240) 290-4827
2nd Best: WFM Smokehouse
4501 Market Commons Drive, Fairfax, (703) 222-2058
D.C.’s reputation as a barbecue town used to hover somewhere just above Des Moines’; you could say our area was better known for its smoke and mirrors than its regular ol’ smokers. But about two years ago when Whole Foods opened its sprawling Fair Lakes store—I believe the place has its own mayor, police force, and black market—the chain’s braintrust decided to lay the wood to us. It installed a Southern Pride smoker right inside the store. Every day, pit masters (and mistresses) fuel the smoker with maple, cherry, and hickory logs and crank out hundreds of pounds of brisket, sausage, pork butts, chicken, wings, and ribs. The deeply smoked meats are far better than anyone had the right to expect from a grocery chain, even one based in Austin. If the WFM Smokehouse’s meats don’t measure up to those at Urban Bar-B-Que in Rockville, it’s likely because no employee at this corporate ’cue house has the same pride of ownership as the men who launched Urban. Capitalism may have lost its luster lately, but it’s still motivation enough for Urban’s Lee Howard and David Calkins to keep striving to produce the kind of superior, smoky barbecue that this town has rarely, if ever, known.