Urban Bar-B-Que Co.
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
D.C. has never been much of a barbeque town, but new entrants promise to shake up the scene in the years to come. American Ice Co., Hill Country, Virgil’s Real Barbecue, and Pork Barrel BBQ are either brand new or are planning to open this year. For now, however, the D.C. area’s top barbecue is safely in the hands of Urban Bar-B-Que Co., which has added a third Maryland location in Sandy Spring, complete with a full-service bar. To best understand Urban’s barbecue, order the simple brisket. A notoriously difficult cut, tough in texture and tough to cook well, it is a perfect litmus for barbecue greatness. At Urban, thick slices display a deep ruby ring, which indicates significant time in a smoker, and beef and smoke flavors posture aggressively—there’s no sauce needed here. Though they’re not the main offerings, other meats are still well-prepared. The pork is lightly smoked and broken up by a cleaver, rather than excess time and heat; even though it’s not pulled, it still appeals to those who favor barbecue with East Carolina roots, complete with the requisite vinegary sauce. For chicken, dark meat stands out over white, though the wings attached to a breast are a special treat. The higher fat content preserves moisture in flesh that seems a better magnet for smoke and flavor.