Young and Hungry

Smoking Out the Area’s Best Barbecue for Summer


If your Independence Day weekend was anything like mine, you ate a lot of smoke: smoked brisket, smoked ribs, smoked sausages, smoked corn. By the time our Fourth of July feast was ready on Sunday afternoon, I smelled like a crank shaft in an overheated Ford on a lonely stretch of Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

I took two showers in less than 24 hours, the water moratorium be damned.

All that time standing next to a barrel smoker got me thinking about barbecue in D.C. Unlike some urban markets, D.C. still struggles to produce high-quality 'cue. Urban Bar-B-Que continues to produce my favorite brisket in the area, a slice of low-and-slow Texas-style goodness right in Rockville, while Mr. P's continues to smoke my favorite ribs. The rest of our smoked-meats market is a crap shoot at best, turning out sub-par barbecue far more often than anything worth recommending.

As we head into the teeth of summer, though, I wanted to point you in the direction of some reliable barbecue outlets as well as point out a newcomer perhaps worth a visit.

Aside from Urban and Mr. P's, I think you'll find plenty to satisfy your smoking needs at, of all places, the WFM Smokehouse inside the Fair Lakes Whole Foods. Aside from the holy trinity of beef, ribs, and sausage, the grocery store also offers whole chickens and these delectable smoked wings, almost as good as the ones Ann Cashion turns out at Johnny's Half Shell.

Then there's Branded '72, which is an outgrowth of O'Brien's Pit Barbecue in Rockville; the son-in-law of founder Ken O'Brien Sr. has given the old smokehouse a new name and a renewed sense of purpose. I can't vouch for the ribs here, but I think the brisket shows considerable promise. I have hopes that, under new management, Branded '72 will only get better with time.

The newbie is a place called Blue Ribbon BBQ and, interestingly enough, it's also located in Rockville. (So when did this town become the metro area's 'cue capital?) Blue Ribbon is the product of three college friends who bought the old smokehouse and injected it with new blood. The owners boast a 600-pound capacity Southern Pride unit in which they toss seasoned hickory logs to smoke their Texas-style brisket, Memphis-style dry ribs, and Carolina-style pork. But the most unusual item at Blue Ribbon has to be the hot dog.

That's right, I said hot dog.

Blue Ribbon takes an all-beef, natural casing link and smokes it for a few minutes, just long enough to perfume it with hickory. The dog is then deep-fried, placed in a toasted bun, and smothered in chopped smoked brisket. It's like a chili dog, only better because it's covered in smoky meat.

"We invented it," says co-owner Nick Rossi. "We tried as many things as we could to see what was delicious. And this came out the best."

Blue Ribbon, like most barbecue outlets in the area, is no pure breed but more of a mutt, combining the influences from a number of different regional forebears.  But we do have a pure breed coming our way, or at least as close to one as we get around these parts. It's called Hill Country, a D.C. offshoot of the NYC original. Its influence is, as the name implies, pure central Texas. It's supposed to open this month at 410 Seventh St. NW.

What about you, Y&H Nation? Where are you eating barbecue this summer?

  • Mike E

    Boulevard Woodgrill in Arlington has surprisingly good ribs, the best I've had in the Arlington area. Rocklands has a tasty chopped pork BBQ sandwich.

  • Ashlee Hodge

    Agree with you on Urban's brisket- best I've had in the area, but still nowhere near satisfying my true Texas brisket cravings. I gotta say I was let down by Mr. P's.

    Tim, surely you've had Rockland's BBQ in Glover Park..? Never hear you mention it and I think it's actually pretty darn good 'cue.

  • Tim Carman


    I haven't had Rocklands recently, but my visits have been fairly disappointing. Their equipment just doesn't generate the kind of smoke, and smoke penetration, I like in barbecue. The ribs, I remember, were decent, though.

    BTW: What don't you like about Mr. P? Did you do ribs or something else?

  • Dan S.

    The North Carolina BBQ Pork Sandwich at the Eastern Market lunch is amazing. There was a stretch I was there every weekend for that sandwich.

  • Adam M.

    Tim, has good advice on bbq in the area. It needs new ideas for places to try as well.

  • Kevin D.

    I like KBQ out in Lanham a whole lot, I'm a little surprised it wasn't mentioned though I was glad to see it reviewed on beltwaybbq. The ribs and brisket are great, and be sure to try the baked beans, I can't get enough of them (the mac and cheese is good too).

  • Jay M

    I work with a couple of guys trying to open up a lunch truck that would mainly sell BBQ. They're having a tasting in Rock Creek Park this coming Sunday. Kind of a weird name, but it's Purveyors of Rolling Cuisine. I haven't had their barbecue yet, but anything they've given me so far has been great.

  • BS

    The brisket at Urban is not Tejas style; when ordering it ask them not to douse it in the barbecue sauce.

  • BuzzMc

    Carolina Brothers in Ashburn, hard by the W&OD trail, is the best pulled pork this side of Buz&Ned's in Richmond. Great vinegar sauce, too. 2 sides, $7. Any questions? See my story (shameless plug) in this month's Loudoun magazine where we make Danny Hurdle a bbq hero.

  • Boris Z

    @Kevin D Glad you enjoyed our review on

    Agreed that KBQ should have been mentioned as one of the better places in the area. Great sides as well and the owner is a great guy who comes out and talks to his customer (sign of confidence in his food).

    Urban BBQ for a little while did a thing on Sat AM where ou could buy the meats straight from the smoker by the pound, wish they would do that again...they where at their best when they did that.

  • eli

    What's up with Hogs on the Hill, Tim? How come they get no love?

  • JAY

    KBQ in bowie is some of the best BBQ I have had, PERIOD. The beans may be the very best ever. It's not in the city but if you're looking for the best around it might be worth your trip. 10 times better than Rocklands IMO. Anyone that's had KBQ and know a better spot, let me know.

  • Boris Z

    We found the Q at Hogs on the Hill to be cooked poorly and coated with way to much sauce that reminded us more of chinatown rather then good bbq. Much better places in the area


    Anyone try STEWART's BBQ Trailer on that abandoned gas station when you head out of RHODE ISLAND AVE towards route 50.

    I drive by there on work and damn if it doesnt look like slow cooked heaven.