The BBQ Joint at Union Market in DC

March 13, 2015:

I finally got to The BBQ Joint at Union Market here in DC. (See 12-10-15 alert from Liza Tanner.) Regular readers will note that we have been away a lot since then, and Union Market is a bit out of the way. It’s in a warehouse in a wholesale food district off Florida Avenue in NE DC. The warehouse is filled with food stalls of all sorts aimed at people with substantial discretionary income, including the Rappahannock Oyster Bar. So it is not a “joint” in the usual meaning of the word.

It also does not serve barbecue in the strict meaning of the word — meat cooked slowly over an open pit,  It is cooked in boxes. The process involves some smoke and the end product has some smoke flavor but not much.

I had a pork sandwich with collards and candied sweet potatoes, and got some coleslaw for Nancy, the cole slaw expert, who decided to get some soup from another stall.

The pork was a nice enough pork sandwich with, as I said, some smoke flavor. It was tender and it wasn’t dried out. Still and all, I cannot call it barbecue. The bun was pretty good.

They have several sauces available, none of which were very good. The hot sauce was fairly hot but sort of, meh. The “NC type vinegar sauce” had some pepper at the bottom but it had not been there long enough to permeate and flavor the liquid.

The candied sweet potatoes were good. The collards were disappointing. I think they may use odds and ends of their pork to season it rather than bacon or salt pork or streak of lean. They don’t have much flavor. The coleslaw was badly over-dressed, but had an unusual-but-good taste.

The cornbread was a sweet muffin rather than a proper piece of cornbread. Ideally cornbread is cooked in cast iron greased with bacon. I once saw Jeremy Schwartz eat 7 sticks of cornbread at John’s in Birmingham (in its former incarnation) before they brought my gumbo. (Jeremy tried to keep Kosher and didn’t get the shrimp gumbo. I kept quiet about the cornbread.) No one will ever go after what passes for cornbread in DC like that.

Somehow this — with no drink — cost over $18 – $22 and change with the tip.

John Tanner's Barbecue Page's photo.
  • John Tanner’s Barbecue Page:   The only other place I’ve tried there has been Red Apron, where I got the sorriest excuse I’ve ever had for a muffuletta. I did get muscadines from one of the vegetable stands once, and around here muscadines are worth what they cost.

    Sam Heldmanvery informative review. nothing that i have found at union market is as good as it should be – or else is extraordinarily overpriced – with the exception of the smoked stuff at the stall on the front right-hand side.

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