The Washington Post, bless its heart, took another stab at choosing the 10 best barbecue places in the DC area, and found 11. Their article, if not the barbecue, has improved considerably over the Post’s “Best Barbecue” article in its 2016 Going Out Guide, the subject of this blog post. The 2016 piece was a ludicrous effort to pretend that there actually are 10 good barbecue places in or near Washington, dressed in phrases that might be used by a neophyte wine reviewer describing the various flavors of Boone’s Farm in language more suited to, say, Grgich Hills. It was at once infuriating and, unintentionally, hilarious. The 2018 list grudgingly acknowledges that some of the best places are pretty bad.
It seems the Post’s writer was taken to the woodshed after he claimed that Hill Country BBQ Market here in DC was “as good as or better than” Franklin’s in Austin. Really. In writing. That’s the sort of claim people make routinely in Washington.* Now, I have not eaten at Franklin’s, but I here state that I have never eaten a bite of brisket in the State of Texas that wasn’t better than any I’ve eaten in DC — at least any brisket that was not cooked by my cousin, Murray Johnston.
The fuss was sufficient that Daniel Vaughn, the Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor, came to DC to try Hill Country. He found it, as I have, to be pretty awful, and gave it an emphatic thumbs down. Vaughn’s 2 x 4 to the Post’s head did do some good, as the writing has been toned down a lot (although they rhapsodize “the nearly blackened spareribs, which hide a nice pinch of spice in the relief map of their rub on their surface.”) But 2 x 4s have their limitations, and this one didn’t impart any actual knowledge of barbecue.
I’ve reviewed some of the Post’s 2018 “Best Places” besides Hill Country — Fat Pete’s, the Federalist Pig, and DCity Smokehouse. And Doug Jacobson, the Kansas City Barbecue Maven, just ate at Monk’s BBQ, way out in Purcellville, Virginia. He says that the brisket looked nice, but it was dry, and the burnt ends were inedible. What is clear is that even the best places in Washington are pretty bad, and the Post either doesn’t know it — has no idea what barbecue can and should be — or knows it but is unwilling to admit it. This is Washington, so either would be pretty characteristic of the city.
*See the best Supreme Court amicus brief ever. Bar none.