Mechanicsville is no bigger than a minute, but it can claim both the Surgeon General of the United States and the House Majority Leader as native sons. Pretty tall cotton — or tobacco. That’s what they used to grow in Southern Maryland. Now the tobacco is gone and the farmers are growing subdivisions. But Mechanicsville is largely untouched by the Washington excrescence. It’s still just a wide-ish place in the road, but it can boast two national leaders and a good barbecue place — no small feat for the greater Washington area.
Here’s the view from the parking lot — looking like barbecue place should.
I went there twice, first alone and then with Nancy. Let me start with my solo trip, when I ordered two sandwiches, Pulled Pork and Pit Beef.
You may not be familiar with pit beef. It’s a Baltimore thing, as discussed in my review of the legendary Chap’s, here. Pit beef is a bottom round of beef cooked for maybe 30 minutes, and then sliced very, very thin. The thin slicing overcomes the normal toughness of the bottom round. Pit beef is usually served on a kaiser roll with a horseradish sauce.
At the Smokehouse, the pit beef is cooked over hickory, and it tastes great. The meat absorbs a good bit of hickory smoke, and the result is better than any other pit beef I’ve had — not that I’ve had a whole lot, but it’s really tasty.
I was less pleased with the pulled pork, also served on a big kaiser roll. My problem was the sauce, with which the pork comes automatically. It’s not a bad sauce. It’s pretty good, actually, but they toss too much sauce in with the meat, and that much sauce tends to overwhelm the flavor of the pork. It diminishes the benefit of those hours of smoking over oak and hickory.
Nancy had a different reaction on our second visit. She got the Pulled Chicken BBQ, which came with the same sauce. Nancy really liked it, and she’s no pushover when it comes to sauces.
On that trip, I tried the North Carolina Pork, which comes with a vinegar and pepper sauce.
This is a very good vinegar and pepper sauce, far above the average you can find around Washington and beyond. It has that tartness and bite that balance and complement the richness of the pork. Again, though, the pork came pre-sauced, and a bit over-sauced at that.
I also ordered a rib sandwich, in part because it came unsauced and would give me a chance to really taste the meat. Here it is —
Now that’s a true rib sandwich: three big meaty bone-in ribs between two slices of white bread. And the meat was delicious. You could taste the oak smoke and the moist, tender pork. So good. These are really good ribs, maybe the best in the area. I should have asked for sauce. With ribs, the sauce just sits on exterior, and if there’s too much, the bread’s there to wipe off any excess. And that makes the bread more interesting — in some cases, much, much more interesting.
Oh, the sandwiches come with slaw — either on the sandwich or on the side. It’s good slaw, fresh and not over-dressed. And I got some collards on the second trip. They are good honest collards, with a delicious pot likker.
There are a couple of picnic tables outside. Two women at the next table commented on the size of the portions, and you definitely get a lot of meat at the Smokehouse BBQ Shack. The women were eating before a 22-mile bike ride (which is probably a good idea after eating a whole sandwich there.) Please don’t think that I actually ate all of the meat and bread that I ordered on either trip — at least not all at once. Well, not all of the bread. You really do get a lot of food for your money. Tell me where in the Washington region you can get a rib sandwich like that for under $8.
There are other things on the menu I want to try, like the green beans, the cornbread, and the $4.99 (!) Italian Sausage sandwich. Okay, and the macaroni and cheese — for the grandchildren. While I was there, a big guy came in to pick up five steak and cheese subs. I’m not a huge steak and cheese fan, but if he and all of his compatriots are ordering steak and cheese, I may have to try one.
The Smokehouse BBQ Shack is the creation of Paul and Belinda Thompson. Paul cooks the meat and Belinda is the inside person. I got a chance to talk with each and they are good, friendly people. It’s a point of pride that all of the food is prepared fresh daily. The meat is cooked with skill and integrity — with wood only, no gas or electricity — and they pick the type of wood (oak and/or hickory) suited to the meat. It’s True ‘Cue, and that’s something to celebrate these days.
If you’re in or near St. Mary’s County, definitely stop by the Smokehouse BBQ Shack. And bring an appetite.
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