2fifty Texas Comes to Union Market

Good news! Great barbecue is now available inside DC!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a pile of post oak for the last year or two, you’ve heard about 2fifty Texas in Riverdale Park, Maryland. It’s the best barbecue place in the Washington area by a good margin. I’ve written about 2fifty several times, from my first visit to their Sunday pop-up in a disused pizza place in Riverdale Park, to their Thursday appearances at the Riverdale Park Farmer’s Market, to the opening of their brick and mortar location next door to the old pizza place, and to the gradual expansion of their menu options and hours of operation (now Wednesday-Sunday).

The Gonzales family built this success with top-quality Texas-style barbecue. Samuel Gonzalez went to Aaron Franklin’s barbecue Master Class in Austin and paid much more attention than I did when I was in college. Much, much more. He learned how to make great brisket in their big wood-fueled smoker, and to make it great every time.

The good news is that, for those of us for whom a drive to Riverdale Park is a bit of a haul, 2fifty has opened an outpost at Union Market here in DC. My son-in-law, Michael, and I went to the pre-opening and tried the trio: brisket, ribs, and sausage, with some potato salad and their really good grilled pineapple, which basically is a dessert.

Beautiful. And it was all delicious. Michael, who cooks an outstanding brisket himself on his Big Green Egg, was jealous of the 2fifty brisket’s fall-apart tenderness. To me, the important thing is how it tastes, and the answer to that was, Wow! The ribs — and there are a couple more tucked under those shown, were even better than I’d remembered. The jalapeño cheese sausage was delicious, with a generous dose of jalapeño, as you can see here —

Off-site cooking can be fraught. I recently criticized the pork shoulder at the Park Road branch of Midwood Smokehouse in Charlotte, which is cooked off site at the Mother Ship. Compare here. But brisket is another matter. It loves to rest wrapped in swaddling — or butcher paper — whereas traditional pork’s wonderful direct-heat bark hates being wrapped — steamed — for transport. (If you let it cool, it can be revived.) The bottom line is that 2fifty’s meat doesn’t suffer on the trip from Riverdale Park to Union Market

The 2fifty space in Union Market is tiny, but it’s about what they had at the Farmers’ Market, so they’re used to it. And Samuel’s still cooking the meat a la Aaron Franklin back at the ranch, and Fernando is wielding the knife with just the right thickness slices.

Seating is outside at Union Market, and shade was at a premium. As we entered, I noticed a table (with an umbrella) at which a guy was photographing his 2fifty Texas platter with a big camera. Once I got our food, I made a beeline to that table and he graciously allowed us to join him and his cousin, another photographer. You really should check their work — The DMV Eater for mouth watering food shots, and All Pro Reels for sports action photos of the Washington teams. The quality of their photography is utterly amazing — especially compared to mine. If you have any interest in, say, sustenance or human achievement, you should follow them. And it was a good conversation — food, photography, architecture, Alabama football players, and drones. If you eat barbecue, you meet interesting people.

More good news. 2fifty Texas now has a new 1,000 gallon smoker (that’s really big) which has enabled them to expand to Union Market. You’re asking, which should I visit, Riverdale Park or Union Market? Embrace the power of “and.” You will love them both. And let me know if you can tell the difference in flavor.

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