Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ Food Review

"Luckenbach Texas" Prime Brisket

Rarely am I at a loss for words, especially when it comes to talking about food; but then again, I'd never been to Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ (before last night.) Odds are, you haven't heard of it (yet) but mark my words, you will... and when you do, you may never eat anyone else's barbecue again. Let's not mince words: Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ serves the best barbecue I've ever had (here, or anywhere else in the world.) Case closed. Game over.

Almost 24 hours later, it appears I've regained the ability to communicate; but last night, all I could muster was, "Are you kidding me?" "Oh my God," and "This is insane!" Not exactly Shakespeare; but I doubt the Bard of Avon ever ate barbecue like this. Located (literally) in the alleyway behind the Spring Valley Shopping Center, Pitmasters is the result of generations of food/barbecue aficionados... the kind of folks who never settle for shortcuts, and simply refuse to offer anything but the very best to their customers. Bill Fuchs (of Wagshal's fame) runs a tight (but incredibly upbeat and highly motivated) ship, and the results are nothing short of mouth-watering deliciousness.

Chopped Chicken Sandwich

Forgive me for getting carried away; but when you visit for yourself, you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about. I've had good BBQ sandwiches (DCity Smokehouse) and solid overall (Hill Country Barbecue) but Pitmasters hits each and every mark with startling efficiency. It begins with the 8th inductee into DC Outlook's Dirty Dozen... "Luckenbach Texas" Prime Brisket. Imagine the most flavorful bacon you've ever tasted, double the zest and made velvety soft. It's practically (cover your kids' eyes/ears) orgasmic, not to mention addictive: I'm going back next week, for more.

Wagshal's Half Smoke

Next up, Wagshal's Half Smoke, a salty, chewy sensation that requires no additional sauce. It's like incredible jerky, only not as chewy/hard. Speaking of sauces, there's four... Original, Carolina, Spicy and Sweet & Spicy. All great on their own, but hardly necessary (save for the chopped chicken sandwich.) If you're keeping score at home, place the Half Smoke in a photo-finish tie for second best bite of the night (with the Burnt Ends.)

St. Louis ½ Rack

On to the St. Louis ½ Rack for something smoky and divine. I was tempted to add sauce; but curious to try the meat on its own. End result? Still no sauce. Dare I say, you could gobble down every item on the menu without touching a single container of sauce. Ribs are naturally light on meat; but there's tons of flavor in each bite. They sell Beef Ribs too, in addition to a decadent Spanish Rib (Ibérico.) Needless to say, I'm eager to try both; but their pork ribs are enough to send you over the moon.

Burnt Ends

Better still, a new item (Burnt Ends.) They may not sound super appetizing; but in barbecue circles, they're considered a delicacy. Pitmasters' combo of beef and pork are both plentiful (8 ounces for just $9.99) and boneless, and best of all... easy to devour. I ran into a couple of fatty pieces; but the other 90% or so were perfectly textured, with just the right amount of crispiness and tons of flavor. They also reheat well (each order comes with a complete list of detailed reheating instructions.)

"Broasted" Fresh Water White Perch

About this time, I started to slow down; but I'd yet to try the most creative (in my opinion) item on the menu. "Broasted" Fresh Water White Perch (yes, Perch.) It's flown in every week from Wisconsin; and odds are, you've never had fried fish this delicate before. The batter is incredibly light and (don't ask how) void of any oiliness. What's broasting? It's a form of cooking that utilizes a pressure cooker fryer. That's why you don't feel, see or taste any oil. It's a heck of a lot healthier too, since the skin doesn't soak up all that aforementioned oil. Truth be told, I was skeptical at first (about the fryer, and barbecued fish) but two bites, and I was a (firm) believer. I may never eat flounder again.

Cornbread with Pepper Jelly

Reheating is more of a necessity at Pitmasters, because almost every order is delivery or "take away." There's one small table up front, permanently reserved for 2x Oscar winner Kevin Spacey (Freddy's BBQ Joint in House of Cards... say no more) who absolutely has to get his butt in here (with all due respect to Freddy, of course.) Food runs out quick (head of retail operations, Brian Fuchs strongly recommends ordering ahead, via online or by calling 202-350-9791.) Everything's made to order; and (smart) folks don't seem to mind waiting. Right now, it's dinner only (5-9:30 PM, Monday through Saturday) but early birds can stop by on Sunday between 2-6:30 PM.) Fear not, lunch service is just around the corner.

Granny's Apple Slaw

There's tons to choose from (10 different proteins, if you count the Burnt Ends) and even more sides, including two different slaws (Granny's Apple and Pickled) Baked Beans (made with three different kinds of beans and full strips of bacon) insanely good Collard Greens and housemade Corn Bread, served with Jalapeño Pepper Jelly. They even serve assorted fruit pies (cherry is incredible) that rival those made by the best grandmas in the world.

Cherry Pie

There's mountains more to talk about; but I've decided to borrow a page from Pitmasters' extensive cookbook, and save it for another day. There's technical jargon that must be explained, and several more dishes to inhale. Stay tuned for a second review, an interview (or two) and further confirmation that Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ is the best barbecue joint in the DMV... not to mention a bonafide frontrunner for DC Outlook's Best Restaurant of 2015. Yes, it's that good amazing.

Holding a Spot... for Kevin Spacey