I’m not going to lie. When I showed up at Urban Bar-B-Que at 7 PM last night, I figured there was a 50-50 chance that I was going to be enjoying a plate of brisket all by myself and then heading home. Such is the uncertainty that comes from putting something like Meat Week together. It’s a feeling I hadn’t had since I stopped planning events as part of my job.
So I showed up with my Meat Week flags and my most recent copy of the KCBS Bull Sheet, ready to greet my fellow Meat Weekers…but I brought a book with me, just in case.
I’m more than a little pleased that the book turned out to be completely unnecessary. Washington’s barbecue lovers turned out in force to kick off our inaugural Meat Week. At one point, we had twenty-four people celebrating over plates brown paper-covered trays of ribs, pulled pork and brisket.
The team at Urban were the perfect hosts for our inaugural event. I had given them a heads up that some undetermined number of people would be arriving to celebrate Meat Week. Rather than ask “What the hell does that mean?” they actually looked into it and were ready to greet us when we arrived. They reserved a few tables up front so we’d have a place to gather (we eventually overtook the entire restaurant), and then they stepped back and let Meat Week take its course as everyone ordered whatever they had a taste for.
More photos and details – as well as info on a Haiti relief event tomorrow night – after the jump.
We were really impressed by the way Urban embraced the Meat Week spirit. The crew invited some of us into the back to check out their massive Southern Pride smoker. They actively discouraged us from ordering the pulled chicken (“It’s good,” they said, “but it’s still just chicken…go for the brisket or the ribs”). They were even kind enough to stay open an hour later than usual to accommodate all of our attendees.
With all the hype that Meat Week received over the past week, we had people coming in who had heard about the event from all sorts of sources. First Mate BabeQue could take credit for bringing or directly inviting eight others. We had a pair of attendees who were veterans of Atlanta’s Meat Week in years past. We even had a couple of members of local ska band Eastern Standard Time, who were there with Fritz from Asparagus Media.
While we were chatting about the rest of the Meat Week schedule, Fritz told me about a terrific event taking place Tuesday night at DC9: a Haiti Earthquake Relief Concert benefiting Vwa Ayiti (Voice of Haiti). Vwa Ayiti was founded by DC filmmaker James M. Felter, and the volunteer-run organization boasts that 90% of all donations go directly to helping out on the ground in Haiti. For $15, you can spend the evening at DC9 listening to the likes of Eastern Standard Time, the Ambitions, and Tommy T of Gogol Bordello. The concert begins at 9.
They came through with flying colors. The brisket was tender and well-spiced (though some pieces had a bit more fat on them than some of our eaters might have preferred). The pulled pork came out in large chunks, most of which still had a healthy helping of bark attached. Even some of the more unique menu items, like the Frito-pie-on-steroids Urban Legend, got positive reviews from those who tried them.
And the ribs? The ribs were a sight to behold. They were dark and smoky – at first glance, they almost looked burnt. As it turns out, that’s by design. Over the past month, Urban’s pit crew has been experimenting with cold-smoking the ribs for a longer period of time, allowing them to suck up the smoke and resulting in a dark, lacquered finish once they’re put into the (relatively) hot smoker for finishing. The process seems to be working, as the ribs were moist and tender under that thick, smoky exterior. One of the other KCBS judges in attendance wasted no time awarding the ribs 8s (out of 9) on taste and texture.
While Urban has a decidedly Texan flavor (they’ve even got Shiner Bock on their beer menu), they join the rest of the DC barbecue circuit in trying to appeal to as broad a swath of diners as possible by offering a variety of sauce options. You can try red (Memphis style sweet tomato), yella (Southern style mustard-based) and Carolina (vinegar-based), and they even offer up their Texan dry rub so you can shake some more onto everything from brisket to fries. I found myself dipping the pulled pork into the Carolina most often, and the brisket found its way into the red on the few occasions when I decided to dip it at all.
Overall, Urban Bar-B-Que was a great way to kick off Meat Week, and I was thrilled at the turnout. If you couldn’t join us last night, maybe you can stop by Rocklands in Glover Park tonight to take part in Day 2. There’s even a rumor of a satellite Meat Week event taking place at the Rocklands near Ballston, if you can’t make it up to the DC location. And don’t forget to leave a note or email us if you’re planning to attend the Pork Barrel special event at Mango Mike’s on Wednesday – we want to give the guys a rough head count tonight to be sure they bring enough ‘cue for everyone.