Pork Barrel DC LogoPork.  Here in Washington, it’s one of those four letter words that you just don’t use in polite company.  Since the time of the Civil War, politicians have decried the wasteful “pork barrel spending” that sends money to their opponents’ districts for pet projects…all the while defending the necessary and important projects they’re fighting for.

With all this talk of pork, you’d think someone would be cooking up good barbecue within sight of the Capitol dome…but you already know our thoughts on that.  Maybe it’s only fitting, then, that the newest entry onto Washington’s barbecue scene has its roots on the Hill.

Back in 2006, Heath Hall and Brett Thompson were staffers for Senator Jim Talent of Missouri.  During the many long hours that went into that year’s budget debate, the two men found themselves lamenting the lack of flavor among barbecue options in the area (a common conversation among staffers from all barbecue regions).  With all the talk of spending flying around, they started joking that they should team up to bring home the bacon, so to speak, and so they coined the name “Pork Barrel BBQ.”

Pork Barrel Sauce and RubThat could have been the end of it – how many great ideas are hatched in late-night brainstorming sessions and never acted upon?  But Senator Talent’s defeat in the 2006 elections soon gave Brett and Heath more free time to focus on their idea.  By February of 2008, they were ready to make the jump into the barbecue seasoning business, and they incorporated Pork Barrel BBQ.  As Heath puts it, “Thankfully, both of us are lawyers, so we were able to wade through all the un-fun stuff you need to do to set up a business.”

Both men knew what they thought barbecue should taste like, but they wanted to make sure that they had a product that would appeal to a broader audience.  So they assembled their Kitchen Cabinet (yeah…the government references fly fast and furious with these guys) and taste-tested five spice blends.  Of course the best way to taste-test a rub is to use it on an actual pork shoulder, so you can imagine how much fun that was to do.  The results were split – there were positive comments about distinctly different aspects of two of the choices.  Brett and Heath did some tinkering and came up with a blend that combined the best parts of both, and they knew they had their All American Spice Rub.

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I don’t think we could have hand-picked a better night to try Evening Star Cafe for the first time than Monday. The img_7536air was warm with a cool breeze, the Del Ray residents and their dogs were in full neighborly force on the sidewalk and there was a two-seater actually available on the patio when we arrived. We’d put our dinner fate in the hands of the Twitterverse that afternoon when trying to settle on a Del Ray dinner location, and it was paying off in spades. 

The Evening Star Cafe has been a low key Del Ray favorite since 1997, praised for its wholesome American dishes and relaxed atmosphere. It’s no mystery why: Evening Star Cafe is part of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, a restuarant organization that has cracked the code on homey places where everyone can feel like a regular. Their roster also includes Tallula, Vermillion, Buzz Bakery, and Rustico.

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