Central Texas Q by Way of Chelsea?

by Kriston Capps

This is how you make barbecue in Central Texas:


And this is where it comes from:


So how do you fit all that here?:


In July 2010, Bethesda-native Marc Glosserman proposes to bring his wildly successful Central Texas–style Chelsea barbecue joint Hill Country to Penn Quarter. Will it work?

As IFA readers know it’s extremely difficult to open a restaurant in the District. Now, Glosserman’s just printing money from his location in Chelsea. I don’t think he’ll have much of a problem in this regard, provided that he’s patient. (Something that might be harder to pull off in Penn Quarter: a live music stage.) The larger question is whether he can fit a smokehouse into a storefront.

According to the Washington Business Journal, Glosserman’s renting 13,000 square feet in Penn Quarter. (I presume that means Hill Country DC will take up the spaces formerly occupied by both Lifestyles USA and Apartment Zero. I’m not sure which I’ll miss more.) So that’s 3,000 more square feet than he has for his Chelsea location.

You’d think that 10K square feet would be plenty to set up a smokehouse, but he’s had to make some shortcuts. Primarily: gas. Tim Carman toured the smokers when the place opened and notes that the pits use both wood and gas. Presumably the gas only serves to start and stoke the fire. If that’s the case, gas is a shortcut I’ll live with—in the long run, he’s still smoking with wood.

I visited Hill Country for the opening, too, and the biggest problem I had with the place was what I still presume to be a misprint on the menu: My man serves “lean” and “moist” brisket. I can only conclude that “lean” means “half a pound or less,” because there’s no trimming the fat off the brisket. That just isn’t done. (The only time I have ever witnessed such a thing was when I ordered a brisket cut at Whole Foods. A one-time mistake, to be sure.)

Otherwise, Hill Country just kills it. Longhorn mac n’ cheese, German potatoes, deviled eggs, green-bean casserole—that’s straight out of Gruene Hall, y’all. They get the sausage from Kreutz, they serve the Q with Texas toast, they don’t mess with sauce, and everything’s on butcher paper. Think there’s any chance they’ll open affordable housing above the restaurant?


9 responses to “Central Texas Q by Way of Chelsea?

  1. Oh thank God decent BBQ coming to the District.

    Now we just need an Oklahoma Joe’s, a Gates or a Jackstack.

  2. The next question should be, What should we do with Capital Q? I foresee a vacancy.

  3. Joe from Texas

    Actually, all of the legendary Texas Hill Country BBQ joints–Smitty’s, Kreuz Market, et cetera– serve both “lean” and “moist” brisket. That said, two important clarifications:

    1) “Lean” and “Moist” brisket can come from different parts of the brisket; the distribution of fat is not even across a single brisket.

    2) This may be surprising, but “lean brisket” is not always brisket. I was at Smitty’s last weekend (Smitty’s, similar to but better than Kreuz Market, lots of history not worth getting into), and asked the woman at the register for a pound each of both lean and moist brisket. As it turned out, at Smitty’s at least, “lean brisket” is beef shoulder, despite not being listed as such on the menu.

    Obviously, the moist brisket was much better. Only an idiot would order “lean” brisket.

  4. In Lockhart, “lean” is just served as shoulder—as I recall. I was last at Kreuz about two months ago and that the menu lists “Moist (brisket)” and “Lean (shoulder clod)”. I don’t think I ever saw a “lean brisket” sold there because (as you rightly say) only an idiot would order that. Outside Lockhart, I haven’t seen shoulder offered in too many places.

    Only been to Smitty’s one time, and I’d disagree that it’s better than Kreuz, except by ambiance.

  5. Anonymous Frustrated Lawyer

    I”m mad y’all haven’t mentioned Black’s. Lockhart has BBQ on lock. Although City Market in Luling is nothing to sneeze at either.

  6. Joe from Texas

    Yeah I haven’t been to Kreuz in ages, I can’t really deal with the ambiance of the place. That’s putting aside the food, which I remember being good but not as good as Smitty’s.

    Black’s is solid as well, though their brisket is a significant step down from Smitty’s–consistently dryer that it should be. Their ribs are phenomenal, though–perhaps the best I’ve ever eaten.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that the best BBQ I’ve ever had was at Cooper’s in Llano, which I’ve been to a number of times. I know Lockhart’s reputation is sterling, but Cooper’s is definitely worth the (longish) trip from Austin or San Antonio.

  7. I believe Hill Country’s “lean” brisket is from the flat and “moist” is from the point (i.e., the bottom and top parts of the brisket, respectively). As Joe pointed out above, there’s a natural difference in the marbling of the fat in the two sections.

    I love nice, fatty ‘cue, but Hill Country’s “moist” brisket is probably 30-40% pure fat—way to much for me.

  8. P.S. The “lean” brisket has lots of fat. Just less.

  9. Blacks would be excellent BBQ if it wasn’t in Lockhart. Unfortunately, being next door to heavyweights like Smittys and Kreuz, most people describe Blacks as having “good sides” — ouch.

    I’ve always preferred Smittys to Kreuz. I prefer my brisket firmer and the way they cut the brisket preserves that perfect layer of salty fat. When brisket starts to crumble, it has been overcooked. I second what others have already said — no one in their right mind orders the lean.

    I’m intrigued by the place in DC and how close they mimic true Lockhart BBQ. Part of the taste is the 80+ years of smoking with the same pits and the seasoning that accumulates.

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