Over the course of several weeks, the $20 Diner visited nearly 20 barbecue restaurants in the region to rank them according to some kind of arbitrary hierarchy. (Hold your phone calls and e-mails; some joints were skipped either for the sake of time or out of ignorance.) The organizing method I chose was how closely each place adhered to the tenets of the new barbecue traditionalists.
Think of this exercise as Six Degrees of Aaron Franklin, the James Beard Award-winning purveyor of Austin's Franklin Barbecue.
It’s no contest. These two are smoking at a higher level than their peers. Their products, although not perfect, display an extraordinary level of commitment to barbecue. What’s more, they’re constantly tinkering. The kitchen team at Fat Pete’s spent much of the winter refining its rubs and smoker operations, to the point where the Cleveland Park joint has quickly joined the upper ranks of D.C. barbecue. Both places also prepare a few killer sandwiches, whether the Brisket Champ at DCity or the Burnt Ends and Grilled Cheese at Fat Pete’s.