The barbecue speakeasy

Full disclosure: this post is coming about six months late after sitting in my draft posts for about 5 months. Back in March, I had read about a “secret” bbq spot operated by the folks from Wagshal’s Market and Wagshal’s Delicatessen. Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ is a small take-out joint located in the alley directly behind the Wagshal’s shopping plaza, and first got my attention when I read an article in the Washington Post about the non-disclosure agreement the cooks must sign. I immediately emailed my (real) roommate about ordering dinner from there one evening since it was on my route back to DC. He enthusiastically, agreed, and the following Thursday I called ahead to place in our order since the food is made to order:

Pork ribs + “mother in law” + cheddar biscuits
Prime brisket + apple slaw + mac ‘n cheese
Fried okra
I had no trouble locating the shopping plaza, but Google Maps took me through the back alley where I could not seem to find parking or the entrance so I went back to park in the Spring Valley Shopping Center in front of Wagshal’s. The kind folks at Wagshal’s directed me through the back of the shop and pointed out the door, which is beneath a large green canopy right across the back kitchen door. Once I got closer, I noticed the adorable little pig sign on the door that simply says, “Come in We are OPEN.”


Inside, I found a narrow hallway and followed the signs that directed me around the corner to the pick-up counter.


The guys at Pitmasters packed up my order for me, and let me know that there were reheating instructions inside. While I waited, I noticed the display case of beautiful looking pies. Since I’m a sucker for desserts, I figured we should at least try one and the guys suggested the key lime pie. They threw that into the big paper tote and sent me on my way. I could smell the barbecue the entire 30 minute drive back to the apartment and by the time I hit 11th street, I was lightheaded with hunger and had sent several hysterical texts to my roommate about my stomach pains.


Luckily, Jason had set up plates, knives and all necessary eating tools when I walked in and so we just spread out our bounty and dug in. The pork ribs were wonderfully tender and came off of the bones easily. The smokey meat was juicy and tasted fantastic on its own, even though the meats came with several different sauces. The thick slices of brisket had the perfect fat to meat ratio, I finished my portion of this meat despite my stomach warning me that it was starting to reach its limit.

The sides were all solid. The fried okra help up surprisingly well, staying relatively crispy and the mac & cheese tasted buttery and decadent. My favorite side was the cheddar biscuits, which were just fluffy, savory pillows of dough. These were perfect carbs, created the way God intended them to be. We managed to put away a sizeable portion of the order, but definitely had plenty leftover for the next day.

Once I filled my belly and gotten over my hunger hysteria, I was able to appreciate the care put into the packaging of the orders. The meat is placed in sturdy cardboard containers, the sides and sauces are all packaged individually in plastic and everything is clearly labeled. This is definitely a place that takes all the steps to ensure you enjoy your meal. After getting our fill of the savory dishes, I had a slice of the key lime pie. While it was pretty good, the whipped cream topping was a little too sweet and thick for me. Next time, I will be trying the chocolate pecan pie.

The problem was that I immediately felt guilty for inhaling all of this, so I put on my running shoes and tried to go for a run. I only lasted about 20 minutes before I started feeling nauseous. So lesson learned, just wait and enjoy the butter and animal fat seeping into your blood. Don’t try to sweat it out.


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