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Hill Country Barbecue and The Boot Bar (Downstairs) - 7th Street and Indiana Avenue in Penn Quarter

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They've altered the service so that if you're eating in servers will offer to collect your meal tickets and present you with a check at your table - no more pile up at the front register unless you choose to check out that way or you're doing take out.

Also saw this at lunch today. When ordering drinks, a far more convenient way of doing things.

The moist brisket today was outstanding: smoky, rich, and delicious. Wanted to try the "red eye rubbed pork belly" listed as one of today's specials, but didn't want to mix my meats so I settled for a single beef rib alongside the brisket instead. I wouldn't ever order more than one of these -- the best bites of it mix well-done exterior with a juicy interior, but the meat on much of the length isn't thick enough to supply more than the well-done exterior bits. Still, a single rib makes a much better complement to the brisket than the mediocre sides or overpriced cornbread.

Having to wait in the whole side dishes line just to get a few slices of raw onion or a handful of pickles is obnoxious. And the pricing, at 50 cents for each of those, is ticky-tack. I'd pay another fifty cents per pound on the meats for a little side stand or vats on the tables with pickles and onions.

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The Boot Bar is another great addition to the live music scene in the DC area. Granted, it's small, but that's the main reason it's so good. It was the perfect spot to see the Holmes Brothers for an early Sunday evening show.

Unfortunately, food service and payment turned out to be a total cluster, both seemingly due to under-staffing, lack of preparedness for the 5:30 'doors open', and an inexperienced server. Food was ordered at the table, as were drinks. Both took quite a long time to come out. The food orders were hopelessly screwed up - missing items, cold food, replacement for unavailable item arriving long after everything else had been finished. If this is the norm, I think I would prefer to go up and order my own food and bring it back downstairs. At least that way I know it would be i) what I ordered and ii) hot. While we had asked for two checks when we sat down, only one card was taken and the checks that came out were not correctly broken up between our parties, with items that never arrived included. It took three tries to get it sorted out, which was another 20 minutes of frustration (added to the initial 20 it took to get our first round of drinks).

On the plus side, happy hour is every day (3-7pm and 10pm-close) and the $5 margaritas are just about as good as the ones at Taqueria Poblano. The turkey breast was fantastic (once it arrived), tender, juicy, and full of flavor. The moist brisket was as good as always. I'd like to have some pepper vinegar to put on my greens, but they're still good without. My friends ordered off the bar menu and were very happy with their brisket tacos and barbecue beef sandwiches. I do like the food, the ambiance, and the music, so I'm willing to overlook the occasional service problems.

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I paid a visit for a Meetup with some internet strangers and had a good time.

The six of us showed up on a Friday at around 7. The place was busy but there was plenty of room available so we didn't have to wait to get seats.

Since everyone here raved about the moist brisket, I got a half pound of that along with a side of green bean casserole, mac n cheese, and some corn bread.

First off, my BBQ experiences are sorely lacking. I've been to Stubbs in Austin (not very good) and Urban BBQ here in Rockville (decent but not really memorable). But the brisket I had at Hill Country was definitely the best. The slices I got were meaty and well marbled, but still had some texture so it wasn't like biting into mush. There were bits that were a little burnt and crispy. They had a great smoky flavor although I enjoyed them better doused with the BBQ sauce. There's a sweet version and a vinegary spicy one. Both enhanced the brisket without overpowering it.

I gobbled up the green bean casserole. I eat a pound of this stuff every Thanksgiving and the version served at Hill Country is solid. I was less impressed by the mac n cheese which lacked any sort of punch compared to all the other strongly flavored food I was eating. The corn bread was dry and I didn't eat much of it.

For dessert I had the banana cream pudding, which was decent.

For all of this I paid $25 (only drank water).

Overall I enjoyed my experience here. The main reason to come here is the meat, and the meat delivered. Our waitress was attentive and friendly, although I felt a little bad for her wearing such a tight low cut blouse. The location is convenient, and it's right across from Oyamel! I'll have to check it out before the Day of the Dead stuff expires.

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We were there Friday night to see Radio Romance a band my friend knows from Nashville (they were good kind of rock with a little splash of country).  We ate upstairs first.  As a note when I first walked in they told me it would be an hour wait, five minutes later we were called.  Now I know wait times are hard to gauge I used to have to do such things, but there is a huge difference between and hour and five minutes.  We had friends who were delayed a little bit, but would be there in about 20 minutes.  When our table was called I let them know our whole party wasn't there to see if they wanted to delay seating, us but no they wanted to seat us.  Anyway it was fine, just a bit strange.  There were people outside that were choosing not to eat there based on the long wait time, they could have kept that business.

We got turkey, moist brisket a kruez sausage.  The turkey was actually my favorite, it was really good.  The sausage was fine, but next time I would skip it.  I liked the flavor of the moist brisket, but again I liked the turkey better.  For sides we had cornbread which was fine, but with their ordering system you don't really order in groups, so I would prefer one piece to an order.  The cool cucumber salad was refreshing and really good, almost like a palate cleanser between bites in a good way.  I also liked the greens, pretty standard, but good.  The beans were a little thick to me, they were ok in flavor, just not my favorite texture I would skip them next time.  I didn't try the mac and cheese.  I found the beer selection a little limited, so I had some cocktails.  None were really outstanding.  When we went downstairs they gave you everything in a plastic cup which dimished the cocktails further as they weren't very cold.  Anyway the band was great.  I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here again, but it wasn't bad.  Next time I would get turkey and cucumbers and save room for the banana pudding which looked good.

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Thanks to Uber Eats and Hill Country, I avoided the oppressive heat that I would have encountered  today while making my usual journey to the nearest set of food trucks. 

30 minutes after ordering, the driver appeared with my order of 1/4 chicken, a pork rib, and a side of barbecued beans with burnt ends. Also included were two corn muffins, white bread, crackers, sauce, and honey butter. 

The ribs and chicken were perfectly cooked, and while the smoke was evident, it was not overpowering. The pork was tender but featured a good chew, while the chicken was moist with a crisp skin. Both were 10/10 on my highly subjective scale. The beans were very good, but could have benefited from a bit more seasoning.

Thanks to a promo code, the price of my $16 (plus tax and delivery fees) was quite reasonable, even by DC standards. (If you've never used Uber eats, send me a message and I can share a code with you.)

Very pleased Hill Country continues to put out barbecue that makes this native Texan proud!

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Had lunch at Hill Country yesterday.  The moist brisket is still delicious, but their pork ribs just weren't as good as Texas Jack.  So my pick for best Texas BBQ right now is Texas Jack.

The green bean casserole was different from the past - there were beans and zucchini added.

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I've been a pretty consistent booster/defender of Hill Country since it opened.  But the quality shown in roughly bi-monthly visits over the last year or so have inexorably sloped down. But I don't mean to bury HC - just to explicitly and officially (to myself) declare that it ranges from adequate to good, but no longer within spitting distance of sublime. The moist brisket is rarely as moist and smoky as it used to be. And on my last visit on Sunday (June 11) the specials board listed sausage for $6.75. I should've asked how much/many that gave you but I took the fact that it implied a single link the way it was written as a sign that I'm no longer the target audience (if I ever was).

I have a friend who travels to town every couple months, and insist on a visit to this place. Its not so bad I'll try to talk him out of it, but it's no longer the treat I used to look forward to.

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Tim Carman ranks Hill Country #1.   He even claims Hill Country is better than Franklins, which ticked off the entire state of Texas.  In retaliation, the 'boys promises to wipe the floors with the 'skins.

I had some moist brisket just now and they are delicious, as are the pork ribs, even the shoulder clod (flat iron).  3 meats and 2 sides plus cornbread is now $25.  That's enough good for 2.

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Saw the Hill Country BBQ banner on the lawn at the National Building Museum today. Does anyone know if they're setting up there for an event?

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6 minutes ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Saw the Hill Country BBQ banner on the lawn at the National Building Museum today. Does anyone know if they're setting up there for an event?

Summer pop-up Backyard BBQ at the Museum

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Weather permitting, we'll be out there tomorrow.  It's a work in progress but outside, fun, green, adult beverages and good food..

 

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I went yesterday, and it is daaaaaaaarn fine. "Better than Texas" is not for me to decide, but ... well, let's put it this way. I have had brisket that makes me happy: La Barbecue, La Condesa, Mueller's. Then I've had brisket at multiple places around here, none of which distinguished itself from shoes. This brisket made me undeniably happy.

Although: great as the brisket was, the pork belly and the turkey didn't stand a chance. Well done.

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On 7/1/2017 at 11:12 AM, Ericandblueboy said:

Tim Carman ranks Hill Country #1.   He even claims Hill Country is better than Franklins, which ticked off the entire state of Texas.  In retaliation, the 'boys promises to wipe the floors with the 'skins.

I had some moist brisket just now and they are delicious, as are the pork ribs, even the shoulder clod (flat iron).  3 meats and 2 sides plus cornbread is now $25.  That's enough good for 2.

I haven't eaten at Franklin's (and probably won't anytime soon due to the ever-present line), but the calling card of a "great" barbecue joint is consistency.  That ability to pump out excellent stuff day in and day out (without the use of a "gas assist") is what sets apart the best Texas places from their peers.  DC places have always suffered from inconsistency, not helped by the frequent chef/pitmaster shuffles.  We'll see if these joints can stand the test of time.

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On 7/7/2017 at 2:31 PM, rockcreek said:

I went yesterday, and it is daaaaaaaarn fine. "Better than Texas" is not for me to decide, but ... well, let's put it this way. I have had brisket that makes me happy: La Barbecue, La Condesa, Mueller's. Then I've had brisket at multiple places around here, none of which distinguished itself from shoes. This brisket made me undeniably happy.

Although: great as the brisket was, the pork belly and the turkey didn't stand a chance. Well done.

I wish to clarify this remark: I meant, "me and a 12 year old ate the whole damn thing with gusto, and we loved every second of its brief lifespan on our tray."

Thanks, everybody!

R

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On 7/7/2017 at 2:59 PM, Josh said:

I haven't eaten at Franklin's (and probably won't anytime soon due to the ever-present line), but the calling card of a "great" barbecue joint is consistency. 

Pretty sure that's applicable for all notable restaurants of any type, but point taken.

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On 7/12/2017 at 9:42 AM, mtureck said:

Pretty sure that's applicable for all notable restaurants of any type, but point taken.

Absolutely. I do think, though, that it's harder to hide variations in quality in Central Texas-style barbecue than other types of cuisine.

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After a trip to Hill Country on Saturday, I agree with Tim Carman that their moist brisket makes them the #1 barbecue restaurant in the DC-area by a wide margin. This was truly great brisket -- juicy, infused with smoke that provided a mild tang, and a robust beefy flavor. My brother was in town from Houston, and he has sampled several of the places on the Texas Monthly Top 50. He was impressed and said that the brisket that day would be worthy of being on the Texas Monthly list.

He and I also ate at Franklin's last year, and we agreed that Hill Country was not quite at Franklin's level. But it was still close enough for DC barbecue enthusiasts to be excited about. Where Frankin's bests everyone (in my opinion) is texture. Franklin's brisket has a melt-in-the-mouth quality akin to kobe beef that I haven't noticed elsewhere.

Carman says Hill Country is now cooking with 100% wood, and it is noticeable. I think I'm going to become a weekend regular there this summer and enjoy it while it lasts.

I'll also put in a plug for Hill Country's pork belly which they seem to have as a special on most weekends. They put a very salty rub on it and slice into 1/8 inch slices. It is now a must-order for me.  

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It is a shame that Hill Country blew it when the Texas Monthly BBQ Editor was in town.  Yesterday, the brisket was on point... (Get it? Because 'point' is a cut of brisket? I'll pause 'til you're done laughing...)

...seriously though. I had two slices of 'moist' cut right off the end. A load of peppery bark on each morsel with tender beef fat that just melted in mouth. The jalapeno sausage from Kreuz' Market in Lockhart is also a must-order anytime I'm there. Unfortunately, the corn pudding is not available. The server said it would be back by November. In its place is "ATX Risotto" which was basically red beans and rice, minus the beans. It was good, but not as good as the corn pudding.

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We stopped by here before the Caps game last week.  About a third of our "moist brisket" order was pretty good, the rest was disappointingly dry and excessively charred.  I liked the sides (corn pudding and beet/kale salad) though.  In terms of places within reasonable driving distance of the DC area, ZZQ is best and it's not really close IMO.

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Is driving 3 hours to Richmond for BBQ really reasonable, though?  If I'm ever down there or driving through, sure, but I can't see making a special trip that far for some brisket and pulled pork..... 

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On 1/25/2019 at 10:31 AM, DPop said:

Is driving 3 hours to Richmond for BBQ really reasonable, though?  If I'm ever down there or driving through, sure, but I can't see making a special trip that far for some brisket and pulled pork..... 

Round trip or one-way?  Depending on where and when you start, ZZQ is totally reachable in 90 minutes.  I've waited 3+ hours for Franklin, though we drive through Richmond enough to/from the in-laws in SC that a special trip isn't likely necessary.

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4 hours ago, silentbob said:

Round trip or one-way?  Depending on where and when you start, ZZQ is totally reachable in 90 minutes.  I've waited 3+ hours for Franklin, though we drive through Richmond enough to/from the in-laws in SC that a special trip isn't likely necessary.

My BIL who lives in Richmond swears it only takes 90 minutes to get there, or here, I have yet to make the trip down or back in less than 2 hours, and often 3, with completely stopped traffic around Fredericksburg.  I must perennially chose the wrong times.

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30 minutes ago, ktmoomau said:

My BIL who lives in Richmond swears it only takes 90 minutes to get there, or here, I have yet to make the trip down or back in less than 2 hours, and often 3, with completely stopped traffic around Fredericksburg.  I must perennially chose the wrong times.

Clearly you're traveling between 12 and 12 on a day that ends in Y.  How many speeding violations does your BIL have?

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