Roberson, who has worked the counter for more than 30 years, prepares barbecue ribs, sandwiches and all the fixings in the bus of Mr. P’s Ribs.
The holidays are as good a time as any to reward oneself with a plate of smoky, delicious barbecue.
And, as we learned by completing a loop of prominent local pitmasters all operating within striking distance of the Capitol — some old, some new and some that just can’t seem to sit still — the barbecue business is booming here in Washington, D.C.
Rob Sonderman is no stranger to authentic barbecue, having previously played a role in making mouths happy at Hill Country’s Penn Quarter outpost. But now he’s doing barbecue his way at neighborhood newcomer DCity Smokehouse.
The seasoned pitmaster convinced Revive Catering to let him work his magic on its neglected carryout operation by slipping the bosses a taste of his self-styled ’cue.
“I did a tasting for all of them with some barbecue ... and we went from there developing the menu and getting more staff and equipment in place and so on,” Sonderman said.
The nascent smokehouse came online earlier this fall and features a formidable array of dining options. Although he said Texas and Kansas City have informed his barbecue outlook, Sonderman pledges allegiance mainly to creativity.
He vertically stacks his various meats over a potpourri of fragrant woods (hickory, cherry and pecan), and tends to each with distinctive rubs and sauces.
His signature brisket is dry rubbed with salt, course black pepper, garlic and chili powder before spending 18 hours enveloped by smoke. Pulled pork picks up brown sugar and additional proprietary spices, while turkey breast is brined for several days and briefly soaked in smoked garlic butter before serving. Side dishes are equally loved on — particularly the addictively savory Brussels sprouts (think: salt, sugar, hot stuff and flash frying) that Sonderman wisely resurrected.
“I had been doing that dish at the country club I worked at in the Boston area mostly for [the] staff meal. I always planned on bringing those back when I got a chance,” he said.
The Meaty Palmer proves massive, heaping together unctuous pork belly, the amazing smoked turkey and buttery avocado spread into a carnivorous masterpiece.
Pork ribs wear their tongue-teasing spice rub with pride —each smoke-infused morsel relays mildly sweet yet earthy flavors.
The chopped pork sandwich is a workhorse; well-seasoned swine (no visible saucing, yet delivers a smoldering burn) is nestled into a cottony roll and complemented by cooling slaw.
Minced green chilis ignite each spoonful of thick, cheddar-cheese-spiked Southern grits.
Next up for Sonderman: perfecting a Baltimore-style pit beef sandwich bolstered by horseradish sauce and crispy onions.
“Tacos might make an appearance as well,” he hinted.