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The sea of flag-waving tourists flooding the National Mall has (thankfully) receded. And the cacophony of thunderous pyrotechnics that traumatized skittish pets for miles around is fast becoming a distant memory.
But just because the Fourth is officially behind us once again doesn’t mean we must abandon our God-given right to scarf down hot dogs all summer long.
If enjoying the most intriguing encased meats This Town has to offer sounds utterly appealing, may we strongly suggest wrapping your lips around these specialty bites — listed from most to least mouthwatering — in short order.Red Apron Butchery
This hired mouth first became acquainted with chef Nathan Anda’s meaty ambitions during his early days at EatBar in Arlington, Va. When he rolled out his experimental food cart, Frank, in Old Town Alexandria several years later, I happily stood in the baking sun for a shot at devouring freshly grilled, house-made sausages smothered in tangy braised cabbage, hearty beef brisket and rich cheddar cheese sauce.
Red Apron now feeds Anda’s need to play with his meat — with the (newish) Penn Quarter branch shouldering the gourmet dog-serving load for the budding family of local markets/eateries.
The Penn Quarter Porker continues the tradition established way back when, summoning a cheese-filled frank piled high with braised onions studded with lusty bacon bits. But we were most excited to encounter the Viet Franc, a Far East treat featuring a rainbow colored, pickled vegetable-powered slaw that packs funky freshness into every bite and the most divinely buttery, grilled bun in the game.
Multiple D.C. metro locations; redapronbutchery.com
Average entree: less than $12 ($). Check locations for times.Bar Pilar
“That thing is f---ing delicious,” an old pal proclaimed upon spotting Pilar’s jaw-dropping half-smoke being shepherded my way.
Executive Chef Jesse Miller, who also happens to oversee the kitchen at neighboring Café Saint-Ex, said the signature sausage has been a labor of love. Per Miller, fellow toque Justin Bittner, who currently tends the burners at 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring, Md., had been tinkering with the recipe for some while, but hadn’t quite nailed it. “The spices were way too intense,” Miller said of the short-lived meatpacking project.
Once he took control at Pilar, Miller made it a priority to resurrect the sausage works, recruiting Sous Chef John Burley to help him compose a next generation half-smoke.
The end product seems well worth the effort.
Each oversized link proudly bears the scars of a roll around a fiery grill, the skin slightly blistered and crisscrossed with grate marks. The underlying marriage of beef and pork bears loads of spice and the surrounding bacon jam adds a savory-sweet spark, while a crown of fried onions brings the crispy.