Barbecue on Barracks Row

Posted July 21, 2004 at 3:20pm

The burgeoning stretch of Eighth Street Southeast known as Barracks Row will welcome yet another restaurant when Levi’s Port Café opens in the next few weeks, bringing with it tangy North Carolina barbecue, sweet tea and a dose of Southern hospitality.

The folks from Levi’s Restaurant and Catering in Oxon Hill, Md., are renovating the spot formerly occupied by the Port Café at 1102 Eighth St. SE and expanding into the space next door. The Maryland Levi’s made a name for itself serving chopped pork barbecue sandwiches, ribs, fried chicken and soul food specialties like pigs feet, chitterlings and butter beans.

[IMGCAP(1)] The owners had always been interested in opening a location in the District, said restaurant partner Johnny Kersey. “We knew that the Eighth Street corridor was growing [and] we thought our restaurant coming there would be a big plus for the area,” he said.

The new location will offer many of the same dishes as the original with an expanded selection of entrées such as baked salmon and prime rib. Homemade desserts will include bread pudding, peach cobbler, apple cobbler and sweet potato pie.

But barbecue should be the main attraction. Levi’s pork is slow-cooked in a smoker with hickory wood and then hand chopped so as to not compromise the consistency. “We do it the old way,” Kersey said. The pork is then seasoned with a secret blend of ingredients, including the vinegar that defines Eastern North Carolina barbecue.

There are also plans for a smoking pit at the new spot, which Kersey hopes will help draw in customers with the smell of barbecue wafting up the street.

Levi’s Port Café will be open for lunch and dinner and will seat about 100 people with outdoor seating to come. Kersey said the restaurant will probably combine table service with more casual counter and take-out service.

Getting the Most Out of Restaurant Week. Monday marks the start of summer’s Restaurant Week, when numerous area restaurants offer three- course lunches for $20.04 and three-course dinners for $30.04. (Apologies to those who will be in Boston.)

A bargain meal may be hard to pass up, but choosing a restaurant where the menu is limited may make your experience less than memorable, which is why a little research goes a long way.

To get the most out of Restaurant Week, call ahead to request a menu or find out how many choices will be offered so you don’t get stuck choosing between chicken or pasta.

And keep in mind that some restaurants will extend the deal past Aug. 1, when Restaurant Week officially ends, giving diners the opportunity to take advantage of the deal once the Restaurant Week crowds have passed and the service (and cooking) are likely to be more even.

Tosca (1112 F St. NW) is offering its entire menu to Restaurant Week diners and is extending the promotion through Aug. 7 for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant will also extend its hours to serve Saturday and Sunday lunch next week.

At Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Ave. NW), there’s no need to wait for Restaurant Week for a bargain lunch. The restaurant offers a three-course lunch for $20.04 all year round.

TenPenh (1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) is offering a choice of three appetizers and three desserts along with the full entrée selection at lunch and dinner. (During dinner, there will be a $7 additional charge for the lobster and lamb.)

The Oval Room (800 Connecticut Ave. NW) is also extending the Restaurant Week deal through Aug. 7.

And at Zola (800 F St. NW), diners can choose from four appetizers and entrées and all desserts during lunch and dinner.

Send dining news and tips to hotplate@rollcall.com.