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Jun 27, 2009 09:46 AM

National Capital BBQ Festival

It's day one of the festival, has anyone gone? Any reviews from past years? $10 seems a little steep of a cover charge if you have to buy your BBQ and beer once you get in.

Anyone have insights they would be willing to share?

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  1. The cover charge is not for the bbq it's for the music. If you have never seen Chuck Brown perform, (and even if you have), you should go. He plays tonight at 7:30pm, but you have to get in the tent for the earlier act if you want a seat. GoGo music from the source, one the world's great entertainers, dc's own, plus who knows how many years he has left? For me, it's the opportunity of a lifetime, because some of the places he plays regularly are not places I want to hang out at night. This is the perfect combination of crowd/music/performer, and inexpensive to boot.

    Last time I went, I tried to eat after the show, but most places had closed down by then. What I did find had to be the worst bbq I've ever tasted. Many different purveyors, though, just ask folks who have already ordered what it's like. I imagine that, just by sheer numbers, somebody has to be offering something decent.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Steve

      A friend of mine has been a judge in years past. What he gets to eat is NOT the same BBQ that you get to eat. Attendees get Red Hot & Blue, Rocklands, etc. - smaller portions and higher prices than if you went to the restaurant, plus hour+ waits for food.

      Go for the music, not for the eats.

    2. I went last year, and it was totally not worth it. I don't know how many smokers I saw, (dozens), but most of them weren't selling to the public.

      2 Replies
      1. re: WestIndianArchie

        As one of those smokers not selling food I can tell you that many of those people with the smokers paied to participate in 2 BBQ contests during the weekend. The Saturday contest is for KCBS and Sunday is for Menphis in May. Many of us do these BBQ contests strictly as a hobby and a form of ouor entertainment. We don't have the means to serve to the public and we would have to jump thoruhg hoops with the health department in order to do it even if we wanted to.

        1. re: bobif

          Don't worry, no one blames you guys. The fault lies with the "bait and switch" nature of this event. Like many people, I went once, thinking I'd be sampling the wares of contestants. Instead, we had to eat some pretty bad commercial que.

      2. Just got back form the bbq battle. Went for the music, but felt like I needed something to eat.

        Remember this name. Burn it into your memory: Big Nates' BBQ from Frederick, MD.


        They not only pre-toss the chopped pork in a ketchupy sauce, but they further load onto it a cinnamom- laced concoction which is thoroughly disgusting. Why bother with a smoker? Just buy some packaged bologna and be done with it.

        I broke my own cardinal rule about festival eating: NEVER GO TO THE PLACE WITH A SHORT LINE. In this case, no line at all. I took two bites. Was going to throw it away after the first bite, but I had to confirm just how revolting this was.

        I then got onto a nice, long line (it moved quick enough) for some jerk chicken. Unfortunately, they were out of thighs, so I got a leg and a breast. Predictably, the breast was dried out, but the leg was very good, very spicy, and beautifully charred. Neither were warm, so it looks like quality control is non-existent. From the same stand, had the Mexican corn which was disgusting, but maybe this is what to expect from corn with mayo and spices on it. I could have done without the mayo.

        The music was worth the admission.

        1. I went on Saturday as soon as it opened. I agree with the other posters who were disappointed food-wise. They had advertised a "sampling" area. Silly me, I thought they would be sampling BBQ. Nope, it was all mass produced products that you can buy at your local supermarket (oscar meyer, lays potato chips). There were a few decent bbq places who offered samples, such as Stubbs, but all-in-all, the selection was extremely limited, including those who were selling. It was almost a tease to walk around and look at the competitors: huge smokers, whole pigs, an endless supply of wood/charcoal but with no hope of a taste.

          1. It's a great festival if you know people who are competing. The teams there always cook much more food than they need, and if they're your friends, they'll have plenty for you to sample. I know at least one local team, and they always have something for me to try.

            I'm usually there more for the music than the food but I missed it this year.