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Best half smoke in DC

Raids Feb 23, 2011 10:29 AM

I know it's been talked about in other threads, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to see the topic and weigh in. I'm inspired by a spur of the moment stop at Ben's Chili Bowl last weekend. Turns out, the half smoke is still pretty good, IMHO, even if the chili is freaking awful.

But I'm quite sure we can do better. So where to go? I'll test out the winner (or a couple winners) this weekend and report back.

  1. woodleyparkhound Feb 23, 2011 12:46 PM

    The best I've had is at the meat market inside the Eastern Market. They sell several types that are cooked/cooking and ready to eat. I like the hot half smoke in natural casing. They also have warm buns and condiments you apply yourself. You have to stand there and eat them (no seating), but they are delicious and cost all of $2.00.

    1 Reply
    1. re: woodleyparkhound
      c oliver Feb 24, 2011 01:59 PM

      The only one I've ever had was from Eastern Market and I can't imagine anything improving on that. We sat on the curb, eating it and made little moan-y noises :)

    2. monkeyrotica Feb 24, 2011 06:23 AM

      Second the halfsmoke in Eastern Market. If you go there, you might as well walk the two blocks to DC-3 and give theirs a try, along with the myriad of other dogs they serve. In when I'm in the mood for a halfsmoke in VA, I tend to go with Weenie Beanie; in MD, it's Burger Delight.

      Weenie Beenie
      2680 S Shirlington Rd, Arlington, VA 22206

      Burger Delite
      3301 Kenilworth Ave, Hyattsville, MD 20781

      423 8th St SE, Washington D.C., DC 20003

      3 Replies
      1. re: monkeyrotica
        4X4 Feb 24, 2011 06:58 AM

        There's also a Burger Delite in Beltsville.

        Burger Delite
        10401 Ewing Rd, Beltsville, MD 20705

        1. re: 4X4
          RobertM Feb 24, 2011 01:38 PM

          Acturally there used to be two in Beltsville.
          The other used to be off 212 on Edmosston, it may be closed now, donno.

        2. re: monkeyrotica
          leahpatrice Feb 25, 2011 08:34 AM

          My Dad introduced me to Weenie Beenie when I was about 5 and I've never turned back. I think I'll head over there this weekend.

          Weenie Beenie
          2680 S Shirlington Rd, Arlington, VA 22206

        3. monavano Feb 24, 2011 07:20 AM

          Smith Meadows Grill has a food truck in the Courthouse farmers market on Sat. mornings that makes them from their own beef. Excellent sandwich, or you can buy them to take home.
          They're at Takoma Park on Suns.

          2 Replies
          1. re: monavano
            RobertM Feb 24, 2011 01:39 PM

            Takoma......how much?

            1. re: RobertM
              monavano Feb 25, 2011 06:30 AM

              Not sure, but perhaps will report back after visiting my farmers markets over the weekend. Their site lists the sandwich at $6....and it was goooooood.

          2. c
            CDouglas Feb 24, 2011 12:27 PM

            While not the sexiest pick, 7-Eleven still sells a passable half-smoke. I have seen it labeled both "Smokie Bite" and as "Kielbasa" in recent trips. It is the size of their Quarter Pound Big Bite with a good snap and middle of the road spiciness.

            1. s
              Steve Feb 24, 2011 06:31 PM

              Get the HOT half-smoke from Canales at Eastern Market and toss it a frying pan yourself until it gets all nice and charred on the outside. It will thoroughly slay any other half smoke you could eat. No contest.

              Also, Canales has very inexpensive and great ground chuck. Only grinding your own will be better.

              14 Replies
              1. re: Steve
                monkeyrotica Feb 25, 2011 02:34 AM

                Second the DIY spicy Mangers halfsmoke. I've found a covered cast iron skillet over very low heat for around half an hour renders the skin a crackling dark brown while keeping it juicy inside. If I'm in a hurry, I sometimes split them in half lengthwise, as was the fashion when halfsmokes were the standard breakfast sausage in the DC/Baltimore region.

                1. re: Steve
                  RobertM Feb 25, 2011 07:31 AM

                  How much are these going for at Eastern market?
                  Say per pound,.
                  Trying to figure out if it is better, cheaper, to just cook em at home, as opposed to buying when the half smoke jones returns. $6 each in a bun, or $3 in a pan is where Im coming from.

                  1. re: RobertM
                    monkeyrotica Feb 25, 2011 08:00 AM

                    I don't know how much Mangers halfsmokes go for at Eastern Market, but BK Millers in Clinton is selling 5lb boxes (mild or spicy) for $17.99. I usually buy them there and freeze what I don't need at the moment. Halfsmokes freeze pretty well.


                    1. re: monkeyrotica
                      c oliver Feb 25, 2011 08:15 AM

                      I live in NoCal and got excited that maybe they do mail order but it looks not. If anyone knows of a source I'd appreciate your posting.

                      1. re: monkeyrotica
                        RobertM Feb 25, 2011 08:17 AM

                        Thanks for the info! I have to get my car inspected Saturday morning so I will swing by Eastern Market after that to check. Clinton is not that from from where Im heading so the stop at EM will be a good thing.

                      2. re: RobertM
                        hamster Feb 25, 2011 08:53 AM

                        I bought one to cook at home, and one definitely cost between $1 and $3. Probably less than $2, but I'm not sure.

                        1. re: hamster
                          RobertM Feb 25, 2011 09:39 AM

                          Ham: Now that sounds about right, price wise! I’m going to follow Monkey’s idea: Buy em by the pound and freeze em in packs of 2 or 3. You know if you cook one, someone will show up for the other. The only thing I will miss is the snap of the natural casing. But to avoid that $6 a half smoke penalty, with gas at $3+, I’m gonna cook em too.

                          1. re: RobertM
                            monkeyrotica Feb 25, 2011 10:21 AM

                            Those 5lb packs come in handy during barbecues when the weather gets warm. Just be sure to cook them over indirect heat, otherwise the skin burns all to hell and the center stays raw. I've lost track of the number of people who have no idea what a real halfsmoke tastes like. Most think it's some nasty greywater soggy bologna sausage that gets fished out of a cart on the Mall. Their face really lights up when they snap into a real halfsmoke and that fat burns the hell out of their tongues, but they still keep eating because they can't help themselves.

                        2. re: RobertM
                          Steve Feb 25, 2011 02:14 PM

                          After you cook one at home per monkeyrotica's instructiuons, the half-smoke jones will never return for Ben's, the street carts, or any other. You won't believe how thick and juicy and crispy they will be.

                          1. re: Steve
                            monavano Feb 25, 2011 02:31 PM

                            OK, now I have to buy some for home. I had Ben's once and enjoyed it, but thought Smith Meadows was a far superior product.

                            1. re: monavano
                              RobertM Feb 26, 2011 06:47 AM

                              Ok, this is gonna hurt. Sit still. Went to BK Millers today. Yep, they got em, skin on, and, skinless, hot & mild. Big Ol hand made sign over the case door. Now the part that may hurt: $17.99 for a case of 5 pounds. Er, um, picked it up, thought, that is a lot of smokes......put em back. Gee's that is a LOT of smokes! While poking around, trying to convince myself to get em I did a double take: Packages of 5 [FIVE] for $4.85. OMG, that is about 95 cents per half smoke? I got a pack of the skin on mild, and a pack of the skin on hot. Yeah, Mangers is the brand. They also have Briggs, and some other brands.

                              1. re: RobertM
                                cb1 Feb 27, 2011 11:41 AM

                                After reading all this about half smokes, thought I'd run over to Expressway Pit and pick up two, then realized they are closed Sundays. So Robert, what time should I stop buy since I know you bought 10! Guess I'll have to make a run to Shoppers for the Capitol brand. I'm sure it's no Mangers, but it will have to do today.

                                Do any of you prefer cooking them on the grill like me? Indirect heat for sure or you will have quite the firey surprise when you lift the lid off!

                                1. re: cb1
                                  Steve Feb 27, 2011 12:12 PM

                                  Capitol brand is for emergencies only.

                                  1. re: cb1
                                    RobertM Feb 27, 2011 02:32 PM

                                    Recovering from a Half Smoke coma currently. Yes, they are so good. And Yep, I perfer that webber indirect method, or even Propane, outside cooking, but today we did both, the oven, and frying pan routes. Awesome both ways! Now Express Pit Beef, Man I hear you on that one. But try Beefalow Bob's on Sunday's, off Mountin Road for a very good Pit Beef. I crave those too. Word: the hot mangers arent really hot, but they sure taste good. Add cherry peppers, or horseradish for more heat. and do not forget hot dog buns...........For added reality, add tin foil, or some paper wrap. $1 each. Where are my heart heathy asprins? This was a purly scientiiic cullinary experiment. Repeet this statement as offent as needed.

                        3. c
                          CDouglas Feb 25, 2011 12:33 PM

                          Ben's now sells their half smokes online:

                          Of course you would be shelling out $56 for 16 half smokes and chili sauce. Comes out to $3.50 per smoke.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: CDouglas
                            RobertM Feb 25, 2011 02:02 PM

                            Higher than a gallon of gas that would take you to a store to by em for, say, $1.25 - $1.50 each?
                            Even cheaper i you get to go along to share the gas expense.

                          2. n
                            nmr2002 Feb 25, 2011 02:46 PM

                            By far, the best chili half-smoke to be had in DC is at The Passenger, at 7th and New York. It's phenomenal - succulent and spicy and not burnt like Ben's, and the chili is far and away better as well. Though most people into the cocktail scene know The Passenger and the bar-within-a-bar Columbia Room, most people don't realize they have a small but wonderful menu.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: nmr2002
                              Raids Feb 27, 2011 07:28 AM

                              I believe you. The duck carnitas are freaking awesome.

                            2. r
                              Raids Feb 27, 2011 07:28 AM

                              Okay, so within the District limits, I've got Eastern Market, DC3, and The Passenger. Any other additions? I'm pushing the actual experiment to next weekend since it took awhile to get responses and I'm working the whole weekend this weekend, boo.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Raids
                                nmr2002 Feb 27, 2011 11:51 AM

                                Passenger is open, and open late, I think every day. I've never been there when the kitchen's closed.

                                1. re: Raids
                                  CDouglas Feb 27, 2011 03:19 PM

                                  Hard Times Cafe has a grilled half smoke that comes with chili and cheese. I am sure you could get it plain.

                                  I have not had it yet because I can't get past their chili and wings. Should be worth a shot.



                                2. r
                                  Raids Mar 6, 2011 09:51 AM

                                  Okay, I went to DC-3 yesterday, and the half-smoke is sublime. Great texture, awesome flavor, perfect amount of spice. There are a ton of options at that place - we stuck with a regular white bun, chili, mustard, and cheese, but I'll very it up next time.

                                  Lost track of time and missed out on the half-smoke at Eastern Market, but will aim for that next.

                                  1. b
                                    bunerabbit Mar 6, 2011 05:47 PM

                                    I had dinner last night at Komi and one of the tasting courses was a half smoke served with a glass of beer. Outstanding.

                                    1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                    1. r
                                      Raids Mar 27, 2011 06:42 AM

                                      Okay, an update - I had the chili half-smoke at The Passenger yesterday. It does, indeed, beat the hell out of Ben's Chili Bowl (which I'm beginning to understand is really a pretty low bar), but DC-3 still wins - it has just a little less snap, just a little less spice, just a little less flavor overall, but still an excellent rendition, and the chili it's topped with is really great. Since it's more in my neighborhood, I suspect I'll be eating theirs more frequently than the other versions since the difference in taste isn't noteworthy enough to overcome the convenience.

                                      On to Eastern Market, for what I suspect will be the winner...as always, I'm still taking suggestions for other locations within the District limits.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Raids
                                        woodleyparkhound Nov 13, 2011 11:14 AM

                                        Raids, did you ever get the half smoke at Eastern Market? I just had the half smoke at DC3 today. Very good - nice and spicy with good condiments. I still prefer the one at Eastern Market though. I have yet to try The Passenger.

                                        I also had the West Virginia dog at DC3 - chili and slaw. Wouldn't have that one again. The slaw was way too liquidy and the chili and hot dog were bland.

                                        423 8th St SE, Washington D.C., DC 20003

                                      2. j
                                        JoshNE Nov 15, 2011 04:31 PM

                                        If you can find a place where their grilling them up, the spicy half smoke from 13th St. Meats is fantastic. I had one during Growler Hour at DC Brau a couple weeks ago. Perfect on a bun completely unadorned. Right up there with the one from The Passenger, if not a tiny bit better.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JoshNE
                                          monkeyrotica Nov 16, 2011 04:29 AM

                                          You can follow them on the twitter.


                                        2. woodleyparkhound Nov 26, 2011 12:41 AM

                                          Just got home from The Passenger where I tried the chili half smoke. It was indeed very good - difficult to compare with less upscale versions though, as it was quite different. It had a good grilled roll, a very small amount of a mediocre chili (barely enough to taste), good meat (not as much snap and not as hot as Eastern Market), onions and parsley . Good chips and cornichons on the side as well. I really liked The Passenger a lot - good vibe, lively, but not deafening and not pretentious. If you want a good half smoke for $9 in a sit-down place with a good beer list, this is the spot. If you want to pay $2 and stand while you eat, it's Eastern Market. If you want to pay around $5 and sit in a very casual place, it's DC3. All these are good choices, depending on the atmosphere you want and what you want to pay.

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