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Feb 6, 2014 01:12 PM

New BBQ place in North Bethesda / Rockville

Overall verdict: Good food! Soft opening service should smooth out in weeks to come.

Let’s get the service out of the way first: Staff admitted that they were a little backed up in the kitchen at the late lunch that I attempted; it was the first service of their first day of soft opening. If you know anything about the restaurant biz, you should set your expectations for service in the first few weeks so as to give the place a chance to settle into routine before you judge.

You order at the register, then they bring the food out to you. Ambiance was casual dining with cute but muted kitschy-Western themed decor with some jokey material on the walls if you read it carefully. Not over the top tacky like national chain restaurants.

Now the food… the portions were too big for me dining alone to try more than one entree, even without an appetizer. But very tasty! The smoked and grilled meats on my Texas Hold’Em dish were excellent… 6 sliders of 3 meats (2 each of pulled BBQ brisket, sliced beef, and burgers), plus a big pile of sweet potato fries. Complemented by selection of apparently house-made very good BBQ sauces: Traditional sweet/tangy red Kansas City-stye BBQ sauce, plus a gluten-free version, and a yellow/orange sauce that reminded me a bit of mustard and vinegar-based Carolina-style sauce and had a little kick to it.

Sweet potato fries actually had nice crispness to them when hot; most places serve them limp and soft. I wanted to try the iced tea, but they hadn’t made a batch yet, so I settled for a fountain drink.

Many other interesting and classic style dishes that I want to try on future visits. I suggest going in a group, each ordering different dishes, and sharing/tasting. Salad options, too, for those desiring a lighter meal. Looking forward to my next visit.

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  1. Just curious how you got invited to the soft opening so you can make your first ever post on CH about Blue Star?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Worldwide Diner

      News of the noon opening went out on some local list servers this morning. I had been hearing of impending opening for a number of weeks so I was anxious
      to try it.

    2. Perhaps you might also post this on the kosher site?

      3 Replies
      1. re: skipper

        I do intend to, but just haven't gotten there yet. The web site which has reviews of kosher places has a user interface that is horrible on mobile phones.

        1. re: skipper

          There is a thread on the kosher forum.

          1. re: Worldwide Diner

            Great! Thanks! I've been on yelp for years but new to chowhound

        2. Kosher BBQ? I trust they don't do pulled pork or pork ribs.

          While it would have been nice to hear about lots of dishes, I admire your honesty that one dish was all you could eat by yourself. I feel that way every time I go out to eat. Let us know when you try something else.

          5 Replies
          1. re: MikeR

            Hopefully will visit again next week

            1. re: MikeR

              In terms of the pig, it looks like it's defiantly Texas beef BBQ, but my understanding is that a truly kosher restaurant has a few more hurdles to jump.

              In general I don't trust BBQ joints that serve burgers, but then again, this is the DC area, so expectations about BBQ places should both be adjusted and lowered.

              1. re: The Big Crunch

                That's right, kosher certification & supervision is more than just "no pig or shellfish". Among the issues: there are only certain species which can be kosher like beef or chicken; there must be no mixing of milk-based products with animal flesh (e.g. no cheeseburgers or chicken parmesan); all individual ingredients for entrees, side dishes, desserts, etc. must originate from and be inspected for kosher sources (e.g. kosher cheese cannot be made from animal-based rennet, because you can't mix milk and animal flesh), the food can't be cooked on the Sabbath, etc.; plus extra on-site supervision to make sure all the kosher rules are followed. It's as much about trust as ingredients.

                This not only makes kosher more complicated but more expensive to source, prepare, and sell. Where non-kosher restaruants make most of their business on Friday and Saturday to support the weekdays, it's totally inverted for kosher places because most rabbinic kosher certification agencies won't allow them to do business/cook on Friday/Saturday.

                1. re: dnheller

                  So I can't get cheese on my burger there? ;-P

                  Just speculating, but assuming you go all beef, a kosher barbecue joint might be one of the easiest types of traditionally non-kosher restaurants to set up as kosher, and Rockville certainly has a large enough Jewish population to make it a potentially successful concept, assuming of course that the BBQ is good.

                  1. re: The Big Crunch

                    There is such a thing as "pareve" cheese (in kosher terms, it means neither meat nor dairy, meaning in this case soy-based imitation cheese) but I don't care for that at all. I don't recall even seeing it on the Blue Star menu, but I could be wrong.

                    I agree that the slow-cooking in large batches typically done in BBQ places does lend itself to greater economies of scale, thus greater chance of a profitable restaurant.

                    But relatively few Jews in DC (compared to NYC) keep kosher at all, much less strictly so. The kosher Jewish community in DC area is concentrated in MD, some in DC. There is not one kosher supermarket or restaurant in VA that I'm aware of.

                    The Jews in NoVa who keep kosher tend visit MD once or twice a month or so to stock up on kosher foods that are not pre-packaged national brands available at Giant/Safeway/etc.

                    Few if any kosher restaurants in DC area could survive on just the kosher community alone; they need food good enough for the non-kosher/non-Jewish crowd and to cater parties, office lunches, etc. too.

            2. Thanks for the post. It is always nice to hear about new kosher places.

              1. UPDATE: been back a few times and as promised, I'm adding more info.

                Tried the Round Up platter of 3 meats, plus 2 sides plus cornbread. Excellent, and a lot of food. Shared it with a friend, so we added on a huge BBQ beef rib for $4 extra. Both of us were stuffed by the end of the meal. The meats on the platter BBQ and smoked brisket, and spicy sausage were great. The sausage had a little kick to it but not as blazing as the hottest chorizo that I've had. The beef rib was the best of the type that I've had... very little external fat but still moist, succulent meat, served without cloying BBQ sauce, so you can taste the beef and smoke and add as much or as little of the variety of sauces that you like.

                Another visit, I had the Adam's Rib platter, which seemed expensive at $25.95 for 2 big BBQ beef ribs and 2 sides. If the "add-on rib" option for other dishes was $4, then it seems like $26.00 for $8 worth of rib and $18 for two side dishes... that's a little unreasonable. Rumor has it they are upping the price of the "add-on rib" option soon. I hope they also cut the price of the rib platter a bit.

                Spoke about service to one of the guys who runs the place about service... they decided to add a second grille to the kitchen to up the capacity to crank out hot foot more quickly. Owners seem responsive to polite feedback.