- Hill Country brought its Texas-style BBQ to Penn Quarter on Saturday.
- $20 pitchers of Shiner are available all day at the bar.
- Hill Country isn't your regular restaurant with waiter service. Hold onto those meal tickets.
- The main seating area.
- The official Hill Country star.
- Step on up to order some grub!
- Hill Country's hickory pits hold a literal ton of meat.
- Place your order for prime rib, spare ribs, brisket and sausage that comes straight from Texas' Kreuz Market here.
- Sides vary from a sweet potato bourbon mash to a palate cleansing cucumber salad.
- Hill Country revamped its NYC dessert menu to include favorites like a bourbon pecan pie.
- Benches in the balcony area are made from reclaimed cowboy boot leather.
- Pedals at the base of the sink allow for cleaner hand-washing.
- The basement boot bar (lined with cowboy boots).
- The boot bar will host live music five nights a week, including live karaoke.
- A Texas flag made from reclaimed denim and bandanas serves as backdrop for musical acts in the boot bar.
If pitchers of Shiner or scoops of Blue Bell mean anything to you, listen up: Hill Country officially opened its doors in Penn Quarter on Saturday, bringing with it a slew of Texas traditions. Though the barbecue joint actually has its origins in NYC, owner Marc Glosserman has roots both here in DC and in the hills of Central Texas. The Bethesda native's grandfather was the mayor of Lockhart, Texas, home to the famous Kreuz Market — and this restaurant aims to capture the rustic flavor of a real Hill Country meat market.
Hill Country's not your usual sit-down restaurant. Grab a meal ticket upon arrival and set off to pick your own meats, sides, desserts and drinks at their respective counters (though servers will come by to take your drink orders if you like). Meats include the usual suspects: beef shoulder, prime rib and the beloved Texas brisket. Short ribs, which are a special on the New York location's menu, are on the regular menu here in DC. Pork loins are smoked whole using post oak imported from Texas, then sliced to order. Another Texas import is the sausage itself, which comes directly from Kreuz Market. Barbecue sauce is available as a nod to the non-Texans among us, but executive chef Elizabeth Karmel wants Texans to know that she doesn't believe in sauce either: "If the meat needs sauce, we're not cooking it right," she says.
Sides and desserts are an array of traditional southern comfort food, from a mac & cheese made from six cheeses to a sweet potato bourbon mash. The dessert menu from New York has been completely revamped for DC, too. While we're still getting the PB&J cupcake that's so popular up north and the banana cream pudding, the DC location is also serving up bourbon pecan pie and a thick Texas sheet cake. This, Karmel says, is a menu change she's wanted to make for two years. While the head chef was in DC for the opening, she'll be traveling between the two restaurants from now on.
The main dining room seats 300, including a small space of loft seating, while the basement boot bar seats another 120. Reclaimed materials are the name of the game — bench seats are made from old cowboy boot leather and the Texas state flag in the boot bar is made of denim and bandanas. Hill Country is going for a laid-back Southern vibe here with a music track full of honky tonk and roots tunes.
Speaking of the music, Tuesday through Saturday nights will feature live music in the boot bar, including live karaoke on Wednesday evenings. This is a late-night spot, too, so you can get your drink on until 1 a.m. from Sun.-Tues. and 2 a.m. the rest of the week.
It should be interesting to see how Hill Country competes with Capital Q BBQ just up the street — where Shiner also flows. But there's already plenty of interest: a publicist for Hill County says some of the Texas congressional offices have already gotten in touch.