One day about six months ago, when the sixth and final season of “House of Cards” was filming on a set outside of Baltimore, two fictional men discussed a plate of real pork ribs. “They’re from a place called Federalist Pig,” one character says to another, adding, “I’ve been told it’s the next best thing to Freddy’s.”
Last week, pitmaster Rob Sonderman watched the clip from the Netflix show in stunned silence as the camera lingered on the black bark of ribs cooked by his crew at Federalist Pig in D.C. While name-dropping the Adams Morgan barbecue joint, the actor sets a brown paper bag on a side table with the restaurant’s pig-shaped logo facing the camera. “I think we were all a little bit shocked,” Sonderman tells Eater.
Sonderman thought the ribs might end up on the cutting room floor. He says a member of the “House of Cards” props department sent an email with a catering order in mid-May. There was a note that somebody on set “was a big fan of the barbecue,” but no other information was offered.
“It didn’t really feel like it was going to be anything more than a quick pass-through of the camera, or maybe it wouldn’t even make it into the scene. It would just be a bunch of ribs that the guys on set ended up eating for a lunch break,” Sonderman says.
Only one part of the scene disappointed the pitmaster. Doug Stamper, the character played by Michael Kelly, never samples the smoked goods.
But for Sonderman, the cameo was still a priceless piece of free advertising. For fans of the show invested in D.C. dining culture, it was a true-to-life touch taken by a series that has often chosen to fabricate its version of life in Washington. For example, the newspaper sitting underneath the Federalist Pig ribs in the scene is called The Washington Herald.
Ribs from Freddy’s, a barbecue joint cooked up in a script, used to make frequent appearances in the show as a place where former star Kevin Spacey’s character could seek refuge from the political machine at any time of day or night. (Spacey was fired early on in production of the final season in the wake of sexual assault allegations).
Freddy’s (spoiler alert) met its demise in the second season of the show. Reg E. Cathey, the actor who played Freddy Hayes, told TODAY he always imagined Freddy’s ribs were North Carolina style. Sonderman’s barbecue doesn’t adhere to any regional loyalty, with the Federalist Pig menu advertising “globally inspired American craft barbecue.”
The “House of Cards” spot is the latest event in a big year for Federalist Pig. In July, Tim Carman of the Washington Post rated it the second-best barbecue in the D.C. area. In an August article, Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn gave his seal of approval.
“It’s just a great challenge to have to be able to live up the hype every day and continue to deliver on the expectation that we’re the best barbecue in the city,” he says.