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Federalist Pig Plans to Improve Its Essential Barbecue With a Second Location

A new restaurant in Hyattsville will boast 100 percent wood-burning smokers

A barbecue platter from Federalist Pig.
A barbecue platter from Federalist Pig.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Rob Sonderman, the pitmaster of revered Adams Morgan barbecue joint Federalist Pig, records his ideas for meat experiments in a journal he simply calls, “the book.” Some of the ideas in the book have made their way onto a menu that samples from a multitude of regional styles. Some haven’t even been revealed to his business partners.

A lot more of those hidden ideas will be brought to the public soon, because Federalist Pig has signed a lease for a second location that will allow Sonderman to scale up production and — critically — start working with 100 percent wood-burning smokers.

“I feel like you guys haven’t really seen anything yet in terms of what we can deliver for food and service,” says Sonderman, who’s been known to grouse about the gas-assisted smokers he reluctantly uses in Adams Morgan.

Sonderman and co-owner Steve Salis tell Eater that a new, 2,500-square-foot Federalist Pig will be in Hyattsville, Maryland. The barbecue joint will replace the Tire Place at 5504 Baltimore Avenue, just across the street from Busboys and Poets. In contrast to the original, the next Federalist Pig will introduce bar service and will boast an outdoor patio. Washington Post reporter Tim Carman broke the news of the expansion last week on Twitter.

“You’ll see the ability for us to expand our wings a little bit more in this format,” says Salis, a co-founder of &pizza who now owns Kramerbooks in Dupont and the Ted’s Bulletin brand.

Salis says it’s too early to estimate when Federalist Pig will open in Hyattsville, but the goal is to have the building ready by the fourth quarter of this year or early next year. Demolition will begin on the tire shop in the coming weeks.

Chef Rob Sonderman
Federalist Pig pitmaster Rob Sonderman
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Sonderman says he’ll be installing smokers from J&R Manufacturing. “As far as I’m concerned, they build the best kind of commercial grade all wood-fired smokers you can buy,” he says. The pitmaster used a J&R model when he first drew notice at DCity Smokehouse, which he left to start Federalist Pig.

While Federalist Pig has grown in popularity over the past three years, earning a spot on Eater’s Essential 38, being tabbed as the No. 2 barbecue restaurant in the area by the Washington Post, and even getting a shout-out on House of Cards, Sonderman still thinks the restaurant is falling short of its potential. He says Federalist Pig still runs out of barbecue by 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. on many Saturdays, and he hates disappointing customers who wait in line.

The partners behind Federalist Pig have been discussing expansion since opening the first location, Sonderman says. According to Salis, the company is taking an “opportunistic” approach to real estate and could still pursue other locations while opening the second restaurant.

Sonderman says his partners have challenged him to push his boundaries and come up with more modern applications for smoked meats. That’s why you’ll see specials for barbecue banh mi and tofu burnt ends in addition to trademark chicken wings, brisket, and ribs. He also makes a point of making every side on the menu vegetarian.

Asked if he has any big changes planned for the new location, Sonderman opted to keep his ideas to himself.

“There’s quite a few things that come to mind,” he says. “I don’t know if I want to start opening the book and sharing those things yet.”

Another D.C. institution, Taqueria Habanero, recently opened a Maryland outpost in College Park. Sloppy Mama’s barbecue is also branching out from D.C. with an incoming restaurant in Arlington.