A roving Bethesda-based barbecue team that’s amassed a pile of awards in just a year is opening a standalone restaurant for unorthodox smoked meats in Clarendon.
The new restaurant, dubbed Smokecraft Modern Barbecue, plans to open next spring (1051 N Highland Street) in the former Citizen Burger Bar location. An in-the-works menu calls for reverse-seared tri-tip sirloin, smoked duck, chipotle maple cedar plank salmon, and smoked spaghetti squash.
Smokecraft comes from longtime restaurant vet Andrew Darneille (Cheesecake Factory, Blackfinn, Richard Sandoval) and pitmaster Marc “Red” Leone, who’s honed cross-country regional styles and techniques for 30 years while working at high-profile spots like Memphis Barbecue and Nebraska’s Hog Wild Pit BBQ. Together they have the Smokecraft Championship BBQ squad.
The Smokecraft team took home the turkey smoke title at this summer’s National Capital Barbecue Battle. Smokecraft placed in chicken and pork categories at Urbanna, Virginia’s BBQ Gives Back competition in March. Instead of going the typical food truck route, they’ve opted to jump right into opening a restaurant.
“Hospitality, I think, is such a huge part of what barbecue is — being in a community and creating a great atmosphere,” Darneille says. “A food truck didn’t seem to make sense with that long-term goal.”
Smokecraft plans to outfit its future restaurant with Southern Pride commercial smokers, capable of cooking over 2,000 pounds of meat. “Having two units helps with flexibility,” Darneille says.
Brunch will be filled out by a smoked Monte Cristo (the sandwich winner at this year’s Mid-Atlantic BBQ Expo), slow-smoked pastrami hash, and pulled chicken and waffles. The lengthy 30-foot bar will stay open late, serving cocktails and 10 craft beers on tap.
“We are pushing what barbecue is — it’s not stuff you’d find on an everyday menu,” Darneille says.
Grizform Design Architects (All Purpose Pizzeria, the upcoming Oyster Oyster in Shaw) plans to sprinkle stained wood, brick, stone, metal, and warm lighting elements across the 3,460-square-foot canvas, which seats 95 inside and 20 outside.
Leading up to the opening, the brand plans to continue to compete in Mid-Atlantic barbecue competitions to sharpen its skills and recipes. There’s 14 left this year — next up is the Maryland State Barbecue Bash in Bel Air this weekend.
Arlington has been bulking up its barbecue game lately. Sloppy Mama’s co-owner Joe Neuman opened a new headquarters in old Pizza Hut last month. The neighborhood is also home to 5-year-old Texas Jack’s, named the No. 1 local barbecue joint by the Washington Post.