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The Last Open Restaurant on Petworth’s Main Drag Gets By on Whiskey and Barbecue

Cinder BBQ has gotten a boost from to-go bourbon bottles

Cinder chicken sandwich.
A barbecue chicken sandwich from Cinder
Rey Lopez/For Cinder

Bourbon won’t always be the answer, but for now, Matt Krimm is grateful for the 375-milliliter bottles of Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare that have helped keep Cinder BBQ in business.

The smokehouse and whiskey bar is the last holdout in the heart of Petworth to offer takeout and delivery while D.C. enforces a dine-in ban to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. On the main drag of Upshur Street NW, between Georgia Avenue and Eighth Street NW, neighbors Timber Pizza, Pom Pom, Dos Mamis, and Taqueria Del Barrio have all closed restaurant operations, making the tough choice to sacrifice potential revenue and forego risking employees to the virus.vBuoyed by an emergency relief measure that allowed restaurants to sell alcohol to-go, Cinder has yet to lay off any of its 12 employees.

Krimm, a partner with John Anderson and pitmaster Bill Coleman, says the bar has guaranteed paychecks to its staff for at least another a week. He says the neighborhood, full of rowhouses and young families in the upper stretches of Northwest, has offered a ton of support. A decision to sell 375-milliliter bottles for $20 a pop helped bring in enough sales for the bar to maintain a semblance of its normal numbers. Discounted bottles of Weller 12-year, Old Weller Antique, and Yamazaki 12-Year helped offset some losses, too.

“I suspect that’s going to slow down over the next week or two,” Krimm says. “People can only buy so much booze, but that’s been a really good component that D.C. was able to get out and turn over very quickly.”

Farther down Upshur, Slash Run is selling burgers and mimosa kits to-go, and Southern spot the Hitching Post is on delivery apps.

At Cinder, Krimm and Co. have pared down the food menu for delivery (call-in, Caviar) and takeout, too, removing the option of barbecue entrees in favor of quickly assembled sandwiches stuffed with pulled pork, pulled chicken, or chopped brisket. Packaging individual barbecue sauces and sides has been a time-suck. A street-front, walk-up window has allowed them to operate without people walking around inside the bar.

When people get their barbecue or Brussels sprouts, the Cinder crew is asking them to leave donations, too. In lieu of gift cards, which Krimm says don’t offer benefits for people throughout the supply chain, the donations help Cinder keep ordering food that will be donated to laid off employees of Upshur neighbors and trucked into the relief center for restaurant workers at nearby Park View bar Hook Hall.

This system, Krimm says, creates work for not just his staff, but meat processors and delivery drivers, too.

Anyone hoping to score a deal on some rare whiskey, however, is out of luck.

‘We don’t have a huge stock of it,” Krimm says. “It’s just not feasible to stockpile that much stuff and keep that much money tied up in inventory in a small space like ours.”

Cinder BBQ

800 Upshur Street Northwest, , DC 20011 (202) 450-6795 Visit Website