[Note to reader: I wrote this a while ago, but due to the comatose state-- see below -- I forgot to post!]
I write to you from a BBQ-induced comatose state. And my hair smells like smoke — the good kind. My best friend and I have bonded over many things over the years, one of which is our shared love of smoked meats. Naturally, we ventured to Hill Country in Chinatown/Gallery Place, whose name refers to the “Texas Hill Country” region in Central Texas. For those of you unfamiliar with Hill Country, it’s a New York based restaurant that opened its doors in DC a few months ago. It professes to make “Austin-style” BBQ and other fixins’.
My first thought was — “Really? I mean, really?” It reminded me of that Old El Paso salsa commercial . . . You know, the one where the cowboys sitting by the campfire are given a generic brand of salsa, which happens to have been made in NYC. One of the cowboys turns to the others and, with the grimness of an executioner sporting a Texas drawl, says “New York City???? Get a rope.” Presumably the rope is for hanging the person who thought a salsa made in NYC could even compete . . . Alright, you get it.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, as was my friend. Hill Country is a solid BBQ joint.
We tried the chicken, lean brisket, and pork spareribs. My friend also tried the beef shoulder. The pork spareribs were good but a bit too salty for my taste. The chicken came with a fantastic BBQ glaze and was very tender and flavorful. The brisket was good but really lean, which is not a bad thing. I think next time, I’ll opt for a combination of lean and “moist brisket,” which comes with a little more fat. I didn’t try the beef shoulder, but my friend really liked it. The house BBQ sauce that comes in a squeeze bottle on each table is actually pretty good and the Texas Pete hot sauce is also a nice touch. I do like that you have the option of trying as little or as much of each of the meats provided. So, for example, if you want to try just one rib, you can!
The sides are not to be overlooked. We tried the collard greens with bacon, mac and cheese, sweet potato bourbon mash, potato salad, cool cucumber salad, and baked beans. I liked them all, even the baked beans which I normally find too sweet. Hill Country’s baked beans were light on the sweet, heavier on the smoky. Perfect. The sweet potato bourbon mash also stood out as one of my faves.
The dessert menu looked awesome. It will have to wait for my second trip.
And finally the drinks. Two words: Shiner Bock. (Texas-made beer, for the uninitiated). The drink menu also features specialty cocktails including a “spicy” margarita made with serrano peppers. I loved it, but my friend didn’t because he thought it was too hot. For the bourbon lovers like me, there’s a decent selection of bourbons although it didn’t include my favorite, Buffalo Trace.
More than anything, I love the ambiance. It really does remind me of the BBQ places I’ve visited in Texas. Wooden tables, paper towels, butcher paper, Wonder bread . . . Can’t wait to go back.