HILL COUNTRY BARBECUE MARKET
ADDRESS: 410 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20004
This past weekend, I was hanging out in D.C. with my friends Mark and Emily. Our initial plans on trying some burrito-sized sushi for dinner (a potential review for the future) had fallen through, and we were trying to figure out another spot to grab some food. We’d been spending the time that afternoon in Chinatown; after naming a few local spots, Mark then asked me if I had ever been to Hill Country Barbecue Market before. When I replied no, he said, “Well, that was an easy decision. Let’s go get some Hill Country.”
Depending on where you live, barbecue is sometimes easy to find at restaurants. However, good barbecue can be a bit trickier to seek out, so when you’ve discovered a place that has it, the feeling is very satisfying. That’s how I felt after eating at Hill Country.
Hill Country Barbecue Market is located right in Penn Quarter and a quick walk from the Archives Metro station. As you walk into the restaurant, the entire place opens up into a large dining hall-style area; tables are laid out in rows, with the neighboring tables separated by maybe a half-chair width. That kind of makes you feel packed in at times, but it certainly helps the restaurant maximize how many people can fit into their dining area.
The ordering system is pretty interesting at this place. You get a “meal card” when seated, listing the types of meats they are currently serving, along with the sides and the desserts. There’s a room in the back of the restaurant where you go in and get the food, with the “market price” of the meats listed on a sandwich board mounted to the wall next to its entrance. You head to one station to pick up your meats and then rotate over to the other station to pick up your sides. Anything that you order is marked down on your meal card for payment later.
Mark raved about their brisket as we were walking to the back, and he usually doesn’t steer me wrong. I picked up a half-pound of moist-cut brisket and journeyed over to the sides station, where I got some decadent-looking mac & cheese and two pieces of cornbread.
I tell you, the brisket was so ridiculously tender that I didn’t even need a knife to cut it. It really didn’t need any barbecue sauce since there was plenty of savory and smoky flavor cooked right into the meat. Next thing I knew, I had inhaled the entire half-pound of brisket like it was nothing. After that, it was time to set my sights onto the sides. The mac & cheese was certainly rich, with the sharp cheddar flavor coming through in the savory cheese sauce. The mostaccioli was a great pasta choice to use to have some sauce catch inside the tubes. With the cornbread, I was satisfied that it was moist and had some corn bit baked right into it. Some cornbread I’ve had before is kind of dense, and I’m happy to report this was not the case here.
I’m not sure if it was because I hadn’t had barbecue in quite a while before this, but that meal really hit the spot that night. After seeing the signage for the restaurant out front, I realized that I had walked by the place many times before while hanging out in the area. Certainly some pros and cons to me knowing where Hill Country is now: very good for my stomach, but very bad for my waistline and probably for my wallet as well. I certainly hope to be returning to this spot for some more of that tasty brisket sometime soon.
Now, let’s take a look at the Hill Country Barbecue Market Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
And finally, here are my rankings for Hill Country Barbecue Market:
Food: 5 / 5
That brisket really is the bomb. Moist and packed full of flavor, you can’t go wrong with it. Both sides I tried were also tasty and complimented the meal well.
Atmosphere: 4.75 / 5
Despite being cramped up a little close to the next table over, I still enjoyed the dining hall-style room, with the wooden tables and chairs and the marketplace setup to get your food.
Service: 4 / 5
The employees working at the food counters were very accommodating in answering questions and also served up the food very quickly. In contrast, however, our waiter at the table for our drinks was rather cold and unwelcoming.
Price: 3.75 / 5
Don’t get me wrong, that’s some good barbecue that I had. However, the price for what you see above came out to a steep $23 (without a drink). I think a price of $18 or $19 would have been more reasonable for that plate of food.