Before yearly battle, a week of barbecue specials

The annual Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle will take place June 24 and 25. (photo courtesy of Giant Barbecue Battle)

By Zach Ewell, Current Correspondent

Next weekend, barbecue lovers in the D.C. area will convene downtown on Pennsylvania Avenue for the 25th annual Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle, which will be fought with slabs of meat and burning grills.

In the days leading up to the event, though, food lovers can already begin inhaling the luscious smells of barbecue, with special deals and meals available June 19 through 25 for the inaugural Metropolitan Washington BBQ & Grilling Week. More than 25 restaurants in D.C., Maryland and Virginia will offer specials, with proceeds going to United Service Organizations in Washington and Baltimore.

“We have been celebrating the art of barbecue and experience of that barbecue bringing families together,” said Shawn Noratel, spokesperson for the Giant National Capital BBQ Battle. “Bringing together local restaurants that celebrate this philosophy and passion only brings our community and neighbors closer together, and also creates a tighter environment so that others can experience the different flavors of barbecue.”

Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Co. is located at 2418 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Co., located at 2418 Wisconsin Ave. NW in Glover Park, is among the participants in the new weeklong event. Rocklands will be offering its pit beef caliente topped with pepperoncini, onions and cheese, served on a hoagie roll with a choice of two sides, for $11.

Rocklands also sees this week as a chance to showcase its recipes in advance of the battle, according to 13-year employee and manager Melvin Garcia.

“It’s a city challenge, and this is the first time for us entering the competition,” Garcia said. “We’re not afraid. We believe competition makes you better. It just puts the word out there about barbecue in Washington D.C., because when Rocklands first started out here 28 years ago there wasn’t a lot of barbecue places.”

Burger Tap & Shake’s Tenleytown location is at 4445 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

Burger Tap & Shake, which has locations in Tenleytown and Foggy Bottom, will also be participating this year. Next week, the burger joint will be offering an $11 ponderosa package inspired by the TV Western “Bonanza,” complete with a beef and brisket burger with longhorn cheese, jalapeño coleslaw and Cattlemen’s barbecue sauce, as well as a soda and fries.

John Zittrauer, a manager at Burger Tap & Shake for two years, believes the ponderosa package will perform well.
“It was our feature burger a couple of months ago, and it did pretty well. And it’s topped off with barbecue brisket, so it’s a real good cookout burger,” Zittrauer said.

Martin’s Tavern is located at 1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

BBQ & Grill Week isn’t just for barbecue junkies. Martin’s Tavern at 1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW in Georgetown offers alternative fare for lunch: a house salad and grilled ahi tuna sandwich for $22.

Other Northwest participants include Roofers Union at 2446 18th St. NW in Adams Morgan and Cafe Saint-Ex at 1847 14th St. NW near U Street. A full list is available at

The Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle will take place June 24 and 25. The contest will be judged by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.