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September 2010

Grilled Lamb Sandwiches: Upgrading From The Same Old Tailgating Grub

DSCN5640 When it comes to tailgate grilling, what do you think of? Burgers? Dogs? Maybe wings if you're feeling it?

All of these are great options ... that we have all the time.

So every now and then, it's good to change up the menu some. I'm not saying you have to drop the brats from the lineup, just consider a substitution. Consider a hot pressed, grilled lamb sandwich. It's a hell of a thing, and it can take less time to prepare than an Oscar-Mayer frank.

As much as I love grilling, when I'm at a tailgate party, I want to focus on football and beer drinking. Firing up the grill is part of the experience, I just don't want it to be the primary experience. Most of us, I suspect, are of the same mind.

However, there is that group of people out there who like to show up at the stadium parking lot hours before the game and cook elaborate meals. You can do that with this recipe, if you want. Or, you can prepare everything the day, or week, before and do the final steps within minutes. It's your tailgate, do what you want.

DSCN5605 Sadly, I live nowhere near my college team (South Florida) or my pro team (the Bucs). So I spend most weekends planted on my couch. But to demonstrate that this recipe can be done at a tailgate, I broke out my tiny Weber grill - the same grill that I've taken to numerous tailgating events.

Basically, all you're doing is making a sandwich. But man, what a sandwich. I marinated half a butterflied lab leg in rosemary, garlic, oregano and basil overnight. Grilled it along with some onions, and then thin sliced the meat for the sandwich. Along with the lamb and onions, I added brie and blue cheese, arugula (I like some green on my sandwiches) and finished it with roasted garlic mayo.

Once the sandwich is assembled, I wrapped it in foil and pressed it on the grill using a brick. The cheese melts, the bread gets crusty and your tailgate meal gets exponentially better.

If someone handed you this sandwich and a beer at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday, you'd know your day was starting off right.

DSCN5644 This is the point in the grilling post that I normally talk about what beer to pair with the meal. Not this time. When it comes to tailgating, you either drink whatever your buddy brought or you pick up a couple six packs of your favorite beer. Making sure the beer pairs well with the pre-game meal isn't (or shouldn't be) a consideration.

Instead, I'm going to discuss Abita's Save Our Shore, a big, unfiltered weizen pilsner that you'll feel good drinking, and not just because of the 7 percent A.B.V.

As it did after Hurricane Katrina, the brewery from Abita Springs, La., has produced a beer to raise money for a recovery effort. In 2005, Abita released Restoration Ale and for every six pack sold, the brewery donated a dollar to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation.

Following the BP oil spill in the Gulf (which has not magically disappeared), Abita produced Save Our Shore. For every one of the 22 ounce bottles sold, Abita will donate 75 cents to SOS, a charitable fund managed by the Northshore Community Foundation and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

It's a great cause and a great beer.

DSCN5628Hot-Pressed Grilled Lamb Sandwiches
(Makes 6 generous servings)

Half a lamb leg, butterflied
8 oz. brie, cut into slices
8 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
2 large onions, cut into thick slices
5 whole pieces of fresh rosemary
1 tbs. dried oregano
1 tbs. dried basil
3 heads of garlic, one chopped and two whole (the two whole heads are optional)
olive oil
8 tbs. mayonnaise
Kosher salt and black pepper
Sandwich rolls (ciabatta bread works, as does crusty French bread)
Aluminum foil
2 bricks
Large sealable freezer bag

Like I said, you can do everything up to pressing the sandwiches the day before, or cook everything in the parking lot.

DSCN5601 The day before you grill the lamb, place it in the freezer bag with the rosemary, oregano, basil, chopped garlic and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Seal the bag and rub the oil and spices on the lamb. Make sure all the air is out of the bag and place it in the refrigerator overnight.

If you want roasted garlic mayo for the sandwich (you do), chop the tops off the two remaining heads of garlic, place each in a sheet of aluminum foil, coat with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Seal the foil and roast the garlic in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. When the garlic is done, allow the heads to cool, squeeze out the soft garlic cloves, mash and mix with your mayonnaise.

When you're ready to grill the lamb, make sure your grill is set up with a hot zone and a cool zone. Remove the lamb from the bag, discard the rosemary and wipe off the seasoning. Lightly coat the lamb with olive oil or vegetable oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Do the same with the slices of onion.

Place the lamb on the hottest part of the grill, fat-side down. Sear the lamb for 5 to 7 minutes, being careful to watch for flare-ups. Turn the lamb over and move to the cool side of the grill, close the lid and allow to cook for 50 minutes.

Remove the lid, place the onions on the grill, and close the lid. After 5 minutes, flip the onions.

Once the onions are cooked, everything can come off the grill. Allow the lamb to rest for 20 minutes before slicing it.

When slicing the lamb, keep in mind that it's more complicated than steak. The muscle fibers in a lamb leg are not nice and uniform like they are in beef. So, you'll have to cut the lamb into pieces, and then cut thin slices off those pieces, always cutting against the grain. Take your time, and as you slice the lamb, make sure the pieces are thin enough to be bitten through easily.

DSCN5634 Now, assemble the sandwich and wrap in aluminum foil, making sure the whole thing is covered. If you're doing this the day before, you're done for now. If you've cooked everything at the tailgate, it's time to go back to the grill.

Place the wrapped sandwiches on the grill and set your bricks on top. If the sandwiches just came out of a cooler, they'll need about six minutes per side. If they're freshly made, give them about three minutes per side. Flip the sandwiches, put the bricks back on.

You'll know the sandwiches are done when you unwrap the foil and see nothing but melted cheese and crusty bread. Now go grab a beer, it's almost 11 a.m.

Must Haves: Ray's Hell's Fat Joe, Or How To Make A Great Burger Better

Must Haves focuses on some of D.C.'s best dishes.

Michael Landrum's Fat Joe with bacon and cheddar is the best burger in the D.C. area.

The difference between the Ray's Hell burger and every other ground beef and bun combination around town is a clear as that statement. And if you disagree, your mouth is lying.

On its own, a Ray's Hell burger is an excellent burger. They don't overwork the meat, so the patty isn't dense. They cook it to order, an increasingly rare treat. They use a good fatty blend that ensures the burger is juicy and flavorful. They season it simply with salt and black pepper so the flavor of the beef dominates. They cook it on a grill, so the exterior is nicely charred, and serve it on a soft roll.

And when you order the Fat Joe, Ray's Hell tops the burger with foie gras, fried shallots and white truffle oil (there's also a slice of tomato, but who's kidding who). At this point, it's the best burger in the Mid-Atlantic. But it ain't perfect. Oh no, it can't be perfect when a couple strips of bacon and some cave-aged Amish cheddar make it so much better.

DSCN5547 Still, there's no better way to top a burger than with four ounces of fattened duck liver. There just isn't. Those caramelized lobes of fatty goodness add a level of richness and flavor the burger could never achieve on its own. Foie gras alone is wonderful, but foie gras atop a medium rare burger, wet with its own juices, is goddamn ambrosia.

And then there's the bacon and cheddar, because let's face it, if you're eating a burger with foie gras you might as well get the bacon and cheese, too. The bacon adds salt, pork and a crunch the burger needs. The cheese, well the cheese just tastes good and doesn't get in the way of the foie gras.

The funny thing is, as much as I harp on the foie gras (and I do harp), it's the tart, earthy flavor of the white truffle oil that sticks with me the longest. Mind you, I'm not complaining.

Inevitably, someone will write a comment complaining that the Fat Joe is a $17 burger ($22 by the time I'm done with it). Don't. I'm well aware of how much the burger costs. It's worth every penny. In fact, when I want a Fat Joe with bacon and cheese, I head to Ray's Hell Burger Too, so I can have it with a couple Deleriums or a Bell's Two-Hearted. A burger like this deserves a beer.

If I wanted a cheaper burger, I'd go to a cheaper joint. But I don't want a cheaper burger. Every now and then (and you better limit this burger to every now and then) I'm happy to plunk down $22 for medium rare, bacon cheeseburger with foie gras, fried shallots and white truffle oil, because it is absolutely the best damn burger in town.

Ray's Hell Burger Too
1713 N. Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, Va. 22201
(703) 841-0001

Fire Works: Arlington's New Pizzeria and Beer Bar

FIREW- OUTSIDE1 It was out with the old pizza and in with the new in the Courthouse last month. Sadly, after many years of selling classic Italian-American fare, Listrani's has closed its doors for good, with its location being taken over by nearby Chez Manelle and converted into a hookah bar. Old-style Italian eateries are on the outs in metropolitan Northern Virginia, and are rapidly being replaced by cutting edge, trendy pie joints like Z Pizza and American Flatbread. The most recent addition of this ilk is Fire Works, a high-concept pizzeria and beer bar, which recently opened up in the Marriot Residences on Clarendon Boulevard.FIREW- BAR1

Fire Works is an expansion from the original Leesburg location of the same name, a local fav known for its sizable beer list and wood-fired, toppings-loaded pizzas. I have visited the new location two times since their opening back in late August.

FIREW-PATIO1 The space is pretty big on the inside, with a sizable 25+ seat bar, and some 60 or so seatings in the spacious, high ceilinged, diner-meets-trattoriaesque main room. Surrounding the building on two sides is Fire Work's HUGE patio space, which I roughly estimate could seat 60 to 80 guests comfortably. Both times I visited, the place was decently full, but not packed, so our party was seated promptly.

  In the drinks department, Fire Works has a lot of options. In addition to some 30 beers on draught (including one "real-ale" cask), they offer 10 or so wines by the glass, including several from Virginia, in the range of $7 to $13 per glass, and a two-page beer bottle list. Though the draughts are impressive in number, I was rather disappointed by the FIREW-MARG selection; everything was kinda run of the mill. Flying Dog IPA, Victory Lager, Bell's Two Hearted... they had a lot of the usual customers, many of which overlapped, and could have been excised for something a bit more esoteric, or perhaps a seasonal beer, which were completely lacking.

  Between our visits, there were some major changes made to the food menu, which they openly admit is a work in progress. Generally speaking, the menu features an array of 15 specialty pizzas, wood-oven fired, and available at 10" or 14", along with a smattering of salads, sandwiches, and starters. 

FIREW- SOPRANOSOn our first go my companion and I split the small Classic Margherita ($11), and the small Sopranos ($11), which featured "Mushrooms, Wood Roasted Onions, Nitrate Free Sausage, Organic Tomato sauce, Cheese and a Dash of White Truffle Essence." Though the outer crust of each had that chewy / crispy  combination that lovers of the Neopolitan style exalt, the rest of the affair was kinda lacking. The Sopranos fell into that trap as so many truffled foods, allowing the oil to overpower every other ingredient in the dish. Where the Sopranos was overly rich, the Margherita was just kinda "meh," offering up little kick from the basil, and very little flavor from the mozzarella. Both were also unfortunately wet in the middle, making them difficult and a little unpleasant to eat.

FIREW- DIP Our second visit also started out on the disappointing side. This time, we sat on the patio, which was lovely, and started with the Spinach Dip ($7), which was not. Though beautifully toasted on top and well presented, the cheese itself was mealy and flavorless, as was the accompanying garlic bread. That said, the main course was a lot more appealing. My friend got the small Segundo ($11), a white FIREW- SEGUNDO pizza topped with "White Sauce, Crisp Bacon, Smoked Mozzarella, Granny Smith Apples, Roasted Onions and Parsley," which had a delightful combination of sweet and salty flavors, and an appealing combination of disparate textures. This time, the pizza was also consistently chewy and firm, so they seem to have fixed that problem in the interim. For my main I eschewed the pizza for the " Three "g's" Grilled Cheese" ($7), a  combination of smoked gFIREW- GRILLEDCHEESEouda, goat cheese and gruyere on crusty Italian bread, served with tomato jam. This sandwich was outstanding, with all three cheeses adding something to the mix, the bread of perfect texture, and the tomato jam a wonderful tangy/sweet accompaniment. Though I was puzzled when I was told the sandwiches come with pasta (they do not), I quickly got over it.

Regarding the menu, I should also note that Fire Works does not offer you the option of choosing your own toppings -- it's their way, or the highway. This was not the case on our first visit, and when I asked the server about it on the second go, he said this option was removed because it "caused confusion in the kitchen."

Fire Works is definitely a work in progress, but I have high hopes. Prices are generally reasonable, and though the food has been hit or miss, the preparation definitely seems to be improving. Also, though the beer program is rather weak right now, having 30 draught pulls behind the bar could open up tons of possibilities to the right program director. All in all, Fire Works has a great infrastructure in place, and I really hope they live up to the potential. Though, with Rustico -- a known quantity in the beer and pizza world -- opening up a location in nearby Ballston, they better step up their game quick like.

Fire Works
2350 Clarendon Boulvard
Arlington, VA 22201

Local Players on the Oktoberfest Scene


(Note: You'll have to excuse me, reader, for the occasional lapse in focus, as I am writing this article during the NFL season opener).

Ah, Autumn! Besides a break from the relentless heat, and the beginning of God's own field game, the Fall also heralds the release of some of the year's best beers: Das Oktoberfestbiers! Though release dates are pushed back annually, (with some being forced out as early as mid-August,) the weather has just taken a turn for the chilly, so I may finally indulge in my favorite beers of the year in their proper context.

I love these beers. Most are made in the Marzen style, a traditional German type of beer which is simultaneously rich, malty, crisp, drinkable, and ... OAHH! Favre is down!! Get up Grandpa! You can do it!!


So being the polar opposite of a "Hophead," these sort of beers are right up my alley; the only hitch is most come from so far away! Just thinking about all that gasoline it takes to get my favorite Munich classics the 4000 some-odd miles from Bavaria to the grocery store shelves makes me a little ill. Thanks to the American Craft Brew Revolution, though, I'm glad to say we've now got plenty of home-grown options, many from within about 100 miles. Though very similar, each is as precious and individual as a snowflake; and nearly as fleeting! As follows are a few of my favorite local offerings, available for a limited time only at a store near you, for about $9 to $12 a sixer!

OktBeerFLY Flying Dog "Dogtoberfest"
5.30% Abv
Flying Dog Brewery: Frederick, MD

Appearance: Very dark amber with red highlights; light, short lived head.Nose: Subtle, with notes of malted barley and yeast. Rather dry, but some brown sugar, cinnamon, and mild red fruit.

Palate: Dry grains and malt dominate the front, along with some vanilla and caramel. Vivid effervescence gives a quite dry and pleasingly biting. Medium bodied, and vaguely creamy. More echos of red fruit on the mid-palate lead to a very dry, nutty finish.

Overall: Surprisingly complex and dry for the style, but possessed of all the elements of a great Marzen. Flying Dog does not produce a lot of beers I enjoy; this one is a pleasant outlier, and possibly my favorite of this lineup. Go out and grab it!

OktBeerSTOUDT Stoudts Oktober Fest
5.00% Abv.
Stoudts Brewing Company: Adamstown, PA

Appearance: Dark gold, with a slight red hue, and a short, off-white head.

Nose: Very dry and malty, with faint hints of roasted nuts and yeast.

Palate: Sweet malt leads the way on this light bodied, mildly effervescent lager. Corny flavors persist on the rather dry mid-palate, along with the surprising flavor of banana. Pleasing uptick of dark sugar sweetness on the finish.

Overall: Middle of the road and traditional. Not gonna blow your head off, but the sweetness will be comforting as the nights get cooler, and its mild texture makes this a great session beer.

OktBeerSTARR Starr Hill "Festie"
4.80% Abv.
Starr Hill Brewery: Croizet, VA

Appearance: Hazy golden-amber with reddish highlights; short, off white head.

Nose: Light, sweet and wheaty, with a slightly green grassy note, and some dark berries.

Palate: Bright and malty on the front; medium bodied, and relatively dry. Finish is dry, rather sharp for the style, with an almost mineralic quality.

Overall: Simple, but a great example of the more aggressive and dry side of the style. A solid pick for the fan of your more effervescent Czech pilseners, whose looking for a bit of nutty richness to ring in the season.

OktBeerCLIP Clipper City Heavy Seas Marzen
5.40% Abv
Clipper City Brewing Company: Baltimore, MD

Appearance: Clear golden-brown, with light, short lived head.

Nose: Light notes of brown sugar, yeast, and some spice.

Palate: Rather sweet on the attack, giving way to cinnamon and malted grains on the weighty mid-palate. More brown sugar sweetness lingering on the finish of this hefty dark lager.Overall: This replacement for the old Clipper City "Balto-Marzhon" is a good pick for those looking for a heavier, sweeter offering. Though typical of the Oktoberfest/Marzen style, this one is actually a year-round offering from Clipper City, so live it up!

ChurchKey: Ambitious Vision Is Realized As D.C.'s Very Best Beer Bar

Everything you need to know about ChurchKey is on the draught list.

Look at it. Drafted on tan, heavy paper - good paper, hardy paper - it's a black script roadmap to 55 drafts and casks. Hoppy, spicy, fruity, smoky beers are offered by the taste and by the glass. Along side each beer is the name of the brewery, its style, its place of birth. There's the alcohol percentage, the serving temperature, the price and the proper glassware. In case you don't know a tulip from a pint, there's a key of glassware silhouettes along the bottom of the menu.

Churchkey6 It's polished, elegant and written for nebbish beer geeks, but designed to guide anyone through ChurchKey's substantial selection of beers. 

It's the best menu I've ever seen.

The bar is almost as nice. From the solid burnt orange bar with its inset of keys, to the gothic chandeliers and floor to ceiling windows overlooking Logan Circle, ChurchKey is a beautiful establishment that was built to impress.

Without a doubt, it is one of the best bars I've ever set foot in. ChurchKey is not just one of D.C.'s best beer bars, it's our most important bar. The Brickskeller was ahead of its time when its lengthy beer list made the record books. But Miss Havisham has had her day and D.C.'s beer scene has come into its own. Portland has the Horse Brass Pub and Brussels has the Delirium Cafe. Now, thanks to Michael Babin and Greg Engert, we have ChurchKey.

I'm not the only one who's noticed.

"I was very pleasantly surprised with the professionalism [of the ChurchKey staff] and especially Greg has a great knowledge," Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the Danish brewer behind cult beer favorite Mikkeller, told me via email. Earlier this year, Engert hosted Mikkel at a beer dinner at ChurchKey's downstairs sister restaurant, Birch & Barley. "It is hard to compare [to other beer bars] as ck is unique, but it is definitely one of the best beer restaurants I have been to."

Then of course, there are the local awards (two Rammys and the City Paper's pick for Best Beer Bar/Best Beer Menu) and national recognition (Food & Wine, The New York Times, Paste, All About Beer). Clearly, the arrival of ChurchKey and Birch & Barley has not gone unnoticed.

48580023 It's never easy, or cheap, to open a restaurant, much less two of them in a shitty economy. Yet, Babin (above, right), co-owner of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, did just that. Last year, he turned a former hamburger joint into a destination beer bar set atop an upscale restaurant. The establishments are treated separately, but are equally bound by a lineup of beers that stretch between floors and into the hundreds, all of which is overseen by a beer director that obsesses over every little detail. Needless to say, it was Babin's most expensive project, but it made Engert (above, left) a very happy man.

Before spending most of his waking hours at ChurchKey, Engert was (and is) the beer director of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, including Rustico, Babin's beer-centric restaurant in Alexandria. Although Rustico was launched with a beer program, it was Engert who focused and expanded it.

He brought in interesting beers, cask ales and a hand pump, hosted beer dinners, started a library of rare beers, headed up beer themed events, and eventually started talking to his boss about an even better beer bar.

Babin and Engert knew there were limitations to what they could do with Rustico. There was only so much space, all of which was built before Engert was hired, and they wanted Rustico to remain a neighborhood restaurant. So a plan was hatched. Babin asked Engert what he would do if he could do anything. Engert responded with ChurchKey.

"Every single thing I wanted to do with beer here, I did," said Engert, who is also a partner in ChurchKey and Birch & Barley.

33680011 It shows. If you know anything about ChurchKey or the District's craft beer scene, you probably know these stats: 555 beers on hand, 55 of which are drafts, five of which are hand-pumped cask ales. It's impressive in its size and scope, but it's not the most impressive aspect.

No, the most impressive thing is the trio of coolers. Each cooler is set at a different temperature (42, 48, 54) based on the style beer being stored (for example, lagers are stored at colder temperatures than ales). The draft lines that run the beer from the coolers to the taps are insulated and cooled to ensure that the beer filling your glass is the same temperature it was when it left the keg.

It's an attention to detail most people will overlook, but it separates ChurchKey from most bars in the country, much less D.C.

33680014 Consider the bottle list. It's 500 deep, yet there are dozens and dozens of names you probably don't recognize. As he did with the beer list at Rustico, Engert organized the beers by flavor rather than style or place of origin. Understanding that hundreds of somewhat obscure beers don't sell quickly, Engert keeps a limited number of each beer. And when one sells out a new one usually comes in.

33680017 Engert's regular rotation of rare and eclectic beers, on draft and by the bottle, has led some folks around town to question how he gets such unique products. Some have suggested that ChurchKey and the
Neighborhood Restaurant Group can spend more money than other bars and restaurants, while others speculate that because ChurchKey is the popular beer bar in D.C., brewers and distributors are lining up to get their products in.

Engert said it's none of those things. Rather, he said, it's simply a matter of working harder than everyone else to find out about new beers entering the market, establishing relationships with the brewers and distributors, and keeping his draft lines pristine and his coolers at the proper temperatures. ChurchKey also maintains a stash of 76 casks that they ship to breweries to keep the hand-pump selections interesting.

And then there's the beer dinner series and meet-the-brewer nights, the vintage beer list, and the firkins (because five beer engines pumping fresh cask ale just isn't enough - and it's not), but I should stop. I should note that ChurchKey may be designed with beer enthusiasts in mind, but they make their nut on the curious and the uninitiated.

For Engert, ChurchKey is an opportunity to teach. The less you know the better. Come in and peruse the pretty draft menu or thumb through the bound bottle list. If you can't make up your mind, that's fine. Engert and his staff will show you the way. That's why he spends an hour and a half every day working with the bartenders and servers in ChurchKey and Birch & Barley on the beer program. If you have a question, everyone should have an answer.

"We believe very strongly that this would be an eye-opener for many people," Babin said. "You get people in the right mood to try new things."

Of the many trips I've made to ChurchKey and Birch & Barley since it opened last fall, I've only caught one bartender off guard. The guy gave me the wrong beer and assured me the stout I ordered was the bitter I received. However, he double checked with Engert, who relaized the mistake and got me the right beer. A rookie error by a new bartender that was quickly addressed.

That's it, though. Babin and Engert have hired a lot of staff, and all of them (well, most of them) are clearly well trained.

48580017 When ChurchKey is packed, I like to grab a seat at the bar in Birch & Barley. All the beer is the same and you get to admire the copper "beer organ" that houses the draft lines coming from upstairs. However, Birch & Barley's bar doesn't have direct access to the bottles or cask ales on the hand pumps. Nevertheless, the bartenders always seem more than happy to run upstairs for an order. It's a nice touch.

Babin and Engert are quick to note that much of ChurchKey's success - and Birch & Barley's for that matter - is also due to the work of Executive Chef Kyle Bailey and Pastry Chef Tiffany Macisaac. They're right to do so. Bailey and Macisaac do an excellent job servicing two restaurants with semi-distinct menus (there are some crossover dishes). They even keep in the spirit of things by working beer into a number of dishes.

I would add to that Nahem Simon, who's worked with Engert for years, bartending at both Rustico and ChurchKey. Simon is an excellent bartender and may be as well versed in his product as Engert.

So is there a bad thing to say about ChurchKey? Maybe some nitpicking.

DSCN5408 One man's eclectic beer list is another man's frustration. Engert obviously puts a lot of thought into his bottle beer list, but I think it's a bit over thought. As much as I like to try new things, I also have a number of favorite beers I'd expect to see at a place like ChurchKey. Rather than an obscure gueuze beer from Belgium, how about sticking in a couple Titan IPAs from Colorado?

I'd also like to see more local beers. Engert is skeptical of the concept of localism and builds his beer list around flavors rather than geography, but I can't see the harm in supporting local breweries. He's done a few events with Frederick's Flying Dog and Brian Strumke of Baltimore's Stillwater Ales, but he can do more by keeping a few bottles of our exceptional local breweries on hand.

Normally I knock beer bars that have a strong dining presence, but for all of Chef Bailey's hard work (there's poutine, people), the food is a supporting player at ChurchKey.

Finally, this might be might strangest criticism yet, but ChurchKey is just too popular. It's been open nearly a year, and it still draws a mob. In time, the crowds will thin and the line to get in will disappear. When that happens, ChurchKey will cease to be a scene and settle into being D.C. very best beer bar.

Score: 18 of 20 (beer: 7 of 8, atmosphere: 4 of 5, bartenders: 5 of 5, other elements 2 of 2)

The Best Beer Bars so far: Birreria Paradiso (17 of 20), The Galaxy Hut (16 of 20), Franklin's (14 of 20), Rustico (16 of 20), Lost Dog Café (12 of 20), The Black Squirrel (16 of 20) and Dr. Granville Moore's (15 of 20). And don't miss our special feature on D.C.'s best German bars.

(Note: The Best Beer Bar series is going on hiatus. I'm taking six months off to check out new beer bars or beer bars I haven't visited in a while. I will also be revising the criteria that I use to judge the beer bars. If you have any suggestions for places I should visit or what I should look for in a good beer bar, leave me a comment below.)

Must Haves: Capital Q's Barbecue Burrito - It's Not A Taco!

Must Haves focuses on some of D.C.'s best dishes.

Sometimes, a clever twist can make a good dish great. Sometimes the right packaging can do the trick.

Take Capital Q in Chinatown. They make good barbecue. Not great barbecue, but good barbecue. Nevertheless, with a Subway next door and a Fuddruckers across the street, the tiny Texas barbecue joint is easily one of the best places to eat in the neighborhood.

Even with good barbecue, though, Capital Q has a great barbecue dish: the barbecue burrito.

You won't find it on the menu. Instead, you order a "taco." I say "taco" because the "taco" is a 12 inch flour tortilla, which makes the "taco" a "burrito," and I really like burritos. (I was honestly pissed off for a while after realizing the taco I routinely passed up was actually a burrito. What the fuck? Just call it a burrito.)

DSCN5280 Within that burrito you can have anything. Beef brisket and black beans wrapped in a warm flour tortilla? Done. Pulled pork, collard greens and corn salad? Done. Smoked turkey, mashed potatoes and banana pudding? Sure, but don't.

The point is, I can walk in anytime and order a burrito stuffed with all kinds of barbecue. And if that ain't great, I don't know what is.

Now, there's another trick to this. The guys working the counter at Capital Q are generous. If you order a pulled pork burrito with black beans, greens and hot sauce (as I often do), you'll have a mound of food piled on your tortilla. Picking it up will be out of the question, and if you're using a fork and knife you're missing the point. So the trick is to order everything on the side, including the sauce (and if you're smart, a second tortilla - you'll have plenty to fill both).

With your tray of sides and meat, grab a seat and a roll of paper towels at the front window and build your burrito(s). As you stuff that soft bundle of barbecue into your mouth you can watch the tourists jaywalk their way into Fuddruckers. Suckers.