Lemon, cat and barbecue — three indispensable things in life. Unfortunately, this site only has barbecue. What this blog really should’ve been named was “grilling-everything-thing-on-a-Weber-Kettle” or “a-cheap-person-cooks barbecue.” Those probably more accurately describe this website.
In my last post, I said that I was back for more barbecue blog. That was a lie.
The main reason is that I coincidentally started a new job in October working on some military program to counter extremist media. Working on the blog is actually eerily similar in many ways (i.e. the writing, editing and fiddling with pictures). That’s other than the subject matter of course, which involves a lot of wanton death and destruction.
To make things worse (or better, arguably), I work from home three days a week now. Unfortunately, that means I’m less inclined to write at home for fun now.
Barbecuing has been continuing, however. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, I made New York Strip and prime rib roasts, respectively. Turns out it’s not as hard as I thought. I didn’t really get all that many pictures though, with the sun setting at like 5 p.m.
The other big news is that I finally achieved my dream of finding reasonably priced USDA prime grade brisket, conveniently at Costco. Hopefully they’ll keep stocking it. The last time checked — earlier this month — Costco still had a few in stock.
Dreams achieved. Time to go home.
The difference between prime and choice, the next lower grade that I’ve been using over the past few years choice, is really night and day. The sheer amount of juices that are rendered out during the cooking process is absurd. It’s almost cheating.
Brisket sits on a table.
Meanwhile, the steak technique has been pretty much refined down to a science. It hasn’t changed all that much — I got an elevated grill platform that enables the heat spread more evenly. While the steaks cook on indirect heat, I leave a pan over the coals to get really hot. This allows me to flash sear the outside of the steaks when the inside is done. I’ll get around to doing a post on that (though I’ve been known to lie).
Grilling in the park for Jennifer’s birthday.
So that wraps up this year. Despite my lack of posts in the second half of the year, I managed to cover some decent ground barbecue-wise overall.
From January until now, the types of meat that I’ve barbecued have included: cha siu, kabob koobideh, pork chops, St. Louis pork ribs, chicken wings, ribeye steaks, New York strip steaks, chicken kabobs, beer brats, pork loin roast, chimmichuri flank steak, fajita skirt steak, USDA choice brisket, USDA prime brisket, chicken lollipops, baby back pork ribs, chicken wings, miscellaneous burgers, New York strip roast and prime rib.
5/200 total pounds of meat cooked this year.
And that’s not including all the random chicken breasts and thighs or corn that made their way to the grill.
A rough estimate (and I actually made an attempt at counting this out) of the total weight of the above listed meats is just a little over 200 pounds. I’ll have to keep better track this year in terms of accounting.
I haven’t been back here for a while, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. First off, I ended up traveling for a number of weekends starting in late April/May. That was followed by a period of time where I needed to save money (to make up for all the money I spent on traveling — the barbecue opportunity cost). And then I was just lazy for a while. We’ll just call it summer barbecue/food research.
Anyways, here’s what I’ve been eating.
Way back in April — ancient history now — I took a weekend trip to Baltimore to eat crab cakes and listen to one of Matt’s friends sing at a piano bar. There was really only one other noteworthy thing about this trip. Don’t accept drugs from people on the street outside the hotel. You’ll end up punching people and passing out really early.
The next weekend I made a six-hour drive to Ithaca, New York, for a wedding. It’s a pretty quaint college town, and man, did it make me feel old. I encountered a double grilled cheese hamburger (technically a melt, if you want to get technical). I got a nice tour of Cornell as well.
Melt or grilled cheese? Wars have probably been fought over this.
Next up was New York, New York, a few weeks later. Instead of doing touristy stuff… I just ate. That included, among others, a fancy steakhouse, a Brazilian place, a ramen burger, dim sum, milk bar, a lobster roll and Italian food. In the future, you can expect a post on the differences of steakhouse steaks and homemade steaks and why they always look so different (along with complaints about price).
When you not only want noodles, but also a hamburger.
In the meantime, I got a new carbon steel pan (which I had actually thought was cast iron because the lady at Williams Sonoma failed to correct me when I asked). Current rules of engagement for steak involve indirect heat to around 110 degrees Fahrenheit and then a sear on both sides. This way, we get a nice medium rare with a more uniform sear. I’m still experimenting with this.
My new favorite toy.
Stuart and I made hamburgers for his birthday a week or two after. I had planned on doing a brisket but got rained out. I’ve ended up making more burgers this summer than I have ever in my life.
And then I went to a cabin in Shenandoah. There was a gas grill. If your grill is ever not hot enough, just throw a slice of cheese down there; it’ll flare right up. Made some steaks too. Separately, I’ve also gained experience with gas grills at Matt’s and Paul’s apartments. Matt’s grill likes to particularly heat up in the very back, which I imagine has seen less use. The flames on Paul’s are really small for some reason and it’s hard to start. Not that I don’t appreciate gas grills — they certainly have some personality to them.
I also took a trip to Dallas and Austin. I ate barbecue (“research” as I like to consider it) and drank a bunch. It was tasty. I can never spell Micklethwait Craft Meats (MCM), but it has become one of my most visited barbecue places since I’ve moved. Per usual, we overestimated how much we could eat, but then followed up with alcoholic milkshakes.
I probably should have spent some of the past few weeks working on some posts that I’ve saved up. I actually have like four posts worth of pictures, though there hasn’t been all much to talk about.
In any case, I’m back. I’ve been mainly doing less time-intensive meats such as steaks and burgers. I’m expecting to smoke a brisket this weekend with some new equipment and technique. I’ve been having some trouble fitting the entire brisket on and have been dealing with some heat issues, but I’m looking forward to finally cooking again. I expect barbecue activities to pick up again in the fall when there’s less travel.
TL;DR: Cheap beers, decent food and excellent trivia make Whitlow’s on Wilson in Arlington, Va., a weekly occurrence for me and my friends. Despite its idiosyncrasies, Whitlow’s gets full points for not pretending to be anything that it isn’t, and remains a solid choice as a neighborhood bar.
Whitlow’s at Wilson is like a former lover that you keep hooking up with after a breakup. There are (probably?) better options, but the sex isn’t bad and meeting new people is hard. I, along with my group of friends, know this to be true because we’ve been going back to Whitlow’s for weekly trivia for around a year now — that’s included after a “break” in our relationship to try out other bar trivia.
I’ve been meaning to do more reviews of barbecue restaurants in the area, but haven’t found the willpower or the money to do so. So I figured that I may as well start with a place that I’m going to end up at anyways. Whitlow’s at Wilson isn’t a barbecue restaurant, though there are barbecue-related items on the menu — or that’s my excuse anyways.
Located about a block away from Clarendon metro, Whitlow’s is unassumingly nestled in a former furniture store — I found that out from one of the trivia questions from way back when. There’s an affiliated rooftop tiki bar that is separate from the main part of the building. It is easily confused for the actual restaurant because of awkward signage positioning. Inside, the decor is of your typical dive fare — fully equipped with concrete floors and miscellaneous beer paraphernalia.
The sign to the aforementioned tiki bar.
Whitlow’s is full of oddities, such as when you can’t push your chair in because there’s some stick to the floor (the place uses its open space for more bar-related activities during the weekend). And the barrier-less urinals and their almost too-close proximity make going to the restroom just short of being fully awkward — I also can’t seem to recall there ever being any paper towels. There’s a section with pool tables and a few arcade games if you look hard enough; I have yet to partake in such wonderful amenities.
Standard fish over the bar.
The menu consists of largely American fare, with a combination of seafood, bar bites and sandwiches and burgers. There is sometimes a rotating menu of specials that include full entrees normally not on the menu.
“Chicken tendies.” — Laura
Where Whitlow’s on Wilson really shines is its generous weekly specials. Burgers are half-priced on Monday evenings, and sandwiches and craft beer buckets on Wednesday evenings. Tuesdays have all-you-can-eat snow crab legs. Brunch features on the weekend.
Since I typically show up on Wednesdays for trivia (as hosted by the excellent and amazing Damien Wolfe), I can personally attest that Whitlow’s sandwich game is solid, but not really anything to write home about. I don’t believe that the pulled pork sandwich is actually smoked in any way, so it isn’t as authentic as their true barbecue brethren. It is accompanied by a generic commercial barbecue sauce; a bit of tang from a simple vinegar-based Carolina-style sauce could help a lot here. The open face meatloaf is decent and gives a more “entree” vibe as compared to the other sandwiches. The only thing to be avoided is the southwest panini. Despite being touted as Whitlow’s “most popular,” the portobello mushroom-chicken concoction has been universally panned by our group.
I’ve done worse for four dollars.
The waitstaff is friendly, but appear to be chronically understaffed, or on Wednesday’s at least. It isn’t uncommon for your waiter or waitress to disappear for up to an hour at times dealing with a pretty large number of tables. Flagging them down is pretty the only way you can get their attention sometimes. Try to get your check early if you don’t want to spend too much time waiting around.
Despite it’s quirks, Whitlow’s gets the benefit of the doubt by remaining thoroughly and unabashedly true to itself. And honestly, I would be willing to put up with much more for four dollar sandwiches.
Without overselling itself, Whitlow’s manages to — almost comically — have something for everyone. Whether you fall under the “bitches who brunch” category, regular drunk, trivia aficionado or seafood addict, Whitlow’s on Wilson will have something for you. And therein lies the rub: by attempting to appeal to everyone, Whitlow’s doesn’t necessarily excel in any particular thing. At the very least, it makes it easy to bring groups of friends (or former lovers, if you’re into that).