When the smell of delicious charred flesh hangs in the air around our nation’s capitol, you know it’s time for the National Capitol Barbecue Battle.
Sponsored by Safeway, the Barbecue Battle is DC’s shout-out to state fairs. Spanning at least five blocks, plus side streets, the Battle features bungee cords, carnival rides, basketball courts, and a rock climbing wall for the kids. Two stages feature live music. Various companies offer free samples of their products: Honey Bunches of Oats, Kettle Korn, and Dasani all tempted visitors with plastic cups of their wares. You can sample varieties of hot sauces, or have your photo taken in front of the Oscar Mayer Weiner Mobile. (You’ll also receive a free Oscar Mayer Weiner Whistle, which, let me tell you, is worth the price of admission.)
The focus and purpose of the Battle, however, is barbecue, and lots of it. Both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue are lined with stall after stall advertising ribs, wings, brisket, and pulled pork, each with their own catch phrase or special sauce. If you look hard enough, you can find rarer treats: crab cakes, or (my personal favorite) alligator bites, which taste like pork, or a juicier chicken. To balance your nutrition, traditional state fair foods are in abundance as well: funnel cakes, bloomin’ onions, and foot long corn dogs glisten with oily excess in the afternoon sun.
The Battle has a weird $10 entrance fee, which only appears to grant you the privilege of walking around the festival and eating its food. Most of the northeast quarter of Washington comes out for the Battle, so be prepared to wait in line for your meal. All the barbecue vendors, as generic as they may appear, are competing for top prizes and trophies for their grill skills. Come both days and sample twice the grub!