Judging Restaurants – Hill Country

Hill Country is located at 410 7th St, NW in Penn Quarter. You can see their menu here. We once tried to talk about best bbq in the city back in Oct. ’08. A lot has changed since then. And I’ve never heard more varied opinions than those on Hill Country. I’ve been looking forward to this judging. I’m curious on two fronts – how’s the bbq and how’s the music/bar in the basement?

46 Comment

  • It’s a good “meat orgy” type of place, not bad at all, BUT…Acre 121 stomps a mudhole in it!!! Seriously glad Acre 121 is closer to us!

  • As a proud Texan, I will say…this is excellent barbecue! It’s a shame that it is sooo incredibly expensive.

    Things I love there include:
    Macaroni and cheese
    beef ribs
    Shiner Bock beer
    Blue Bell Ice Cream (Who couldn’t love Blue Bell? AND they gave me a college scholarship)

  • food is good – but mostly because there’s so much of it. Service is terrible – it caters to tourists – I had to wait 20 min for a table for two, with a little buzzer, even though there were literally 20 open tables.. and it’s kind of “buffet” style, where you order your food from the market, so why I had to wait for the “right” open table is beyond me.

  • Opinion from native Texan here: I rate the place 7/10. The BBQ is good, but certainly not the best I’ve ever had. And for BBQ it’s pretty pricey. If you want to have a feast I’d suggest the $25 AYCE option on Monday nights.

  • I don’t like Hill Country–it feels like a chain and I’m not a fan of the complicated ordering system.

    Every single thing on the menu costs waaay more than it should given the fact that you carry it back to your table on a cafeteria-style tray.

    • it is a chain. they have them in NY.

    • Like ess said, it is a chain. And the reality is that, for a space that big in that neighborhood, a chain is probably the only viable tenant in Penn Quarter/Gallery Place (i.e., the only kind of business that can stomach the rent). So yes, it has that “bring your tourists to me”-feel and is a little too expensive for what it is. But the food is actually pretty good, and it is better than nothing.

      Then again, I’m hardly ever going to criticize a place with large pieces of meat and its own smoker, so take my comment with a grain of salt.

  • The food is yummy. Really yummy. I can’t speak to authenticity, but it’s delicious. That said, I’m always floored when I “check out” at how much it cost. Service has been mediocre, but since you get your own food it’s not a big deal.

    The waits are never as long as they say, and you can eat in the bar.

  • BBQ is some of the best in DC (again, BBQ in DC is a pretty low bar right now)…but it is wayyyyyy overpriced. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten there for less than 20 bucks (then again, I’m a meat-a-holic so that may be the problem). Big Red soda is a plus.

    They also bring in some really good acts from Texas to play in the basement stage.

  • I’ve been there twice and enjoy the food and atmospehere very much. It does have the feel of a chain restaurant but hey, that’s Chinatown. Their wings are amazing, it’s a shame you can only get them at the bar and after 5pm. The best deal there has to be the “feed your family” meal special they offer on Sundays. It includes chicken, pork ribs, beef brisket, 2 sides and dessert for only $20. Love it!

  • Hill Country is okay, but the BBQ at Acre 121 is better, and actually the new Smoke and Barrel in Adam’s Morgan dominates both.

    • Is Acre 121 still only having happy hour prices for people living in the apartments upstairs? Granted I know nothing about running a restaurant but I thought that was a tad wacky….

  • I went for lunch and thought the food was delicious and the prices were reasonable. You get can get a generous portion of meat, a side, cornbread, and a soda for under $15. I thought the loud, cafeteria-style dining area was fine for lunch, but I don’t know how that atmosphere carries over during dinner hours.

  • How does this stuff compare with Mr. P’s Rib and Fish off of R.I. Ave? Food only – if i’m eating BBQ from a busted school bus, the atmosphere is the last thing on my mind.

  • Texas-style bbq is an abomination.

  • I thought dinner was a little expensive, and only pretty good. I had high hopes for the brisket and was disappointed. The “moist” was all fat, and the “dry” was tough. When I have an extra 4 hours at home I can make better myself. Still searching…

  • Went there with friends one night.

    We all threw up.

  • As a fan of BBQ…sure it’s authentic Texan, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.

    Ribs – basic salt and pepper rub…not much flavor.
    Kreuz sausage – Jalapeno and cheese and regular – I’vehad much better sausage.
    Beef ribs – decent
    Haven’t tried the chicken.

    Beer- ridiculously overpriced. Sure it’s Shiner, but I can drink that anywhere.

    Overall…it’s a nice option to have in Chinatown, but the prices are ridiculous and the food just isn’t that good.

    I look forward to the arrival of some good Memphis and Kansas City barbecue here in the district.

    • Good, BBQ, and Kansas City should never be put together in a sentence…:)

      • Beer Dude, you need to eat more bbq. (I think that’s good advice for everyone.) Ever tried “burnt ends” from a good bbq joint in Kansas City? So good. I recommend trying it some time.

        • don’t forget lay’s kc masterpiece potato chips

        • That, sir, is an insult! (Kidding…mostly). Having having been born and raised in central Texas for the first 11 years of my life, lived in Tennessee for five more, and having half of my family from North Carolina, I have eaten more BBQ at more places than one can shake a stick at.

          And yes, I’ve had the burnt ends at Arthur Bryant’s before. They were good. But you can’t say burnt ends reps all of KC BBQ.

          BBQ should be about the meat — heavy sauce is meant to cover up the work of a shoddy pitmaster. KC BBQ, in my experiences, relies too much on sauce.

          Just one man’s opinion. (and haha to jm’s comment)

    • Shiner is good. But $2 PBRs and $20 marg pitchers are better if you’re going for value – I’m a fan of starting with a $10 makers and ginger and switching to PBRs to even out the bill. Hopefully by that point the night I don’t care and I’m there for the band and atmosphere. 🙂

  • waaay too expensive for what you get. and what you get is mediocre BBQ at best.

  • Food was kind of…meh. The self-service is kind of a neat idea, but the food is overpriced and having to get up and stand in line at the cutting station is annoying. Much better options for BBQ in the district are (as said above) Acre 121, Smoke and Barrel and (not mentioned yet) Capital Q right around the corner.

  • saf

    It’s expensive, confusing, and LOUD.

    It’s tasty, but not worth the expensive, confusing, and LOUDLOUDLOUD.

  • It’s Texas BBQ, which isn’t supposed to taste like KC or Carolina style. So it’s really not fair to compare it to every other place in the city, because this is the only place where you can get decent beef BBQ. That being said, as a Hill Country native, this stuff is pretty good but not the best ever. It’s about as authentic as I would expect outside of DC. Beef is boss, so if you want pork go elsewhere. The moist brisket is the way to go. All the sides were ok, not great. Frankly, there were too many sides to choose from; anything more than beans, potato salad and cole slaw is egregious 🙂 I love Kreuz sausage, but I was a little disappointed that they didn’t make their own in-house. The ordering system is one of the things I like most because that’s actually how they do it in TX. However, it is very expensive and loud. I would recommend takeout. I won’t be spending a ton of time there, but if I have a craving for brisket and don’t have the 24 hours to put into doing it properly, I’ll go here.

    • +1 My thoughts exactly. Good review.

    • Plus they offer pickles and onions. You can’t have Texas barbecue without pickles and onions on the side.

    • Agreed! It’s as close as DC can get to the good eats available in the Texas Hill Country. It’s spendy and loud and not perfect…but when I want a little taste of home – it’ll do me until I can book a flight. I don’t understand what’s complicated about the ordering system…you get a card – tell the meat counter what you want (by weight or number of pieces) move to the sides and head back to your table. Done and done.

  • BBQ is very good for DC, side dishes are delicious. Country music warms my heart. Folks working the food stations are really friendly and helfpul.

    Service in the dining area is abysmal. We literally never saw the waiter again after he dropped off our first round of beer. Food is self-service– it can’t be that difficult.

    FYI, while there is Shiner in abundance, the Lone Star signs are flair only– they don’t actually have Lone Star beer.

  • I get the impression that it’s how most of America thinks DC wants its food served: incredibly complex bureaucracy and with very little assistance in navigating it. The food was ok the time I went but their ordering/menu system is set up in a very dumb way. And they kept pushing the all you can eat option. I’m no longer a teenager, I now prefer to not gorge myself on food, thank you very much.

    The BBQ itself is ok. Not good; just ok. I don’t plan on going back.

  • Great place. A little overpriced, but I can imagine rent is high in Penn Quarter.

  • The service is so so so so so so so bad.

  • I like it. The food is a better value if you get one of their combos. I personally like the brisket, mac and cheese, and sweet potatoes. For those complaining about service, I don’t understand…were your drinks slow to arrive? That’s pretty much the only thing the waiters do.

    I’ve enjoyed the downstairs twice. First time was for a pretty decent country band. The second time was for awesome live-band karaoke. I’d definitely recommend the latter (the band members even sing backup!).

  • I went there once for a western swing/bluesy band (Wayne the Train Hancock) with a small group of friends, and we tore up the dance floor. It was soo awesome. Unfortunately, nobody else was dancing. Nonetheless, I have to say, I appreciate this place hugely for providing a place for honky tonk / western style couple dancing, as I don’t know of any other such place in DC (please advise if I’m wrong!)

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