Smoked Ribs and More to Die For!
[from July 2006 issue]

Obviously, the point of going out to eat is to eat. In some cases, however, eating may entail standing on a street corner, and gobbling down crispy, hot fried chicken wings while passersby stare.

Such is the dilemma of at least one person who stopped and shopped at Brown Sugar Southern Cuisine. Me. OK, so after looking at all its ready-to-go food for 20 minutes or so, I couldn't resist temptation. At least, I didn't unpack the entire two containers of ribs, sit on the curb, and tuck into some of the tastiest, wettest, and meatiest smoked ribs in town. But let's look at the menu first.

If you can get in here between 6 and 11 a.m., you can treat yourself to a whole-hog (pardon the expression) breakfast with such choices as a four-ounce rib eye steak with eggs, home fries or grits, or for slightly more money, a T-bone steak and some sides. My choice would be something slightly less daunting, such as the homemade waffle, two eggs, and your choice of meat -- ham, bacon, sausage, or scrapple.

Fortunately, pickier eaters can order most breakfast dishes a la carte, which cuts down on the obvious calorie overload.

The kitchen also comes up with assorted breakfast sandwiches, but frankly, these wouldn't inspire me to get out of bed very early. And indeed, as someone who counts spareribs as one of the greatest gifts to the inveterate gourmand, I'd save my whole trip for the smoked ribs.

I couldn't believe the size of the serving, though I did mistakenly order a whole slab, enough for two strapping soccer fans, if you add on some sides and cornbread. There was so much meat that at least half went into the freezer for a future pig out.

But Brown Sugar offers so much more: turkey wings, Salisbury steak, candied yams, sliced roast beef, and beef short ribs smothered, to name a few. Even the fried catfish, two or three big fillets to an order, plus sides make a worthy.

Unless you are single-minded, however, you run the risk of carrying out enough food for the neighborhood, because besides watching the overhead TV, or staring downstairs at the cooks in the kitchen, there's not much else to do except order more food. And that's how I ended up with a three-inch-thick slab of white cake with a gooey chocolate frosting -- they were out of banana pudding.

Cake mixes are pretty upscale these days, but this sure tastes like a from-scratch cake: dense, moist, and rich as butter. Other cakes decorated the shelves of the glass counter, and one was an odd red color that looked positively art deco. But next time I'll call ahead to see if the banana pudding is ready -- that's sure to be mighty tasty.

What else can you say about a place whose logo is three pigs dressed in chef's garb and wearing sunglasses? There's no table service, there's no seating, there's no bar, and there's no décor as such. But there's food that is so good you will make eating here a regular habit. Lucky are those who live right around the corner for they must eat well, and weigh about 500 pounds.

Brown Sugar Southern Cuisine (928 U St., NW; tel., 462-2370). Hours: Sun.-Thu., 11am-9pm; Fri. & Sat., to 10pm. Entrée price range: $7.95-$21.95. Credit cards accepted.

Copyright (c) 2006 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Alexandra Greeley. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.

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