When most of us think of regional barbecue styles, Texas, the Carolinas and Kansas City are at top of mind. And Lindsey Ayala, executive chef at Potomac Social Tavern inside the Crowne Plaza-Crystal City, includes each of those on her menu with a homemade sauce. But with her pop-up ghost kitchen, Tom Bones BBQ, she’s going beyond the flavorings most of us think of when it comes to smoked meat. There’s trendy Alabama White Sauce, but Ayala also represents her Baltimore heritage with horseradish cream that’s usually served with pit beef sandwiches. “People don’t believe that Baltimore has its own style, but we do,” she says.
She’s been proving it since Tom Bones BBQ debuted inside the Potomac Social Tavern kitchen at the end of January. “They wanted to launch a virtual kitchen and my boss asked me what’s something I enjoy doing,” Ayala recalls. In 2014, Ayala helped her father open a barbecue restaurant in Dundalk, Maryland. For that business, she created from-scratch recipes for sides including cheddar corn bread, baked beans and mac-and-cheese. Now, she’s also the one tending the flame.
“I’m doing it 100-percent old-school,” Ayala says. That means she spends most of her waking hours feeding the fire of the offset smoker set up on the hotel’s pool deck with oak, hickory and apple wood. Her brisket, for example, smokes for 12 to 16 hours. “I touch every piece of wood that makes the product,” she says. “It’s more personal.”
Besides brisket, meats include ribs, chicken and pulled pork. They’re portioned by the half pound and served with the seven regional sauces. There’s a sampler plate, but perhaps the best way to try it is in the Big Bones Sandwich, which piles pork, brisket and pulled chicken on a hoagie.
“It’s been really fun,” Ayala says of the pop-up, which is available both for takeout and delivery and at the restaurant. “This is something I’m really serious about.” // 1480 Crystal Dr., Arlington
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