Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008

New barbecue restaurant opens in Bowie

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Susan Whitney⁄The Gazette
KBQ Real Barbecue owner Kerry Britt shows off some of his more popular meals, including the beef brisket sandwich platter with sides of macaroni and cheese and broccoli salad (left) and a full slab port ribs platter with jalapeño cheddar cornbread, shrimp potato salad and baked beans.
Kerry Britt may be new to running a restaurant, but he’s been around barbecue all his life and in the food industry for more than 17 years.

So the Florida native is peculiarly suited to starting a barbecue joint in Bowie, which he did two months ago. Britt said he has been lucky enough to discover what he truly wants to do in life: to be around barbecue and to be around music. He and his wife, Lya, combine both at KBQ Real Barbecue, which held its grand opening on Saturday.

Traditional jazz and old school funk permeate the air in the dining room. Between opposing walls of pale lemon and bright yellows, decorated with music-related artwork, black tables surrounded by clear red chairs echo the high, black-painted industrial ceiling.

In this ambience one can truly relax and savor the flavors that match the mood, almost recalling the old-time family barbecues that inspired Kerry Britt’s cooking.

KBQ features a line of smoked meats and barbecue flavorings Britt has long used for catering clients, which he developed by sifting through his father’s and uncle’s recipes to develop his own flavor profile.

That profile, he said, is a mixture of wet and dry rub spices, a special baste for the meat, and oak and hickory wood for smoking.

‘‘The key to a good barbecue is the meat should taste good without the sauce,” he said. ‘‘If you have to drown the meat in sauce, then you’re hiding something.”

Even the fish — usually tilapia, salmon or catfish — is first smoked, then grilled, never fried, giving it a rich, lingering flavor and tender texture. That said, the sauce is not to be forgotten, either.

KBQ has three sauces: an original barbecue sauce; a sweet and spicy sauce; and an unusual, tangy white barbecue sauce, with hints of vinegar and horseradish, that goes especially well with chicken and fish.

But barbecue has its classics, and KBQ’s best sellers are the pulled pork, pork ribs and beef brisket. These are available in a variety of forms.

By the pound, the brisket and pork are $12.99 and $10.99 each, respectively. The ribs run $9.99 for a half rack and $19.99 for a full rack.

Customers can also try dishes a little lighter on the meat: for example, the pulled pork sandwich ($5.59), combo ($6.49) with one side, or platter ($9.59) with two sides and choice of bread. Smoked chicken runs $4.99 for a half and $9.99 for a whole, or one can enjoy a half-chicken combo ($6.49) or platter ($9.59).

With barbecue so often being a family experience, the Britts also offer ‘‘family feasts” on the menu, ranging from $20.99 to $35.99, and featuring choices of chicken, ribs, brisket, pork or sausage with various sides and sauces.

Kerry Britt also said he plans on making halal beef brisket available, for Muslim customers who eat meat only from animals killed in a religiously specified manner.

KBQ’s sides ($1.99 to $2.99 regular, $3.99 to $4.99 large) include classics like baked beans and macaroni and cheese alongside more unusual tastes such as shrimp potato salad and grilled vegetables — a surprisingly popular offering, the Britts said.

And no such meal would be complete without a sweet ending — for only $2.59, choose either the key lime pie or the delectably buttery bread pudding, which they said had already been praised by their diners.

‘‘We want to be a good neighbor,” Lya Britt said. ‘‘[We are] trying to build a community presence.”