Hearth Pit serves smoky meats with out the fuss of Brazilian steakhouses

Most days, you’ll discover Gui Gonzalez on the again finish of his Hearth Pit Brazilian Barbecue truck, standing over a grill loaded with St. Louis-cut spare ribs, wrapped in foil, and thick slabs of brief ribs, their flat bones protruding from the sides of the fatty beef. Even when you can’t see Gonzalez, he’s simple to find. Simply search for the smoke billowing round Rockville Pike and First Avenue. Or higher but, stick your nostril within the air and take a deep breath: You would possibly get a whiff of the eucalyptus lump charcoal that the gaucho burns, its aromas clear, cool and coniferous.

Gonzalez’s grill is one thing of an olfactory magnet. The Brazilian native tells me that generally drivers shall be idling close to the intersection and abruptly discover themselves getting hungry. “Lots of people come and say, ‘Man, I used to be stopped on the visitors gentle and I may odor it. I noticed the smoke, and I needed to come attempt it.’”

My introduction to Hearth Pit got here not from smoke indicators alongside the Pike, however from a textual content from Rudy Zamora-Herrera, the chef and proprietor of El Papi Actual Avenue Tacos in Camp Springs, Md. For these with out a strong grasp of Maryland geography, Camp Springs is a lengthy manner from Rockville. I’d later study that Zamora-Herrera was engaged on a second location in Pike Kitchen and making runs to Rockville on the common, sometimes catching glimpses of the Hearth Pit truck throughout his drives. He, like others earlier than him, lastly couldn’t resist.

Zamora-Herrera despatched me images of his go to, together with a shot of Gonzalez on the grill, the wooden smoke so thick I may barely see the gaucho’s face. Zamora-Herrera then despatched me an image of his unfold: containers of beef ribs, black beans, white rice and these morsels of sirloin cap, known as picanha, with an outer layer of semi-rendered fats that helps preserve the meat moist and flavorful. If I may have transported myself to Rockville that on the spot, I’d have.

My first go to to Hearth Pit, nevertheless, wouldn’t happen till practically two months later, on a scorchingly sizzling day in July, when the mercury was just some levels in need of the century mark. It was the sort of day when nobody must be standing over glowing coals, not to mention surrounded by the urban heat islands of Rockville Pike, which cut back all residing creatures to puddles of water. However there Gonzalez was, tending meats and counting on a single fan within the outside nook of his truck to maintain him cool — and to maintain the flies at bay. The man is aware of how you can endure for his craft.

His specific craft is southern Brazilian churrasco, a mode of barbecue that makes a speciality of picanha, a reduce extra frequent to Brazil than to america. The reduce’s very title tells you one thing: Translated into English, picanha means “rump steak” or “rump cap,” carved from the hind finish of the steer. Picanha boasts a thick fats cap, which Gonzalez trims earlier than searing the entire reduce on the grill to provide it a very good crust. He’ll slice the picanha, then throw the bite-size parts right into a grill basket. In the event you don’t inform him what temperature you need, you’ll get your picanha medium.

I obtained my picanha medium, if solely as a result of I didn’t notice I had the choice to request the meat a shade or two pinker. Regardless of. Seasoned with solely coarse sea salt — and I do imply coarse — the Black Angus beef depends by itself meatiness, supplemented with smoke, to seduce you. Crusty, juicy and chewy in all the best methods, the picanha may be dipped right into a mayo-based pit sauce, however I not often took benefit of the condiment. The meat, like Texas barbecue, doesn’t want it. The sauce, actually, detracts from the fundamental nature of picanha. Each ingredient and each method issues right here: the meat, the trimming, the salt, the charcoal, the grill methodology. Gonzalez nails all of it.

It in all probability received’t shock you to study Gonzalez hails from Porto Alegre, capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and the identical metropolis the place Fogo de Chão opened its first restaurant. That is no coincidence. Rio Grande do Sul is the place the hardscrabble gaucho traditions of previous centuries have been reworked and elevated into an id. Gonzalez grew up with gaucho tradition and churrasco. They’re, as he tells me, a part of his DNA. He and his mother, Gladis Leorato, moved to the D.C. space about 20 years in the past, after she went via a tough divorce. Gonzalez was simply 14 years previous, and he rapidly discovered work in garden care. He finally opened his personal landscaping enterprise.

However he by no means stopped serious about Brazilian barbecue, or opening a store of his personal. Lastly, final 12 months, he set about fulfilling this dream, with the assistance of his mother and his spouse, Fabiana Redondo Gonzalez. He had a rig custom-built in Texas; secured the permits; and located a really perfect spot within the Golden Arcade Procuring Heart, the place the one different restaurant is Yuan Fu Vegetarian, which apparently doesn’t view Hearth Pit as a mortal enemy disfigured by its personal lust for animal proteins. The 2 companies have one thing of a complementary relationship, Gonzalez says. Typically when a automotive pulls up, half the passengers will head to Yuan Fu, the opposite half to Hearth Pit.

You’ll normally discover Leorato working the entrance window on the truck. She’ll take your order; her son will put together it. The menu at Hearth Pit is brief, candy and simple. There are 4 meat choices: pork ribs, brief ribs, hen and picanha, all of which you’ll order contemporary from the grill or have slipped into an eight-inch Italian sub roll with melted mozzarella, arugula, pit sauce and chopped greens drizzled with French dressing. The smokiness of the meat is forceful sufficient to chop via the fats and acid of the sandwich’s condiments and garnishes, which do what they’re presupposed to do: add depth and distinction to the primary ingredient, not detract from it.

However fact be informed, I want the barbecue straight. Just like the picanha, the meat brief ribs are seasoned solely with coarse sea salt, however in contrast to the sirloin cap, the bones are first cooked for hours in a commissary smoker, which Gonzalez constructed himself, earlier than they’re completed over charcoal on the truck. The brief ribs are designed for individuals who admire the pleasures of the flesh: With the bones eliminated, the meat pulls aside in thick, gooey strands, because the meat, salt, fats and smoke meld into one thing better than the part elements.

The hen and pork ribs are marinated earlier than hitting the grill, and as such, they land with extra drive and refinement than the grilled beef. The hen and I, particularly, have turn out to be quick mates. I like the best way its two-bite items, the dry spices nonetheless clinging to the flesh, complement the smoke with extra assertive notes, together with garlic and onion powders. I may eat that hen each day with Gonzalez’s sides of white jasmine rice or black beans, every scented with the light pungency of garlic. I’ve even developed a style for that Brazilian favourite farofa, a dish of toasted cassava flour whose sandy consistency wants each final molecule of rendered bacon fats.

Lower than a 12 months into his new enterprise, Gonzalez is already planning a second location on the forthcoming Solaire Social food hall in downtown Silver Spring. And why not? His model of churrasco aligns higher with fashionable life than these expensive Brazilian steakhouses and their countless parades of all-you-can-eat meat. Hearth Pit is informal. It’s reasonably priced. It doesn’t dare you to eat like a Sixteenth-century royal.

Hearth Pit Brazilian Barbecue

804 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md.; 301-789-8709. Order on-line at

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday via Saturday.

Costs: $1 to $16.90 for all objects on the menu. Meats will also be ordered by the pound.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button