How far would you travel for honest-to-goodness, authentic American barbeque? As Alaska-raised fans who grew up eating smoked wild game and fresh-caught salmon, we will eagerly drive to a neighboring county to savor juicy flavors that can only be coaxed from meat cooked low and slow.
But 7,000 miles? One American soldier did just that. Returning from deployment to Afghanistan, he drove straight to Mission BBQ for his first meal home.
That must be some special barbeque.
Bill Kraus and Steve Newton are serious it. Becoming friends while Kraus worked at Under Armour and Newton for Outback Steakhouse corporate, they soon discovered a shared passion for barbeque. They became partners and decided to open a restaurant of their own, but not before they were ready to serve extraordinary food (but more on that later).
So that you may appreciate their passion and commitment, we must share that Kraus and Newton took two years to research and prepare for this mission before they were ready to open their location. They became students of methods and flavors, visiting dining rooms and shacks alike at each of our nation’s barbeque meccas: St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina. They subjected family and even focus groups to dozens of recipes and refinements for beans, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese and other sides.
This effort is emblematic of what the owners call “The Mission BBQ Experience.” We say “experience” because Mission BBQ is not only about extraordinary food, it’s about observing and respecting shared values that make us uniquely American: Mission BBQ opened on Sept. 11. For two minutes daily at noon, food service and diners pause while the national anthem plays. And a portion of business revenues goes to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Nearing Mission BBQ, we hope the breeze will carry to you the delicious scent from the on-premise smoker as it did for us. As you enter, throughout the restaurant you will see jerseys and helmets from our local sports teams — the Baltimore Ravens, the University of Maryland and the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as Army, Air Force and Marine items. Items from our local civic heroes — police and firefighters — also grace the walls.
Signs celebrate teamwork and a “we have each other’s back” attitude: “Tradition Never Graduates,” “Return with Honor” and “Soldiers Creed.” Also on display are customer-donated personal memorabilia, including photographs, uniforms, service patches and combat helmets.
Where There’s Smoke
Now, for the food part of the experience: Mission BBQ’s menu offers a variety of meats, salads and made-from-scratch sides. Its motto is “slow food fast,” with food served within minutes of ordering.
We sampled pulled pork, brisket (lean and moist ends, if you’re an aficionado), prime rib, sausage and ribs. The tender Texas brisket was a standout. Both St. Louis-style spare ribs and baby back ribs are on the menu. The ribs pulled apart easily; the dry rub was the surprise however, with a secret ingredient (Old Bay seasoning). We were skeptical at first about mixing our highly-revered sea critter spice in with land critter barbeque rub, but are now believers.
Chicken and turkey are available for those seeking a lighter taste. If you’re one of us whose taste buds are lulled to sleep with the flavorless supermarket-style “smoked” turkey, prepare to wake up. Mission BBQ served up mouth-watering, moist turkey breast with bold, but properly balanced, smokiness. It was our favorite flavor.
Did we mention Mission BBQ’s original barbeque sauce selection? Remember Kraus and Newton’s pilgrimage to barbeque centers around the country? This served as inspiration for seven delicious regional flavors that you get to slather all over your meal.
On the Sides
If proteins are stars of the dish, sides are supporting actors. At Mission BBQ, we had some of the best we have tasted. The baked beans pick up a light smoky taste from the added brisket and reveal a slight hint of Worcestershire sauce. The cole slaw is creamy with a fresh celery flavor. The fries, made from hand-cut Idaho potatoes, were hot and crispy.
Our favorite side was Maggie’s Mac-N-Cheese (named after the owner’s daughter). Far too often, barbeque joints serve macaroni and cheese as a dried-up, crusty, salty, disappointing afterthought. Mission BBQ’s sported firm noodles coated in a creamy cheese sauce with a slight bit of heat. Go there just to try it.
Mission BBQ offers dine-in, carry-out and catering service. For catering events, Mission BBQ brings its experience to you door, delivering your order in its signature recommissioned military ambulance or M35 two-and-a-half-ton deuce and half truck.
If you’re looking for a great barbeque experience, we suggest Mission BBQ as your destination — whether you’re just down the street or flying in from across the world.
7748 Ritchie Highway