While many D.C. restaurants are in limbo during the novel coronavirus crisis, BBQ Bus is expanding.
The 9-year-old company, which started started as a food truck and grew into a smokehouse in Brightwood three years ago, just opened a weekend carryout counter inside the Tastemakers food hall in Brookland (2800 10th Street NE). The new operation comes with a few new menu items: a barbecue bacon burger (short rib, chuck, brisket) that comes with tots, deep-fried wings, and rib tips. Customers can order online for pickup and get delivery orders through DoorDash and UberEats. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.
When the pandemic caused BBQ Bus’s food truck, office catering, and events businesses to dry up overnight, takeout and delivery were the only revenue streams left.
“When a lot of places temporarily closed, we went the other way,” co-founder Che Ruddell-Tabisola tells Eater. “The idea is everyone is working from home, and very few people cook three meals a day at home anymore.”
Rudell-Tabisola says the most popular order during the pandemic is its family “PACS” (pork, angus, chicken, and sides) that feed two to six.
Soon after the novel coronavirus shut down much of D.C. in March, BBQ Bus expanded Brightwood’s hours from three days a week to seven and added breakfast (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to the takeout counter.
Rudell-Tabisola wanted to target another residential-heavy zone for expansion, so BBQ Bus landed on Brookland. He’s longtime friends with Tastemakers owner Kirk Francis, whose Captain Cookie food truck already supplements BBQ Bus’s office catering menus. Francis offered BBQ Bus the vendor space formerly occupied by Taqueria del Barrio. The Brookland location offers an additional pickup point for catering orders for its barbecue bundles.
Rudell-Tabisola says much of the Brookland menu is fried, which “is good and bad,” because he expects to gain weight. Over the opening last weekend, he says he stress-ate 30 of Francis’s cookies.
To help promote the expansion, BBQ Bus also added a new lineup of hand sanitizers made by Ivy City’s One Eight Distilling. The three-pack of 6-ounce bottles ($45) is made with organic aloe vera and essential oils that provide different scents, including Ya Bacon Me Crazy, Holy Smoke, and Grapefruit Daydream. A portion of proceeds help provide meals for local healthcare workers and their families. .
“We wanted something for the shop, and said, ‘Let’s put bacon in it,’” Rudell-Tabisola says.
For Memorial Day weekend, BBQ Bus is teaming up with Boardroom DC — where Ruddell-Tabisola used to bartend back in the day — for pickup and delivery.
Two, four, and six-person barbecue bundles come with growlers, wine, and cocktails, and can be picked up at Boardroom or BBQ Bus’s two locations.
Because the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the supply chain, BBQ Bus has pulled brisket off the menu and plans to sub in Logan Sausage. Soaring prices for beef are a factor, but “inconsistencies” are also an issue, he says.