The Midnight Deli at 4701 Georgia Ave NW has a long history in Petworth, and a new barbecue takeout restaurant, Backyard Smokespot, gives this old spot new life. Opened in January by Bernard Belk, Briyon Ford, Jonathan Aparicio and Chef Jason Ford, Backyard Smokespot is a great example of local residents focused on serving local customers.
What was once Duffy’s Deli in 1916 became the Midnight Deli in 1959 when Polish immigrant Danny Gogolski took the spot over. The location eventually became a convenience store, until Briyon and Jason asked the owners last year about using the kitchen to cook. Jason had been cooking barbecue as a caterer and for friends for years but never had his own kitchen. Instead of giving them the kitchen, the owners sold the business to them, and a new restaurant was born. The building still has a convenience store license (until 2020), and once that expires they plan to remove any non-food products. (Like other small convenience stores, you can still pick up aspirin or the ubiquitous phone charger.)
Chef Jason Ford, whose recipes come from and are inspired by his father, cooks all the meat, chicken and fish outside with cherrywood on a smoker on the side of the store’s property. Inside, you’ll find a choice selection of wine and beers to go along with your take-out order, as well as some desserts to complete a meal.
It’s really good barbecue. Jason brought out some of the dishes they serve so we could try them, and each were spot-on for flavor and smokiness. I fell in love with and could not stop eating the Veggie Baked Beans with turkey and pineapple. It’s legit good. Jason points out that the beans are “veggie” because they’re not made with pork — and since the dish has ground turkey in it, it’s obviously not vegetarian.
The ribs were moist, came right off the bone and had a great flavor of dry-rubbed spices. Jason offers sauces along side the barbecue, including bourbon, garlic citrus, North Carolina BBQ, red chili, and a sweet mango habanero sauce, among others.
The lamb chops — and I generally don’t like lamb — were soft yet firm, with a honey bourbon glaze that dripped off. Apparently, I really like lamb now. You will too.
Their menu includes other specialties, like an 8 ounce salmon fillet stuffed with crab and shrimp meat, and a triple-blend cheese sauce for $19.99. I didn’t get a chance to taste that, but I’m looking forward to doing that soon. (You can get a unstuffed salmon fillet for $12.99).
You’ll find ribs (1/2 and whole racks) along with lamb ribs (1/2 and whole), smoked wings, fried wings, and fried fish. And don’t forget the sides like a homemade, very cheesy (but not overly cheesy) mac and cheese (also available as a seafood mac, with shrimp and crab meat).
The green beans come in a light garlic butter sauce, and are a delicious add-on. (Did I mention the pineapple and turkey baked beans? So good.)
Because it still has the convenience store license and doesn’t have a public restroom, you can’t dine in at Midnight Deli, but you can get all the food to go (or catered). And you should, it’s worth it. Delivery isn’t available yet, but they said they’re looking at options and hope to start offering that soon.
The building has a long history in the neighborhood. Co-owner Jonathan Aparicio (known as J5 to his friends) has done a ton of research on the history of the store, specifically the original owners of Midnight Deli, Danny Gogolski and his wife Gloria.
The Gogolski’s found themselves in the news in 1965 when their priest refused to marry the couple because Gloria was black and Gogolski was white. A local pastor agreed to marry them, and the story made the news in local papers and in Jet magazine. A sign of the times, a DC newspaper, the Sunday Star, printed the article in their Obituaries section because they couldn’t figure out how to publish an article about a mixed-race marriage. The Gogolskis remained a fixture in the community for decades, and it’s great to see the restaurant continue to serve the community.
Midnight Deli is located at the corner of Crittenden Street and Georgia Avenue. Go check them out.
Mon-Sun: 12pm - 8pm