If you are a kosher carnivore, you have watched the burger and barbecue restaurant trend from afar, dreaming of eating succulent ribs, sliders and pulled brisket. Thanks to the new kosher Blue Star House of Beef, Burgers and BBQ in Rockville, Maryland, that dream is now a reality.
Owner Sina Soumekhian wanted a nice, but casual restaurant with a moderate price point inclusive of community members, where young and old would feel comfortable eating and could afford to return to. Instead of the formality of waiters, you order at the register and then sit and wait for your number to be called.
Soumekhian says that the idea for this restaurant has been marinating in his head for years. Head Chef Andreas Marountas, a friendly man who went to culinary school in Greece, and Soumekhian spent months researching barbecue places and sourcing the kosher ingredients they needed to make the food authentic.
Potomac resident Lisa Charnoff grew up in Houston eating a lot of Texas barbecue at home because there were no kosher barbecue restaurants. Charnoff confirms that Blue Star serves “authentic Texas BBQ”—her favorite is the pulled brisket.
I first went to Blue Star on a Sunday night, and it was packed. Normally I would be put off by having to bring my order to my table because once I leave my kitchen, I want to be served. But I brought my teenage twins along who delivered my beef right to me. Another time I went for a weekday lunch, and it was quieter. Blue Star is already catering large events in the area.
Blue Star is located in the space formally occupied by Siena’s Pizzeria. Soumekhian’s other establishment, Eli’s Deli in DC, is slated for closure due to building renovations. District dwellers and kosher visitors who do not want to schlep out to Rockville will soon get their own kosher beef mecca in the form of Soumekhian’s next venture, Char, an upscale kosher steakhouse under construction in the West End and expected to open by June 2014.
The food at Blue Star is fun family fare with nachos, wings, burgers and BBQ, all flavorful, messy dishes that you would prefer to eat outside your own home. On my first visit I ordered the Texas Hold’em, which consists of three types of sliders. The second time I discovered my favorites: the Blue Star Tacos, featuring pulled brisket in soft tortillas with guacamole, and the Adam’s Ribs.
The brisket meat in the tacos is soft and tasty, and the guacamole has the right kick. I also loved the Two-Step, where you choose two types of meat and get mashed potatoes, baked beans and cornbread on the side. I had the Adam’s Ribs, Flintstone-sized and very flavorful, and the pulled chicken. Texas style barbecue is made with a dry rub, and meats are lightly sauced “allowing the meat to speak for itself,” according to Soumekhian. There is a sauce bar where you can pile on creamy remoulade, tangy Carolina sauce and a sweet BBQ sauce.
Burgers can be topped with chili, guacamole and a fried egg, among other options. Of the many sides, the sweet potato fries reign, but I also enjoyed the baked beans with small pieces of beef and sausage, a major step up from the canned Heinz ones I grew up with.
If you want something lighter, several salads are served with meat or chicken on top. For non-beef eaters, go for the chicken tenders, which were moist and not greasy, and the pulled chicken.
Desserts are supplied by local Sunflower Bakery. Yet after tasting the entire menu, I had no room for another bite. Blue Star offers meals for big appetites for a reasonable price, so come hungry, expect to bring some food home and leave happy, which Soumekhian says is why he is in the restaurant business in the first place.
Blue Star House of Beef, Burgers and BBQ, 301-881-6800, 11417 Woodglen Drive, North Bethesda, MD Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-9 pm; Friday, 11 am-3 pm; Closed Saturday.
Top photo: Onion rings, chicken tenders and Blue Star tacos