FoodLocal Business

The District Pit Caters to D.C.’s Raw Barbecue Market

When the subject of barbecue comes up, North Carolina, Memphis, Tenn., Kansas City, Mo., and Texas dinner bells ring, but if Southeast chef Roger Sherman has anything to say, the District will elbow into those ranks soon.

“D.C. has no barbecue culture here,” Sherman said. “I want to make sure my hometown and my business becomes known as a place to get some good barbecue.”

Sherman got into the barbecue business, informally, early in his life. He talks about growing up and eating his mother’s Kentucky-style southern cooking. He speaks about being born on Christmas Day and how, because she was in labor, she was unable to finish the holiday turkey, his father and older sister went without Christmas dinner that year.

He said in his family, he’s the butt of a long-running joke that has him owing them a Christmas dinner when he gets old enough. Years later, he bought his first smoker and made good on that promise. He then started smoking turkeys and hams for Thanksgiving and Christmas events. Word got around about his culinary skills, resulting in the launch of The District Pit in 2016.

“People in this city eat a hodgepodge of barbecue types from around the nation. The District Pit caters to all of the popular types around the nation. I have the molasses-based sauce that is popular in Kansas City and the vinegar-based sauce that is well known in North Carolina. For example, I offer my customers both pork and beef ribs,” he said.

The Pit’s Offerings

In addition to ribs, The District Pit offers brisket, smoked chicken, pulled pork and, if requested, venison and beef shoulder,  for his customers. Sherman plans to add sausage to the menu someday. During the holiday season, he offers smoked turkey and smoked ham. The District Pit offers macaroni and cheese, baked beans, coleslaw and cornbread as side dishes.

The food comes in platters and, if requested, individual dishes with a single serving of meat. The platters are a mixture of meat and side dishes. The individual platters are for one person. Five congressional platters range in price from $150 to $250 and can feed a small event. Five senatorial platters vary in price from $300 to $475 and feed medium and large gatherings.

“I specifically named those platters because Washington, D.C. is the seat of national power and that is something people can identify with,” Sherman said.

The Future

Sherman said The District Pit’s best days are ahead. He has developed a business relationship with the Mansion on O Street in Northwest that will have the entities cooperating with barbecue catering and urban wineries.

“My wife Dawn and I are really caught up in the wine culture here in D.C., which is quite extensive,” he said.

On Aug. 7, Black Men Ventures, an organization with the mission of supporting businesses owned by African-American males, named The District Pit the winner of its second annual pitch competition. Sherman expressed elation at winning the $5,000 first-place prize.

“I decided to compete, thinking ‘What do I have to lose?’ ” he said. “I am used to making presentations so I went for it. I made the presentation and apparently the judges liked it. I am ecstatic about winning the $5,000.”

Sherman said he plans to own a food truck within the next two years. In a few years, he would like to open a brick-and-mortar establishment. For now, he wants to keep his eye on the immediate future.

“At this point, we are focusing on building our catering business,” he said.

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