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Dec. 22, 2005

The Half-Moon shines

by Ethan Kuhnhenn, Online Managing Editor
After school or before a movie, uninformed diners may flock to the new establishments on glitzy Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring. Little do they know that one of the most colorful restaurants, with some of the best barbecue in the D.C. area is tucked a mere block away. The Half Moon Bar-B-Que on Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring is one of the few authentic barbecue restaurants in the region.

The Half Moon features casual dining, and caters to a diverse and predominantly young crowd. The waiters are hip, the lights are dim and the live music is blaring in the background. To many of the diners at the Half Moon, the atmosphere of the restaurant seems to be almost as important as the heaping platters of barbecued chicken, steak and pork that flow from the tiny kitchen. The Half Moon draws such a large crowd not only because it is one of the few decent barbecue restaurants in the area, but also because of the collection of excellent local rock and zydeco bands that play there five nights a week.

According to owner Mark Gretschel, who's been in the restaurant business for some time (he owned Tornado Alley in Wheaton), the house barbecue sauce, which is used on every dish, is a fusion of Texas and Memphis styles. The sauce is sweet and tangy with a slight hint of celery and molasses and is slathered on everything, except for the wings, which are coated with spicy Texas Pete bottled sauce. Don't expect greasy buffalo wings though. The Half-Moon wings are almost like fried chicken, with crispy skin and juicy meat. After devouring the wings, Gretschel recommends ordering the restaurant's most popular platter, the half rack of ribs.

The half rack comes with eight huge ribs that could feed anyone for a week. Cultured diners usually respect quality over quantity, but these rubs, coupled with a heavy slathering of barbecue sauce, accomplish both. Don't over-indulge in the succulent meat however, because the baked beans, with a honey and molasses flavor, should not be missed. Other sides include cole-slaw, which is so-so, and potato salad, which is also a little bland and needs salt. Aside from the beans, the next best side is the fries. Classic barbecue style potato cuts, the fries are piping hot and not greasy at all. They're also great to use for mopping up excess barbecue sauce from your plate.

On the Half Moon's simple paper menus, you'll also find pulled pork and steak sandwiches. The pork is moist and tender, but it doesn't really stand out. The sauce again adds sweetness to the sandwich that makes up for a soggy, McDonalds-type bun. The pulled steak sandwich is also noteworthy; perfectly cooked and not dry like other steak sandwiches. The quarter-chicken stands out as one of the few entrees that can rival the half-rack. The hickory smoked bird is plump and juicy. The barbecue sauce and flavoring manage to penetrate through the skin, unlike the flavorings in some other barbecue dishes. While the chicken tastes mostly like the sauce, it's also smoky, tangy and really good as leftovers.

To top everything off you should try at least one of the Half Moon's two deserts. The restaurant offers sweet-potato and pecan pie. Both crusts are a little mushy, but the subtly flavored filling (especially in the sweet-potato pie), isn't too sweet and has a buttery after-taste. It's a great way to end a near-perfect meal.

If you've been looking for authentic Southwestern barbecue in the Washington area, you'll find it tucked away at the inconspicuous Half Moon Bar-B-Que restaurant in Silver Spring. You can enjoy great traditional dishes at very low prices and listen to local bands until 2 am in the morning at the Half Moon.

The Half Moon Bar-B-Que is located on 8235 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland. Dinner Sandwiches start at $4.25, and platters range from $7.00 to $11.75



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  • nice on February 2, 2006 at 11:14 AM
    this makes me hungry
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