Hill Country Barbecue Market is a new restaurant with locations in Washington, D.C. and New York City. I visited the WDC location, which, is on 7th street in downtown. Great location because, the Verizon Center and Gallery Place are one block up the street. It’s a really lively area at all times. They should do well because so many of the restaurants in the area are upscale and their style is certainly more relaxed.

Atmosphere: It’s got that whole rustic, western look to the location with natural wood tables and floors. They also have a process for how you’re seated and order. This was a little bit of a problem. Here’s how it goes: When you walk in, the host/hostess asks you if you’re planning to stay or do take out… I think. Then you have to decide what you want to eat right there. She then gives you a card to take to the back of the restaurant where someone gives you the food you’ve designated on your card. The food pick up area is sorta cafeteria style. Then you either find a place to sit or proceed back to the front registers to pay. Since I was doing take out, this whole process got mucked up because there was no one at the front when I walked in. Luckily, the person in the back explained the process to me and accommodated me through it. For the style of this restaurant, that’s too much confusion. So, based on my first 10 minutes there, they get an F… And I haven’t had any food yet…

Service: Again with an F. Since I did take out, I can only critique the hostess and the guy in the back that gave me the food. While the guy in the back tried to fix the situation, the hostess – after I went back to the front to get that card – treated the situation like I should’ve know how their process works on my first visit. So, for all the redemption the guy in the back created, the rude hostess killed it all over again. They stand at a great big F… As a side, I did noticed they have servers, but, given their process, I’m not sure what they do.

Food: We’re going with a C on this. Before I go any further, I’m a barbecue snob. My family is from the south, so, soul food, southern cuisine, BARBECUE is something I grew up with and have developed an affinity for. This experience has confirmed something new for me – there is a difference between country food/barbecue and southern food/barbecue. Hill Country Barbecue Market is country food.

The ribs and the chicken are rubbed. I prefer my barbecue dripping in sauce. That’s the southern way, I do believe. AND, it was a bit bland. I prefer my barbecue well seasoned. Again the southern way. I’ve had rubbed barbecue that was great, but, this wasn’t it. But, the side dishes were good… unique versions of country favorites.

The final word on Hill Country Barbecue Market: It’s a D. I even went back a second time just to make sure I wasn’t being unusually harsh because of the hostess-with-the-leastest, and, the food was worse. Got the system down, but, was hoping for an improvement in the food. Didn’t get it. So if you’re in NYC, try Virgil’s – it’s better. And if you’re in WDC, try Rockland’s – IT’S better. And for those of you in NYC who remember Tennessee Mountain in SoHo, none of them are as good as that. I do miss Tennessee Mountain…