Alright, so head up Frederick Road from Old Ellicott City, past that one house with the homemade Bud Light bottle wind chimes and drive maybe a mile total and stop just before you hit the big sign for Dmitiri's (with its massive Wikipedia-esque photo of the platonic ideal of a Greek salad), then pull into the gravel parking lot for the Rooster & Hen Market (2302 Frederick Road, Catonsville) and look out for flashing, makeshift signs by the road that read "BBQ AHEAD," and you're at Wieland's. You're about to eat some of the best barbecue the fine state of Maryland has to offer.
Maryland's relationship with BBQ is tricky, historically. America's seventh state doesn't have the kind of meat and sauce rep that say, Missouri, Texas, or the Carolinas can claim, even though pit beef might as well be the official Maryland sandwich. In the two mile radius around Wieland's there are other options: The Canopy (OK, but not spectacular) or the hyper-patriotic Mission BBQ (decent chain fare if you can stomach George W. Bush quotes on your soda cup). Wieland's is not just palatable BBQ, it's "I'm going to come here like it's church"-level BBQ. It's the BBQ you and your stomach deserve.
You wouldn't think much looking at Wieland's simple set up, really just a trailer with a smoker on the side that's mounted in a parking lot a few times a week. But that side-of-the-road stand simplicity is part of what makes eating there such a treat: They offer only a handful of items, and what they do they do well.
The pop-up is a labor of love from owner Mark Wieland and his family. The stand's official website tells of how Wieland's yearly home barbecue for friends and family grew so popular he figured he'd try his hand at actually selling his signature pulled pork and beef brisket. Blog posts documenting how Mark had his unique BBQ rig manufactured and his subsequent struggles transporting it back to Maryland provide a no-nonsense creation myth for the curious.
The first time I visited Wieland's, it was a sunny Sunday afternoon and Jack Nitzsche's 'The Last Race' was playing on some speakers outside while a small line of customers hummed with activity. It was like walking into a dream, or at least a quiet scene in a pretty solid '70s Hal Needham car flick. Mark himself oversees the entire hardwood smoking operation on the three days a week Wieland's is in operation (currently, Sundays at noon until they run out of food and Wednesdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to "7ish"). As with any good BBQ joint, you get to watch the man himself slap down and cut into a side of blackened bovine breast as you wait to place your order. Once you have your food, you're free to either eat it campground style at a picnic table or inside Rooster & Hen (a kind of cross between a country market and a health-conscious grocery store).
If this is your first time here, you're going to want to order either the pulled pork sandwich ($10) or the brisket sandwich ($11). Or, if you're feeling particularly invincible to cholesterol, you can get them both between a bun in a concoction dubbed "The Great One" ($13). Wieland's pork is dark and delicious, a mixture of sinewy meat punctuated with bites of creamy fat. The brisket may be even better, with a crispy blackened outer layer that perfectly compliments the pinkish center of each tender morsel. Be sure to pick up some of the homemade Kansas City- and North Carolina-style sauces Wieland's provides in handy little condiment cups (and for sale by the bottle, if you're so inclined) as the meat on its own can run a tad dry sans sauce. I lean more toward the thicker KC sauce when I eat at Wieland's but the spicier vinegar-based NC sauce is also quite good. Did I mention you can buy the pork and brisket by THE POUND ($20 and $22, respectively) to take home?
Don't skip the menu's B-sides, either. The ribs, available as a half rack ($13) or a downright Fred Flintstone-ian full rack ($26), tend to sell out fast, so get there early. The half rack is plenty for one or two people and the ribs have a sticky sweet texture that's almost like candy. The pork practically falls off the bone and the succulent pink rib meat is surprisingly moist. For sides, Wieland's mac 'n cheese, baked beans, and slaw more than justify their $3 price tag. The mac 'n cheese is creamy, the beans have little bits of brisket mixed into the molasses, and the slaw is a tangy mix of vinegar, brown sugar, and cumin that has to be tasted to be believed. Honestly, the weakest option on the menu is the smoked turkey (available on its own or with pulled pork as "The Rick") and even that's only when compared to the rest of the menu. It has a nice peppery kick to each bite of white meat that's complimented by the pulled pork.
Part of Wieland's charm lies in the fact that knowing about it feels like you're part of a secret club. While you don't need to utter a password or execute a special handshake with the staff to buy some beef brisket and a can of iced tea, there's a distinctly old school vibe to driving up to a spot by the side of the road at a certain time on a certain day of the week to get a sandwich. While Wieland's hours of operations may fluctuate, what remains consistent is the quality of their smoky, slow-cooked meat.