Federal Hill wins PA’s Best Barbecue – Something good happened in Erie, 9/25/2020

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:


You know that game people play where they ask, “If you could eat just one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Turns out, foodandwine.com’s David Landsel chose barbecue. When I first saw his article, I couldn’t believe one guy was in charge of rating the best barbecue joints in all 50 states.

Consider that eating barbecue for lunch and dinner every day of the year only gets you to 14-15 places per state. No salads. When you read the guy’s article, you can tell he takes it seriously and gets around to a ton of places, but how? The magic of Santa Claus? Maybe David Landsel is the Santa Claus of chowing smoked meats.

Considering his schedule, it’s a high honor for such an aficionado to even come to Erie to check out Federal Hill Smokehouse. Once he did, he was sold, and now all of this great state’s millions of people are looking up at Ryan and Autumn Atzert as the barbecue royalty of Pennsylvania.

As for us in Erie, we’ve known Federal Hill belongs in the pantheon of greats ever since it opened. The first time I went there for lunch, I took the afternoon off from work just to savor it. Still, it’s nice to have that independent validation. It’s like, you’re always going to love your kid, but someone else telling your kid he’s special puts you up on a cloud. You’re got dang right he is.

I’m not sure how much this will change things for Federal Hill in the short term, if at all. They’re going to wake up and smoke the kind of meat that’d make my vegan Aunt Mary question her whole thing, and if you’re in line early enough to get some well that’s lucky for you.

Something like this is about more than just drumming up business, though. Food is an experience, and providing that consistently, uniquely great experience puts you alongside storied Erie institutions like the Plymouth, Sara’s, Dominick’s, New York Lunch, etc. They all do it a different way, offer completely different vibes. For Federal Hill, the vibe is the food and the food is the best there is.

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