We’ve spent most of this month talking about how you, the home cook, can smoke/grill/marinate your way to a better backyard barbecue. And Food Republic Grilling Month has been a huge success (we only got a few "help, black smoke" Tweets over the weekend). But last week, we got to talking in the office about indoor barbecue — specifically, what is up with New York City and barbecue restaurants these days? We’ve found ourselves in the middle of a boom, with the opening of a string of successful restaurants both big and Brooklyn. The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells went so far as to deem East Village pit Mighty Quinn’s worthy of two stars, noting in 24pt font that Big League BBQ Arrives. We’re not so sure this is a new thing, given our allegiance to six-year-old Hill Country in the Flatiron District. But we cannot deny that you can find some might fine 'cue in this city. Here are our top picks:
OK. First things first. There is nothing like authentic Texas barbecue, found in the under-populated region outside of Austin. We’re big fans of Texas’ beef-centric barbecue, which might be our favorite in the country. But if you must get your brisket fix outside of Texas, Hill Country is a great place to look. The behemoth of a restaurant is modeled after Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas (they even source their sausages from there). They’ve been in business for six years and have the smoker straight dialed. Just step up to the plate and order away — by the pound, of course. That is how they do it in Texas. Go with the moist brisket and thank us later. 30 W 26th St New York, NY 10010, 212-255-4544 hillcountryny.com
Dinosaur started in upstate New York as a food truck of sorts. Pitmaster John Stage, a certified badass dude, would haul a 55-gallon drum to Harley rallies and serve smoked ribs and pulled pork to his biker buddies. In 1988, he opened his first fulltime restaurant in downtown Syracuse and eventually opened in Harlem in 2004. A great many people have made the pilgrimage uptown for barbecue that doesn’t align with a certain region; it’s more utility player barbecue — with dry rubbed ribs and Carolina-style pulled pork. And don’t sleep on the barbecued half chicken plate. There’s a Dinosaur location planned for Brooklyn, set to open later this year.
Some people have forgotten about Fette Sau, a Williamsburg urban barbecue pioneer. Well, most people forget about their night at Fette Sau after sampling from the restaurant’s epic bourbon stash. What we do recall is some wonderful Berkshire pork shoulder, pork ribs that can sometimes be dried out under a blazing heat lamp (you order from a deli case). Beware, especially during off-hours. When it’s around, the pastrami is just really good. We aren’t writing much about sides in this story, but the broccoli salad and German-style potato salad are really worth trying.
After building a successful New York City advertising agency, Bill Fletcher sold his share to a partner to focus on establishing a "better work-life balance." Apparently, work-life balance also includes mastering the art of slow-cooking various cuts of meat in the smoke of blistering maple and red oak logs. With his newly opened barbecue restaurant in the white-hot Brooklyn food neighborhood known as Gowanus, the former ad man has partnered with one of the best in the business. Matt Fisher formerly ran the smokers at Wildwood and R.U.B (Righteous Urban Barbecue) before hooking up in 2012. On the menu are barbecue classics like St. Louis-style ribs and Texas-style brisket, as well as atypical 'cue like char siu pork steak. 433 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215 fletchersbklyn.com
Top-notch BBQ right smack in the middle of Manhattan’s East Village? Yes, this is correct. Mighty Quinn’s dishes out tender brisket and fall-off-the-bone spare ribs in a modest setting, complete with a counter and both individual and communal wooden tables. The newcomer has even earned the praise of legendary pitmaster Myron Mixon, who is set to open his own barbecue joint only a few blocks away. The Brontosaurus Rib is a force to be reckoned with (bet ya can’t finish it) and sides are definitely not overlooked here – we recommend the sweet potato casserole with maple and pecans and the burnt-end baked beans. 103 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003 mightyquinnsbbq.com – George Embiricos
Also see: Blue Smoke, Brisket Town, Georgia’s Eastside Barbecue, Wildwood BBQ, Daisy May's BBQ USA, Virgil’s
Check out our Year In Barbecue series, with ‘cue from Memphis to Eastern Carolina to Hawaii