Smoke Reviews: local BBQ restaurants
The best all-around area BBQ review site has got to be http://pigtrip.net/. I can’t even begin to try and emulate his expressive and descriptive excellence, and he has been everywhere in 3 states. When Lynda and I eat BBQ, we usually first try a brisket before the rib offerings. I think our reluctance to judge ribs comes from our frequent experiences with uneven quality. Good ribs are wonderful – but they can go wrong so many ways… our limited experience involves many bad rib experiences, so we’re reluctant to depend on ribs for a great meal. I look forward to ribs at places like Q and Dinosaur – and usually come away very satisfied. Good brisket, like the moist version at Hill Country, is always astonishingly great and satisfying. I hope, through having to write about my BBQ experiences, to refine and sensitize my taste and discernment.
At the top of the page are some Burnt Ends from R.U.B. (Righteous Urban Barbeque) on West 23rd St., which closed not long after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
I have been visiting “The Roundup” Texas BBQ along the side of Route 9 up in Cold Spring NY. since September 2014. A quiet little place on a Saturday afternoon, I stop in on my way home from visiting my sister in Beacon, NY. I can always depend on melt-in-your-mouth brisket and praise-worthy ribs. The help is pleasant, the food delicious, the sides distinctive, and I have seen pit-master Bill every visit – he has often strolled out to say hello and ask how the food is. Haven’t been this excited about a find in awhile. Good bark on the ribs – this is one of the few places where I used the table sauce and thoroughly loved it. The marbled fatty brisket, full of smoked flavor is Lynda’s favorite – plus the place is set up for entertainment (bands there several nights a week) with an outdoor dining and listening area. Plenty of parking.
We had a chance to stop in at Billy Bob’s BBQ in Poughkeepsie, NY this summer and found good ribs and pulled pork and smoked chicken – and were delighted by the “Pork Explosion” (bacon wrapped in sausage wrapped in bacon). Helpings were gargantuan – the Sampler we had lasted for days.
A visit to Fette Sau is a BBQ lovers life-goal; I had heard about the pioneering smoke-priest owner and the legendary quality of the meats. On our visit to Williamsburg Brooklyn (on our way to a rare D’Angelo concert that was cancelled while we were in the car) we saw everything we had been expecting in terms of gentrification and the types of hipsters walking in the streets, along with
lots of cool eating, drinking establishments. Fette Sau itself was easily missed – a small neon sign over a back alley. Small, concrete-floored, with room for about 40 people, it was hardly full while we were there but very loud – not a destination dining experience.
We sampled the brisket, pulled pork, ribs and German potato salad. All were good – but the brisket was very fatty – excellent taste but too soft and glutinous for great mouth-feel. I should have asked for a dryer piece, and we plan to return some day and sample again – this place, and the original owner Matt Lang has such a high rating that we feel we should give it another try.
Bailey’s Smoke House is a local eatery in Blauvelt in Rockland County that we go to once a year. Lynda likes the Brisket – I find it densely textured, and it comes slathered in BBQ sauce, which I dislike. The St. Louis Spare Ribs (dry rub) are large and meaty; the Baby Back ribs (marinated) are very good. The real standout here is truly the Sweet Corn Soufflé, which is one of the greatest sides I’ve ever tasted. Worth the trip alone.
Blue Smoke is a very good BBQ dining experience in New York City. I have always enjoyed is the service here – friendly and solicitous: multiple wait-people descend with fresh table service, food platters and quality inquiries. I am happy to pay a premium for this attention. We last went during Restaurant Week in August of 2014, Lynda had brisket, and I had the baby-back ribs. The brisket was flawless – it truly melted in our mouths. The ribs were very good. Worth going back to once a year.
Mighty Quinns is just down the street from where we go to church – there are two older locations in Brooklyn, and this first Manhattan outpost is our first experience. MQ’s mission is to provide “authentic barbeque experience in a casual fast setting” – and though the space is very modest, it presents as aged, worn and warmly informal. We’ve never gotten past the brisket sandwich. The last visit, 8/15/13, I got the brisket sandwich again, ate the meat with a fork as I nibbled the brioch-type bun top, and was completely pleased (again) with the taste – tender, juicy, full smoke flavor, salty bark, and my side of sweet-potato souffle (topped with pecan/brown sugar crumble) was like eating a dessert. Very modest joint, but totally memorable eats.
Virgil’s, just off Times Square, was our first Manhattan BBQ restaurant. There are tourists in amongst the regulars – I always see many New Yorkers sitting down to the ribs and other specialties. Lynda LOVES the Hush Puppies – served with maple butter, this cornbread appetizer is a meal in itself. We almost always go for the simple brisket sandwich. The brisket is dependably tender and moist, and the sauce minimal but tasty. I have rarely tried the ribs here – they only serve Memphis style – but they are dependably enjoyable. I honor it as our first NYC BBQ smokehouse treat. We haven’t been back in over 10 years.
Hill Country I have never tasted such good brisket – Hill Country never disappoints. It pretends to be a down-home joint with the usual cattle-Texas-picnic table kind of decor, but you can’t walk out without dropping close $40. each. The portions are normal, the taste is exceptional. If I had to choose one place for brisket – this is it. I have actually found the ribs to be forgettable – I don’t order them anymore. The last time I paid $20. for 4 monstrous ribs and found them tough and grisly – inedible.
Hill Country Chicken Your fried chicken dream! The chicken tenders done in “Mother Ells” style were crispy and juicy, and the breast done the Hill Country way was moist and crusty. The dipping sauces – BBQ, Honey Mustard and especially the Buttermilk Ranch. They have a menu of pies that looks knockout too. It was loud, crowded, and the seats were cafeteria – but I’d go back for a taste of that tender heaven. Fire ‘n ice pickles, fried cheese mashed potatoes, spicy french fries in a sack… it’s all good. Been back several times, never disappointed.
I’ve eaten several times at the Dinosaur on 125th street in Harlem – it’ll teaches me how good pork ribs can be . Lynda thinks the brisket sandwich is good, but the ribs absolutely melt in my mouth. The moment I take the first bite I thought I was in heaven – the smoke taste filled my nostrils, the meat was tender and not too fatty, and pulled off the bone luscious and rich. It was like discovering a small vein of pure gold. Portions are generous, the wait-staff and all the help were pleasant and welcoming, and though loud and boisterous, it was the great sound of busy eatin’ and good times. We go at least once a year – sometimes we sit in the bar (always a wait for tables) – and it never disappoints. One of my favorite BBQ experiences – cold beer and those Dinosaur ribs.
Holy Smoke in Mahopac, New York, was brought to our attention by my BBQ mentor, Mr. Ken Jernigan. Easy to find, great parking, not too big a dining room, very nice staff. I’ve ordered the brisket sandwich with sautéed onions on both visits and it’s not only been wonderful meat but I’ve taken half of the huge two-fister home for a second meal. There were other inventive offerings: brisket and chicken quesadilla’s (you could also have them pulled-pork) were an exciting new experience, as were the BBQ spring rolls ( beans, cheese, pulled pork). Our St. Louis rib appetizer was okay too – with a crusty rub and tender meat – our friend thought the ribs were excellent. The friend’s husband thought his fried chicken was the best he ever tasted – and he’s notoriously hard to please. A great, informal BBQ experience – huge portions, great tastes.
Q Barbeque Restaurant and Bar. The ribs can have the feeling they had been around awhile, and spruced up with fresh sauce while being warmed… but a dose of the 1/4 rack is a worthy side to your meal. I split a quarter rack with Lynda, and it was enough. I’ve had the brisket here and often found it dense and uninteresting, like London Broil – a solid, boring slice of meat smothered in sauce. The chicken fingers are my favorite here – super crispy and tender, great with the honey mustard sauce served with it. I’m stickin’ to the chicken. There is a short list of dishes and sides – something for everyone – the pulled-pork is tolerable and the House-Cut fries epic; it’s a nice, utilitarian place with solid food. The only worthy Lower – Westchester County BBQ centered restaurant worth visiting for a “Q” fix.
John Browns BBQ was recognized by Pigtrip, and since it was in the neighborhood of 5 Pointz, the graffiti-covered building in Long Island City we visited several times in the summer of 2012, Lynda and I eagerly checked it out. We had the Burnt Ends, the Rib Tips, the Brisket and the John Brown Reuben – definitely enjoyable. Alice and I went back in May 2013, on a trip to 5 Pointz, and had the rib ends along with a pulled pork sandwich. We got a quarter pound of Burnt Ends to go for the car. Tasty, moist, worth stopping in always.
7/23/13 – Nephew Jonathan and Lynda and I go to 5 Pointz and then to JB’s – brisket, burnt ends and real french fries – whotta lunch! Those burnt ends are tasty, crusty, slightly sweet, tender and very easy to take.
Daisy May’s BBQ USA is a small place on the west side of Manhattan with little on street parking – it’s food is a Zagat Survey favorite and the establishment gets lots of press – but the dining area is extremely modest and the place is set up for mostly takeout. Because of the parking issues we usually just stop in to pick up a small snack – favorite is pulled pork with the mac and cheese. Not enough charm or memorable food for a destination sit-down. The original owner who made it famous sold it long ago – so don’t make the effort unless you’re close by.
American Glory BBQ in Hudson, NY, is not on our local list of joints (80 miles upriver) – but we were in the town on a road trip and stopped in. The brisket was exemplary and portions generous, but the ribs were sorry and dry. I actually sent them back and the house gave me a load of pulled pork as a replacement – but a place that would send
those ribs out to be eaten needs to get itself together. I’d go back for the brisket and to try some of the other items. But they need to prove themselves now.