- downhill skiing
- desert storms
Geography and climate being what they are, the first two aren’t likely to change soon. But the third one—well, that’s a different story. The art of smoking and slow cooking meat may not be bred in the (rib) bone here, but the rapidly growing number of BBQ joints in town suggests a clientele clamoring for pulled pork and baby backs.
As does the popularity of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party held June 8 & 9—an annual event in Madison Square Park for the past 11 years. It began at 11 AM, and by 11:01 AM, lines had formed around the 17 booths of ‘cue eateries from all around the country. Smoke and live music filled the air as folks patiently waited for smoked sausage or brisket sandwich or “whole hog” or, of course, ribs—beef or pork, in styles ranging from St. Louis to North Carolinian to Texan. Each vendor sold one dish, usually accompanied by a side—who knew there were so many versions of cole slaw? The savvy would grab something from a less-crowded stand, and chow down on it while standing in line at a more popular joint.
Some of the waits were fierce—especially for nationally renowned places—which may have worked to the detriment of those vendors. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q’s pulled pork shoulder (from Alabama) seemed a little dry if not slathered with one of its two sauces. Not bad, more of a not-worth-the-wait kind of feeling. Conversely, the baby back ribs from Pappy’s Smokehouse—a St. Louis place whose stand was relatively unmobbed—were some of the best I’d ever had: the meat succulent and flavorful, with the just the right amount of an almost caramelized sauce, so you got that sweet-and-sour thing going on. I’d always considered myself a dry-rub kind of gal, but my allegiance may be shifting.
A few of New York’s own were smokin’ at the party too. I avoided them, because I can visit anytime, and so can you. Here they are, along with another joint (not at the party, but a personal favorite):
<< Hill Country, 30 W. 26th St., 212.255.4544. Terrific Texas-style (that’s dry rub) grub, served by the pound on brown butcher’s paper.
<< Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 700 W. 125th St., 212.694.1777. Living proof that the Northeast offers great homegrown ‘cue, from a chain that started in upstate New York.
<<Blue Smoke, 116 E. 27th St., 212.447.7733. “Upscale” and “barbecue” aren’t a contradiction at this site, from legendary local restaurateur Danny Meyer, which also houses a jazz club.
<< Daisy May’s BBQ USA, 623 11th Ave., 212.977.1500. A classically trained chef turns his hand to barbecue—which could explain why the sides (so often an afterthought) are as good as the main event.