Feeds:
Posts
Comments

 

 

 

photo

To me Pork Slope marks a bit of a culmination of the BBQ culture in Brooklyn. It fits right in with the upscale hipster trends like having folky instruments in your 12-piece experimental band. Putting pork right in the name of your 5th Ave Park Slope restaurant seems like a great business move for local-celebrity chef Dale Talde. Sadly though, it seems actual BBQ may be an afterthought in what is really just a BBQ-themed bar. Taking something as pure and wholesome as delicious smoked meat and reducing it to a pawn in your “ambience” game along with PBR signs on the walls and pig statues throughout is a cardinal sin as far as I’m concerned.

Seasonal allergies can only go so far in excusing the lack of flavor in their $9-pork sandwich, on it’s soggy texas toast. The pork tasted like it was cooked in a crock pot and was absolutely saturated with bland sauce. It’s not that Talde doesn’t know how to cook pork, I’ve had stuff from his other restaurant that was masterful, but clearly he wasn’t supervising the kitchen the night I stopped by Pork Slope. Do yourself a favor and walk around the corner to Fort Reno, where they know what they’re doing with BBQ.

photo-2

I will add, though, if you’re looking for a whiskey bar, this place is impressive. They had the most extensive selection I’ve seen outside of Kentucky, even including several bottles of the impossible to find Van Winkle distillery bourbons (see upper right of photo). If you’re willing to pay upwards of $40 for one pour (I’m not), it’s worth a try!


Everybody knows Red Hook took a beating from Hurricane Sandy, and one great way to support the local businesses that suffered a huge financial hit is to get down there and eat! That was all the motivation I needed to finally try Brooklyn Ice House’s pulled pork sandwiches. At 2 for $5 the price is pretty amazing (They’re bigger than sliders, but not huge; I ate two no problem) The quality was surprisingly good too! Real, tender, flavorful pork that wasn’t overly smokey and wasn’t pre-sauced. It wasn’t up there in insane flavor like Fort Reno or Hill Country, so sauce was pretty necessary, but welcomed. It came with a sauce that had a nice hickory sweetness to it. Don’t skip the sweet potato fries at this place either – they were as near to perfect as I’ve ever had, and came with a great creamy dipping sauce.

The vibe at this place is also worth noting. Like a lot of Red Hook joints, the neighborhood feeling is strong. You get the impression everyone knows each other by name, but you don’t feel like a complete outsider either. It’s a dive bar for sure, but the draft selection is carefully considered. Top that off with a great back yard (with a camp-fire happening!) and you’ve got all the makings of the kind of bar that will keep NYC from driving you crazy in the middle of winter.

So in the end what started off as a charitable endeavor ended up feeling like a huge bargain! Do yourself a favor and make the trek to this hidden treasure. It’s places like this that got me started on my BBQ quest in the first place.

Little Brother BBQ

Update 12/18/12: Upon revisiting this place on a weeknight in winter, it was much improved. Considering all the options in this part of Brooklyn, Little Brother may be the best value around, when they get it right. The fries were fresh and not completely overwhelmed with seasoning, and the pork was chopped and succulent. Bring a friend, split a generous order of fries, and two can eat for under $20.

Simple. Reasonable.

I’ve been looking forward to Little Brother for a while. I even delayed going there because I was waiting for the right moment. I had a few reasons for this: It’s the closest true BBQ joint (hickory smoked, slow cooked) to my current residence; I’ve heard good things about the food and the value; And its owners also own The Smoke Joint, Peaches and Peaches Hot House, the latter of which I hold in particularly high esteem and has a great pulled pork sandwich on their broader Southern-style menu. I will preface the following review with saying that this night was probably not the right moment. The day’s stresses were still hanging over me and I was impatiently hungry.

Upon first look, this place has a lot of promise. It’s simple and not excessively
themed. There are five checkered table-clothed tables, and a counter. But don’t be fooled – Little Brother also services its neighbor Hot Bird – yet another in the recent trend of Brooklyn “Beer Gardens” a.k.a. parking lots with picnic tables where you pay $7 for a beer.  Don’t get me wrong; I love them as much as the next pretentious young Brooklynite, but I did not consider the fact that at 9:30pm on a Thursday I would be competing for service with 300 hungry drunks. The friendly staff at Little Brother was overwhelmed. And there’s just something about being one of the only people sitting in a restaurant and waiting twenty minutes for your food that puts a bad taste in my mouth. So if you try Little Bro – and you should – time it against a bar schedule more than a restaurant one. Or better yet, go to Hot Bird with a bunch of friends, order food, forget about it, and be pleasantly surprised when it’s placed in front of you.

Plan an extra 15 minutes for bike parking…

When I finally did get my order they had screwed it up, but they eventually made it right. Sort of. The fries were old and the sandwich wasn’t at its peak either. But all that personal bitterness aside, the chopped pork sandwich ($7.50) really had a lot of potential. It was stacked high on toasted brioche roll. Already sauced, but not overwhelmingly so.  The pork was local organic and delicious. But had a completely different character to the pulled pork sandwich at Peaches Hot House. And the fries ($3.50) were definitely enough for two people and had a really unique rub on them that seemed to be course pepper, salt and brown sugar. Maybe cinnamon. There was way too much of it, but I appreciate the sentiment. There were two sauces available – one incredible spicy vinegar-based that was basically the same recipe they serve at Peaches Hot House, and one more traditional tomato-based that was a little too sweet.

A closer look at the fries

So my first meeting with Little Brother BBQ was bittersweet, but I can’t wait to try it again under happier circumstances. One thing I can be sure of: there’s plenty of room in the Five Boroughs for more places like it.

I visited the much anticipated Fort Reno last night, the second day after it’s opening. Located on Union St in Park Slope/Gowanus with no sign (as of yet), the atmosphere is warm and well thought out for the tiny, tiny space. I honestly don’t know why everyone is hyping up this David vs. Goliath battle with the soon-to-open Dinosaur BBQ a block away. If Fort Reno does a tenth of the business of a typical night at Dino, they’ll have their hands full.

As my group slowly gathered out side, I was horrified to see one of the staff erase Brisket from the chalk board menu, leaving only whole hog pork on the meats side. Panic-stricken, I ran inside and ordered a pound before that ran out too. Thankfully, they were able to find some brisket after all.

All the tables were full when I arrived, and they remained full for the duration. People seemed to be content in lingering after their meal, ordering a second or third beer. Once our food arrived, we hovered around a single platter at the bar, fighting one another for the next bite.

But enough scene-setting, on to the food. The pork was by all accounts, perfect. It was so juicy it was almost as if it was soaked in some sort of magic pork gravy. Miles better than the dry, fairly unimpressive shoulder I had at Fette Sau the other day, with plenty of depth and multiple levels of smokiness.

One great thing about this place is that there isn’t any BBQ sauce to be found. Like I’ve been saying over and over, great meat stands on it’s own. If the meat was pre-sauced, it wasn’t detectable, and only brought out the natural flavors of the pork. Instead, Fort Reno offers two homemade hot sauces that boast tons of flavor and heat, in two different and interesting ways. No need for watered down, tomato-based stuff here.

The brisket was wonderful as well, but the pork was just so amazing that the majority of my friends felt it was overshadowed. It should be mentioned though, that it had just the right amount of marbling, and was really flavorful. It might have been a touch on the dry side, but I thought that provided a nice counterbalance to the really juicy pork. The crisp dry-rubbed exterior served the same end.

Side dishes were equally wonderful. The Collards were great – just vinegary enough and meaty, but not overly so and not at all greasy. Mac and Cheese was simple shells sprinkled with breadcrumbs (seemingly after baking) but packed full of flavor, and quite al dente as opposed to what is often a dish widely accepted as soggy and saturated with cheese. Finally, giant fluffy perfect biscuits set off the well-balanced meal.

This was one of those times that I got more excited the more I ate. By the end I was in a pure glowing state, ready for more, but just satisfied. And what’s more! Prices are reasonable, my friends! Here is a place where it pays to have a group, as prices are a little cheaper when purchased in quantity. All told, a pound and a half of meat and three sides, which easily fed five people, totaled just over $40.

Can’t wait to come back and see what else comes up on the board at Fort Reno!


Peaches has been recommended to me a few times, and though it’s not strictly a BBQ joint (it’s mostly known for it’s Nashville style friend chicken) it’s owned by the same guys at  the Smoke Joint, and it’s a ten minute walk from my apartment, so I figured it was worth a shot.

I went for the hand pulled pork sandwich to get the most unhindered flavor of the meat, but other options like the Smoke Pork Hash (pulled pork, red potatoes, sweet onions, sunny side eggs) and North Carolina Egg Scramble (with pulled pork, pickled onions, and scallions) are sure to appeal to the Brooklynite who loves BBQ and Brunch alike.

The pork had a good flavor, and texture, and a good deal of smokiness. There was already sauce on the sandwich but it wasn’t drenched and the flavor shined through. I ended up adding a heavy splashing of their homemade hot sauce, which proved to be pretty addictive.

The fries that came with it were light and crispy. I think there was also an option of sweet potato fries, but sadly I didn’t hear the bartender if he mentioned that to me. The roasted marinated tomato on the side was a welcomed change from the usual cole slaw. The bun was big but light and crispy, so it didn’t seem too “bread-y” Will definitely be back next time I’m craving pulled pork and don’t want to leave my ‘hood.

I suffered a breakthrough last night. Attending Jazz Standard, as I have maybe 50 times, I looked upon other customers and coveted their BBQ. It isn’t that it’s THAT much more than anywhere else in NYC, it’s just that combined with the usual $20-$30 cover charge for the jazz show, it seems an unnecessary expense.

Last night was a little different though. I arrived at the venue over an hour before the show started, and I was hungary. I asked my waiter if there was ANY option to get a smaller plate of pork or beef than the $18 platters. He matter-of-factly stated “oh yeah, you can get the sandwich, we just don’t have it on the menu” My mind quickly flashed back to the dozens of potential sandwiches I should have eaten over the last three years. Once I regained consciousness I quickly ordered the brisket sandwich. It did not disappoint.

Like any respectable BBQ establishment you have your choice of lean or marbled brisket. Here, you also have the option of a combination of both. I went with fully marbled, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Each piece was hugged by a half-inch layer of fat. You might want to go with the half lean combination, but the marbled was delicious. The short but thick cut pieces of brisket were placed carefully criss-crossed on the toasted bun to distribute the varied texture of the cuts perfectly.

At Blue Smoke/Jazz Standard, they have several different regional BBQ sauces, but only serve the one that best compliments your dish, unless you request otherwise. The brisket was paired with a ‘Sweet+Spicy Kansas City BBQ Sauce’ but the meat was so succulent one would not dare break its purity with sauce. The beef seemed as though it was not marbled with fat, but instead with some kind of love/butter concoction. The melt-in-your-mouth texture was perfectly balanced by a thick salty/peppery dry rub. The sauce was great though, and worked fine with the crispy french fries I opted for to sub out the cole slaw which is the standard side.

If there was anything wrong with this sandwich (and there wasn’t) it was that the grilled garlic bun was slightly too buttery, leaving a bun-shaped circle sponged on the plate. Again, this sandwich was not for those concerned with fat content, but those who know that sacrifices must be made to enjoy something as sacred as a perfect BBQ sandwich.

This place has been in business since the 80’s and clearly does it right. I checked out the Brooklyn Heights location on a freezing Monday night and my party was the only table in the place. Some delivery orders did go out, though. I was lucky that I was able to try the pulled pork, pulled chicken, and sliced brisket. The pork was good – tender and smokey – and basted in a tangy sauce.

The real star for me was the brisket. It was perfectly charred and marbled, and had this homemade taste that I really haven’t had since I’d been living in South Florida. If I had to guess I would say they smoked it over Hickory, but that seems extremely unlikely. Anyway the beef was pretty much perfect, and the brioche bun complimented it nicely while giving it a New York epicurean flair that makes the prices a little easier to swallow.

The side dishes matched in quality, with great thick cut fries, and the mac and cheese had that gooey texture where the noodles and cheese have merged into one. Will definitely be going back.

My plunge into the depths of Brooklyn continues, this week visiting The Smoke Joint in Ft. Greene. For such a pretty little upscale area, the prices at the smoke joint were fairly reasonable. At least they gave reasonable options.

This is the first place I’ve been to that proudly claims to serve ‘New York Style’ BBQ. Sounds promising, but creating a regional identity means more than just naming your entrees after different neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Not to say that’s what the Smoke Joint is doing, just saying its a fine line to ride.

For the pulled pork ‘new york style’ means being smoked over hickory then roasted in bbq sauce. It was pretty decent, having a smokey flavor but being extremely tender from roasting. Unfortunately, the sauce they roast it in is a rather bland vinegar-based sauce that bordered on making the meat soggy and didn’t enhance the flavor much. The sandwich was a healthy size and served with cole slaw for $7.50.

I also tried a side of fries and for $3 got a huge bowl that was definitely enough for two people. The fries were coated in their dry rub but covered in way too much of it. It wasn’t even that it made them overly salty, just too much powder of any sort for fries.

I must also note the rather amazing whiskey (especially rye) selection. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place with six different rye whiskey selections. Might have to come back on my birthday.

Hidden in a land wrought with skin-deep irony and nauseating trust-fund-bohemian hipsters lies a little haven of sincerity and truth. Fette Sau in the heart of Williamsburg is definitely a win, with a fairly digestible value-quality ratio. The atmosphere is exactly what I’d expect/hope for – relaxed open-air vibe with communal picnic table seating, but with a hip sophistication that is pure Williamsburg.

Offering six meat options nightly in counter-style service, this is one of the more authentic places I’ve been to so far in New York. I definitely appreciate being able to pay by the pound for getting the most variety on my limited budget.

The Menu for last night

I tried 1/4lb of the pork shoulder and 1/4lb of their pastrami. I’d never seen pastrami at a bbq place before, but it was the closest thing to brisket they had available on the particular night I came. The pork was fantastic – not so smokey or pink like Dinosaur but texturally satisfying and very flavorful. And at $16/lb its reasonable enough. The butcher was generous with the portion as well. The pastrami was good too – a little bit saltier and tougher than brisket should normally be, but ultimately satisfying after covering it in sauce (like most things in life). I’m curious as to how theirs is prepared compared to some of the NY Style delis. Maybe pastrami is NYC’s true regional BBQ meat?!

Pork Shoulder and Pastrami (Cured/Brined Brisket)

Fette Sau offers three table sauces – original, pasilla chile, and vinegar. The vinegar was lackluster, but the other two were standouts. The original was well rounded – not too sweet and not too tangy. The pasilla was extreme spicy in a dry smokey pungent way. Its definitely a sauce I would keep around the house and use on everything. There was also a really good spicy brown mustard on the table that perfectly complimented the pastrami and pork sausages (that I didn’t try).

I had heard good things about the pork belly – and its generally one of my favorites. But it was on the bone and only sold in one rib increments – meaning the smallest portion available was about a pound. Plus, you’re paying for the weight of all that bone! Had I know the deal before I ordered I would have probably split one with my companion in stead of counting on trying his, but he decided to go with the pork shoulder and boneless beef ribs. The ribs were outstanding and really gave a different perspective on a great cut of meat when you don’t have to navigate the huge bones.

The Bar

I should also mention that the place has a great American Whiskey and local beer selection. Beer is available in growlers for a decent-high price.

Tons of Meat

Jake’s BBQ

Brooklyn – maybe the land of promise for decent BBQ in the five boroughs. Since I’ve began this journey I’ve had the most tips about little hole in the wall places scattered throughout Brooklyn, but the one I checked out this week I stumbled across on my own. Jake’s Kansas City style BBQ in Red Hook looked promising, and didn’t disappoint.

What’s more, I had the incredibly rare opportunity of sharing the experience with a complete BBQ rookie – a friend of mine who was a vegetarian for most of their life and only recently discovered the enchanting world of smoked meats.

Look how excited we are!!!

Jake’s is a humble looking place; there is no hype (yet anyway). The food is quality, but no one thing stood out. The prices weren’t amazingly cheap, but all in all it felt like a good value. Sandwiches hung in the $7-$8 range. Considering this was a special occasion, I wanted a sampling of the wide range of meats available, and Jake’s provided ample choices. Had I managed to gather together 4-5 people I would have gone with their full sampler which includes (take a deep breath) pork ribs, beef ribs, 3 sausages, pulled pork, beef brisket, pulled chicken, a whole bbq chicken, and three sides for $35.00!!!!!! I considered just ordering it anyway and having a week’s worth of leftovers, but found an even better deal: The BBQ meats sampler which included Pork Ribs, Pulled Pork, and Beef Brisket and two sides (went with sweet potato fries and collard greens) for $24.99. Not a bad deal, but I am never satisfied with just not a bad deal, so I hunted down a coupon on their website good for (if you can believe it) a half bbq chicken with a $25 purchase. Ordered an additional side of mac and cheese for the sake of posterity (though I’m sure they would have let it slide) and you have an enormous amount of food that could have easily fed three people for $28.

Its usually a good sign when the BBQ sauce isn't bottled.

Everything was great, but like I said, nothing was the absolute knock-out champion. I guess that’s the sacrifice of a BBQ joint with a pretty diverse menu. The pork ribs were succulent, the pulled pork was smokey, the brisket had just the right amount of marbling and a little edge, the chicken was crispy and tender, and the two sauces (regular, and honey-something) offered plenty of interesting notes. The cornbread was also awesome, with just the right combination of sweet and savory.

I couldn't wait til after the picture to take a bite

I really don’t want to say much more about the food, so much as I just want to convince you to try this place. Rather than wait for 3 hours to get into Dinosaur on a Saturday night, expect no wait at Jake’s, or make a reservation (which I did, although it wasn’t needed). The service was perfect, with our waitress sharing in my excitement for our meat-virgin friend.

If you’re still reading, you probably weren’t deterred by those two words ‘Red Hook’. Part of what makes Red Hook an especially great neighborhood is its difficultly to get to. Its off the beaten path, which to me, gives a kind of Key West quality right in the middle of the metropolis. But Jake’s won’t let you be discouraged. In addition to delivering to a wide range of neighborhoods (even as far as Kensington!!) they have a reverse delivery system where they will actually pick you up and bring you to their place. What more could you possibly ask for? If you don’t live in their delivery/limo service range, simply take any train (BDFG2345NQACMR anyway) to a stop within their range. If this STILL isn’t enough for you, email me and I will come pick you up wherever you live, drive you there myself, and buy you dinner.

**If your issue is making the trek to Red Hook only for dinner (something that’s delayed my visit for weeks) check out a show at one of my favorite venues – the Jalopy Theatre – after dinner. Its 4 blocks south of Jake’s on Columbia St and there is great Americana/Acoustic music just about every night of the week for a $10 cover. Check their calendar.