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Archive for the ‘Manhattan’ Category

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.

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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.

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Spoonbread Too

Chopped BBQ Sandwich and Fries

Spoonbread Too

I won’t make it a habit to write about this kind of place – not really a BBQ restaurant, but one that does specialize in BBQ. I’m choosing to give a quick write up on this because it was just a good place all around.

The atmosphere was cute. There’s no other word for it. There were curtains on all the windows and you really felt like you were in somebody’s grandma’s kitchen in the south.

I got the chopped bbq sandwich with hand cut french fries. The chopped bbq was actually spare rib meat. The rib meat was tasty, but the sauce was pretty generic. The fries were great and tasted completely home-made.

The real highlight wasn’t really bbq, but my compatriot’s fried chicken. It had amazing texture and the spices ran deep with intensity. Her side dish of candied yams was outstanding as well.

Fried Chicken and Candied Yams

All in all, the prices were a little high but they run great lunch specials! Both dishes included free homemade lemonade and cornbread for $7!  Great atmosphere, good food and a decent value.

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Hill Country BBQ

Hill Country BBQ has been voted best BBQ in NY and one of the top 10 in the US. Based on the famed Kreuz Market in Texas, this place gets it right.

In the Texas meat market style, you order meat at the butcher counter and pay by the pound. The brisket – just the right amount of fat, succulent, juicy, flavorful. No sauce necessary. The brisket was amazing but at an outrageous $22.50/lb, which seriously rides the line of home much good food is worth. I mean, I guess its a better deal than flying to Texas to get it, but barely.

The mac and cheese was fantastic as well but also at a pricey $5.50 for the smallest available portion.

They do give you free white bread and tons of crackers. So I got 1/3 lb of brisket and one small side, plus the bread and crackers and was totally full and satisfied for a lunch.

One thing I found interesting is that they didn’t have pulled pork at all, a staple at most of the other places in town. Hill Country focuses on the things they do extremely well, rather than convoluting their menu. Plus now I’m not forced to compare them with other places that do specialize in pulled pork.

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Brother Jimmy’s

Went to Brother Jimmy’s this week and it left me feeling kind of luke-warm. On one hand, their Wednesday night special – 25% off with a Southern State ID – is a good deal. On the other hand, the prices are high and 25% really only comes out to a couple bucks.

If you’re really trying to make your money go a long way you might consider their other Wednesday night special – the “White Trash Menu” – an All-You-Can-Eat selection of Fried Chicken, Meatloaf, Rib Tips, Mac and Cheese, Hush Puppies and something else for $13.95. I like variety but I’m not so into the whole AYCE thing when its more than a regular portion on the menu that will generally satisfy me. Maybe one week I’ll fast for two days and then try it.

I had the brisket sandwich, which is $10.75 (minus 25% on Wednesday). One nice thing is you have the option of lean or marbled. My waitress persuaded me to go for lean but I wished I had gone for marbled, since it was kind of dry. The flavor of the meet was pretty OK, not great, but would have stood on its own without sauce. Unfortunately the bun was way too thick and dry, so I had to completely soak the thing in BBQ sauce. I seriously hope that this bun was just stale and not what they normally serve, but my waitress assured me that they’re fresh daily.

One nice thing about Brother Jimmy’s is the variety of regional-style sauces on the table. There are 5 Sauces: Chipotle, Blazin, Orignal, Carolina (Eastern Carolina Style Vinegar Based), and Mustard Based. The Blazin is very hot and pretty much destroys the flavor of any meat you put it on (and I LOVE spicy food). The original is actually a pretty good Memphis style sauce and goes great with the brisket.

I opted for Mac and Cheese as my side. It wasn’t as good as Dinosaur’s but pretty good in its own ways. It wasn’t super cheesy but it was light and buttery, and the bread crumbs were a nice touch.

This place goes through great lengths to try to feel authentic. I’m just not sure if they’re going for a specific regional identity or just taking bits from all over, but if I had to pick one I’d say it is Carolina style. They even have Cheerwine, a cherry soda that most Carolinians know and love, but is rarely found elsewhere.

So to review:
Pros
Sauce Variety, Options, Decent meat, but nothing worth freaking out about

Cons
Prices (even with 25% discount), Generic Feel

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Dinosaur BBQ

Dinosaur is my favorite BBQ in New York so far. That being said, I still have many many places to visit on my continually growing list. And while the portions are generous, the prices are still above what I consider to be the reasonable threshold for BBQ (or RTB from this point forward).

Today wasn’t my birthday, so I went with one of the more affordable menu choices – the pork sandwich platter. The sandwich is decent sized, and comes with two sides for $9.95. The portion is acceptable for lunch but for dinner you’ll probably want to supplement it with an appetizer (the fried green tomatoes and the BBQ wings are both OUTSTANDING.

The pork here is bonafide; smokey, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and delicious. They top it  off with a little bit of sauce, but not too much to overpower the flavor of the meat. You can of course add as much as you want at the table.

The side dishes are great too, each with something that gives it a bump over the typical choices. The mac and cheese is one of my favorites in town. There’s something in it that to this day I can’t figure out – some kind of cheese or just a mix of spices – but it gives it an extra depth of flavor that is unparalleled in any mac and cheese I’ve had anywhere else.

The ‘Syracuse Salt Potatoes’ are drenched in a buttery sauce that could almost be called a hollandaise, and the fresh cut fries are top-notch as well.

So this brings me back to the point I’m always considering – here we have a real BBQ place that is somewhat reasonably priced, and the wait to get in last Saturday night was two and a half hours. I decided to come back for lunch the following Saturday.  Clearly there is a demand for more of this kind of thing in New York, right? Well apparently Dinosaur is expanding, moving to a larger building a few blocks away in the coming months. Helpful hint: they accept reservations up to 6 months in advance.

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Dallas BBQ is no favorite place of mine. If fact, I think its a big part of what is wrong with BBQ in New York. But I still manage to eat there on average of about once a week because of a deal they have that is just too good to pass up. Part of me feels like I’m screwing them over a little bit each time I get it.

The deal is this: BBQ Sauce basted rotisserie chicken sandwich with fries, baked potato, or yellow rice, and cole slaw for $4.99.

Of course their whole plan is to get you in there and convince you to drop $8.99 on a sugary frozen margarita. Amazingly though, this deal is even available for delivery or take-out, which is what I highly recommend. You can’t, however, order using their online ordering system, you need to call to order. You end up saving money on drinks and tip if you grab it to-go. Not that you shouldn’t tip your take-out server, but I tend to tip less than I would a waiter at a table.

If you do decide to dine in and you just have to get a frozen drink, the best deal is to get a Texas size, add an extra shot for $1 and share it with someone. If you’re by yourself the regular size for $5.99 with the extra shot for $1 is an ok deal. Then you’re getting a meal and a huge alcoholic drink for about what you would spend on just a sandwich at most places.

The sandwich is not really BBQ, its rotisserie; but it is smothered in BBQ sauce, so you can pretend. The fresh cut fries are pretty great, or for a slightly healthier option the baked potato is good sized. I don’t like cole slaw and when I ask them to skip it I think I usually end up getting more fries.

The chicken isn’t amazingly flavorful, but it is extremely juicy and the sauce is tangy enough to make the whole package great. In my neighborhood (Washington Heights) great rotisserie chicken isn’t so rare, but I can imagine living/working around other Dallas BBQ locations where affordable lunches are harder to find (I’m looking at you Times Square and Upper West Side) the value of this deal increases 10-fold. Try it out and let me know what you think!

I promise next week I will cover a REAL amazing BBQ place that was in fact the inspiration for the conception of this blog. I just wanted to give myself a chance to go there at least one more time before I try to capture the essence of the place. Stay tuned!

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