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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.

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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.

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.

AKA: NYC vs. the rest of the U.S.

Every time I sit down to write this post I don’t get very far. My head starts swimming with the chaos and smells off the Big Apple BBQ Block Party and I figure I better give myself a few more hours to let the dust settle. It truly is an overwhelming event for a BBQ lover. Not to mention the thing thats great about BBQ is indescribable. Maybe starting a blog focusing on the subject wasn’t such a great idea….

Anyway, Day one I hit fest festival hard and early, trying several different places in rapid succession. Maybe I overdid it because by day two, the thought of going through it all again made me dizzy, so I just hit one quick spot for lunch and got out. My main goal here was to see how the places regarded as NYC’s best held up against famous places from around the US. The results were mixed, but all in all our fair city held its own I think. Here’s a quick rundown of some of my impressions.

Beef BrisketHilly Country (New York, NY) vs. Jack’s Old South (Unadilla, GA)
If Salt Lick had made it to the festival it would have been no contest, but they we absent for some mysterious reason.

Jack’s – Good mix of marbled and lean, good texture, but lacking in overall flavor in some bites, where Hill Country hits it out of the park every single time, giving NYC a win.

Pulled Pork Dinosaur (New York, NY) vs. Martin’s (Nashville, TN)

Martin's Pulled Pork

Dinosaur Pulled Pork

The best pork I’ve had to date was in Memphis. Nothing has ever come close. So I had high hopes for Martin’s from Nashville.

All in all though, our own Dinosaur BBQ’s pulled pork was great. It doesn’t have that intangible magic that the southerners obtain, but its still some of the best I’ve ever had. The festival just reassured me in that.

Martin’s was great. It had that extra love, that intangible quality that I’ve only found in the south so far. It was also whole hog, as opposed to shoulder only, which might explain a more heterogeneous flavor and texture. Martin’s Tennessee Whiskey sauce was great, but didn’t touch the Memphis ones The hot bbq sauce was very spicy but didn’t take away from the flavor of the meat like some other hot bbq sauces I’ve had. Though Dinosaur was great, I’m gonna have to call this a win for Tennessee.

Other Notables

Pappy’s Ribs (St. Louis, MO)

Pappy's Ribs

Perfect consistency, just the right pull off the bone, great smokey dry rub.

Moonlite Mutton (Owensboro, KY)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJikC4SlHwQ
Like nothing I’ve ever had before. The essence of lamb flavor was deep in the meat. The spices were thick and vinegary, which helped to cut through the gaminess of the meat.

The Burgoo was hardy with tons of meat but the flavor of potatoes pervaded overall.

Wildwood Pork Steak with ‘bourbon onions’ (New York, NY)
I’d never had a pork steak sandwich like this before and there wasn’t anything else at the festival to compare it to. Wildwood is known for their signature dry rub and that was definitely the highlight of this sandwich. Onions were good but not sure if I actually tasted bourbon in them. If I have any complaint its that the steak may have been a bit too thick for the spices to be effective.

No new BBQ Adventures this week, but did you know about the Big Apple BBQ coming up in less than two weeks!? Should be a great way to compare all of the more well known places.

As for this week, my goal is to venture into the depths of Brooklyn based on a few tips I’ve had recently.

Happy Memorial Day!

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.