Jul 28

Market Table

Why Come Here? Interesting, casual New American with friends, parents or a date; cool but not overly so vibe

In today’s dining scene where every new restaurant is required to serve at least some seasonal and local ingredients, you could pretty much call any one of them a “market table.” But when Market Table opened in 2007 this sort of practice was something of a novelty. Maybe that’s why it seems to be somewhat forgotten by the food community these days. But Market Table deserves to be remembered. The ever changing seasonal menu has allowed Market Table to “keep it fresh” both literally & figuratively. Maybe it’s not quite as cool as it once was, but sometimes you need something a little more chill especially in the West Village. It remains a great spot for that comfortable meal with friends or a date when you want something suitable to all pallets with a few surprises.

Market Table is from the same owners as The Little Owl and basically looks like a slightly bigger version with an open kitchen. It’s got a great corner space in the West Village at Carmine and Bedford. The interior is cozy and rustic. And when we said we wanted to split everything, they even did it in the kitchen and served it on separate plates. Did you know places still do that?

The menu is loaded with vegetable options but will keep those looking for meat or seafood happy as well. The current summer edition is light and perfect for beating this heat. Here’s what we had:

Market Table, West VillageQuinoa Hush Puppies (special) 2.5/4 stars If you’ve spent time in the south, you’ve probably engorged in the sweet, fried deliciousness that are cornmeal based hush pupies. Here’s your hipster version made with quinoa and a chiptole mayo. They were gobbled up without haste.

 

Market Table, West VillageHeirloom Tomatoes 2.5/4 stars Tomato season is upon us and you are required to take advantage. These are pretty simply prepared in a light avocado crema with some basil. Which is all they need.

 

Market Table, West VillageBrooklyn Burata (2/4 stars) Creamy burrata is always a winner, but what really got me on this one was the strawberries. Sweet, delicious and exactly what you need on a summer’s day.

 

Sea ScallopsSea Scallops (2/4 stars) Scallops are one of those high-floor, low-ceiling foods as long so they’re fresh and cooked well. These are and the corn riostto and refreshing cucumber salsa make a pleasant addition. You won’t go wrong with this one.

 

Market Table, West VillagePancetta Wrapped Pork Tender 2.5/4 stars If you’re given the option to double-down on pork, you take it. The crispy pancetta wrapper plays the perfect companion to the tender meat inside. The tangy pea greens and fennel salad keep it light and fresh.

Right Amount for 2? 1-2 apps & 2 entrees

Market Table
54 Carmine Street (@ Bedford St.)
New York, NY
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Posted in New American, West Village | Leave a comment
Jul 22

Curry Hill Crawl

Curry Hill Crawl I was recently invited to attend the First Annual Curry Hill Crawl hosted by the Indian Fine Dining Group. After my trip to India earlier this year, I was very excited to try some authentic eats back home. I was not disappointed.

For those unfamiliar, “Curry Hill” is the southern stretch of Murray Hill where the smell of frat basement is replaced by the much more pleasing aromoa of Indian spices. And here it’s easy to remind yourself that cuisine of the subcontinent is about a lot more than just curries (we had one in about 20 dishes). This year’s crawl stopped at three restaurants all on Lex between 27th & 28th Sts. that featured Bengali, Kebab and Southern spots. Hitting all three in a row gives you some idea of the variety of Indian cooking out there. I highly recommend checking it out next year. Below are my thoughts on each place:

Haldi (102 Lexington Avenue)  Click to add a blog post for Haldi on Zomato

Haldi offers dishes from the Bengali region of Indian with an emphasis on those from Calcutta’s Indian-Jewish community (who knew that was a thing?) As a result, some of the dishes actually seem more American than Indian. The place has a casual feel with with big windows lighting up the tables in front and mirrors, green chandeliers and serving bowls on the ceiling in back. My favorites:

Haldi, Bengali, East VillageCheese Samosa 2.5/4 stars As soon as I saw this, I wondered why more samosas are not filled with cheese. Biting into it only reinforced that feeling. Its sort of a cheddary cheese with spices and peppers inside.

 

Haldi, Bengali, Curry HillBeet N Potato Cutlet (2/4 stars) More like a little Indian spiced croquette than a cutlet. The sweetening addition of beets is a nice touch and something I had never seen in Indian cuisine.

 

cauliflower, Indian, curry hill, bengaliGobi Lasoni (2/4 stars) One thing I learned while in India is a lot of dishes have Chinese influences. The best way to think about this one is a sweet & sour cauliflower.

Paneer Kulcha (2/4 stars) It’s hard to imagine an Indian meal without some sort of bread. Stuffed with soft paneer cheese, this kulcha (sort of a thicker naan) is a strong choice.

 

Chote Nawab (115 Lexington Avenue) Click to add a blog post for Chote Nawab on Zomato

Think of Chote as your hipster Indian spot. They serve their drinks in mason glasses and the decor is kind of a mix of Bollywood art and modern elements. Unlike Haldi, they’ve decided to hang their serving bowls on the wall. Maybe it’s ironic? They offer more of the curries and tandoori dishes you typically expect but also an assortment of interesting street foods and kebabs. My favorites:

Chote Newab, Curry Hill, NYC, Indian EggplantBaingan Dahiwala (2/4 stars) An eggplant cooked in a sweet & tangy yogurt-tamarind sauce.

 

Chote Newab, Curry Hill, NYCAloo Panner Bharwan (2/4 stars) Potatoes stuffed with cheese. Some things just work in every culture.

Reshmi Kebab (2/4 stars) Indian don’t eat a lot of meat, but they definitely know how to cook chicken. Juicy, spiced and charred with veggies and a fresh squeeze of lime.

 

Dosai (104 Lexington Avenue) Click to add a blog post for Dosai on Zomato

In contrast to the typical color bombs you imagine decorating Indian restaurants, Dosai goes with a straightforward white & black interior. It’s so sleek you almost expect your curries to be deconstructed and curry’s to be some sort of foram. But the Southern Indian food here is as authentic as it comes and affordabley priced.

dosa, uttapam, dosai, curry hill, nycSouth Indian Thali (2/4 stars) We received this thali-style plate above that’s not on the menu, so I’ll break it down. In the middle is a dosa (thin rice and lentil pancake) which is one of my favorite Indian street foods and this rendition if just about perfect. It’s a rip-and-dip food where you take pieces and dip them into the surrounding chutneys. Clearly I couldn’t wait until after the photo to get my hands on it.

In back is an uttapam, is sort of a lentil omelet with a bunch of onions, peppers and other veggies mixed in. It’s a little heartier than a dosa and naturally it’s also meant to be dipped in chutney.

The onion bhaji at 1 o’clock is like an Indian spiced Bloomin’ Onion. It makes for a great snack or palate cleanser between bites.

 

Posted in Curry Hill, Food Festival, Indian | Leave a comment
Jul 17

Fuku

Why Come Here? Awesome fried chicken sandwich

david chang, fried chicken, east villageDavid Chang can best be described as a wizard who spins Korean food into gold. His other restaurants – the Momofukus Noodle Bar, Ssam and Ko – are slammed every night. Milk Bar floods instagram with photos of corn flake covered cones and crack cookies. About a month ago he opened his first fast food venture – a fried chicken sandwich shop called Fuku. Naturally blogs have exploded and people have  lined up and down First Avenue to get their hands on it, even for weekday lunch in an area has approximately zero office jobs. So what are they so excited about?

Fuku is in the old Ko space and has seen little renovation from those days. Given Ko was a $200 tasting menu only restaurant, let’s just say Fuku doesn’t quite look like a quick service establishment. You enter and are greeted at what looks to be a maitre d’ station. It is in fact the counter where you place your order. Payment is by card only. Yup, nothing is what you expect. After ordering you receive a number and wait for your food to be delivered while staring at the open kitchen and listening to the solid classic rock playlist. If you don’t hear something from Zeppelin, ask for a discount.

The menu is very straight forward – chicken sandwich, fries and salad. The “Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich” comes with nothing but the chicken and some pickles. Those in the know however order the super-secret off menu “Koreano” which adds – get this – pickled cabbage! Yeah, the ladies next to me were pretty impressed. There’s also a momfuku sauce you’ll want to apply that’s sort of a blend of hoison, soy and sriracha.

Fuku is currently opened for lunch Thursday-Sunday and dinner Friday and Saturday. I’d love to see it open late night soon, though the lines might be even worse. They also unexpectedly offer wine, a beer (Tecate) and single pours of liquor. Because nothing says “I lunch in the East Village” like a fried chicken sandwich and shot of vodka.

david chang, fried chicken, east villageKoreano (3/4 stars) As I said before this is the Spicy Fried Chicken with pickled cabbage. But it’s delicious. “Spicy” might be a bit of an overstatement, but the perfectly crisped fry batter has some nice Korean spices going on. The massive hunk of meat is moist inside and partially contained by a soft semi-sweet bun. I’m not gonna say it’s necessarily worth an hour wait, but it is pretty incredibly good.

 

david chang, fried chicken, east villageFuku Salad 2.5/4 stars Remember nothing here is what you expect. This is essentially a bowl of farro and sesame seeds with some chunks of mandarin oranges and  pieces of mint and indistinguishable greenery. It’s quite refreshing and makes a perfect compliment to the sandwich. Plus you waited long enough to order two things.

Fuku
163 First Avenue (10th & 11th Sts.)
New York, NY
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Posted in American, East Village, Korean | Leave a comment
Jul 12

Terre a Terre (Brighton, UK)

Why Come Here? World-class vegetarian cooking

Terre a Terre

Brighton from the Pier (Not Pictured: Terre a Terre)

For New Yorkers unfamiliar with Brighton, think of it as the Hamptons meets the Jersey Shore with a good helping of Brooklyn on top. There are fancy old Georgian homes, a tacky pier, clubs pumping electronic beats and vintage clothing shops all somehow effortlessly coexisting. And a rocky beach. Yeah, don’t come to England to go to the beach. But the thing I was naturally most excited about was the food. This is where the “Brooklyn” aspect shines through with lots of fantastic bakeries and vegetarian restaurants. Terre a Terre falls into the latter category and deserves Must Try Status for foodies, vegetarian or not.

Terre a Terre is situated in a sleek space on a pedestrianized street near the pier and with an awesome garden in back. They’ve been in business for twenty years and when you think of the garbage that served as most vegetarian food back then, you realize these guys were true pioneers. The menu has none of the “tofurkey” fake meat nonsense carnivores despise and I legitimately wanted an order of everything. Look at this menu and tell me you disagree. Fortunately they practically give you that option with their “terre a tapas plate” that’s such a steal for £12 per person you almost feel bad about dumping that tea in Boston Harbor. While it is fairly substantial, it needs to be supplemented with an order of their signature fries, mostly because you need to try them. More on that below. They also have a big selection of homemade jams, curries and vegan baked goods. If this place were in New York, you would easily be waiting at least two weeks for a table. Fortunately such waits do not exist in Brighton, so you have no excuse for not coming here if you’re in town.

Terre a Terre, Brighton, UK, best vegetarian restaurantThe Terre a Tapas Plate (3/4 stars) Described as a “selection of miniature dishes from around the menu” you don’t quite know what you’ll get. But as I said, it’s impossible to go wrong here. I honestly can’t remember a lot of what we got, but there’s definitely some fried haloumi, garlic potatos with harissa, hoison tofu, seasame churros and sweet corn arepas in there. Then there’s a little cheese fondue pot to dip it in all in the middle, as  God intended.

 

Best French Fries, Guacamole, Terre a Terre, Brighton, UKSmokey Scrunch Chips (3/4 stars) If you’re familiar with the Brits and their culinary terms, you know what they call “chips” are in fact fries. These guys are puffy and potatoey inside and a crisp exterior. They’re also dusted with a pleasing smokey spice and covered in an “avocado hash” that’s basically guacamole. Because everything is better covered in guacamole.

Terre a Terre
71 East Street
Brighton, UK
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Jul 09

Meadowsweet

Why Come Here? Excellent New American preparations, comfortable surroundings fit for family, friends and dates

If you look at Meadowsweet on paper, it sort of looks like a lot of other New American restaurants that have opened in the past five years. It’s got that minimalist trendy farmhouse look going on. The menu is small and ever-changing using a lot of seasonable ingredients. So what sets it apart? Comfort and really good cooking.

The tables at Meadowsweet are comfortable and well spaced out, something that honestly is hard to find in New York these days. It’s an enjoyable place to linger for a long meal without being outrageously expensive. They even offer a 5-course tasting menu Sunday-Thursday for the reasonable-by-NY-standards price of $65.

Starters were light, tasty and in unexpected preparations. The entrees were quite meat-forward, but both pieces we tried were great cuts perfectly cooked. I’d probably focus on the apps for a more unique experience, but that’s in no way a knock on the mains. Here’s what we tried:

Meadowsweet, Williamsburg, NYCSmoked Trout Crepe 2.5/4 stars I doubt anyone has ever ordered the smoked trout crepe and expected this to come out. But concealed under that frisee and apple salad is some seriously tasty smoked fish cut by the refreshing taste of golden beets.

 

meadowsweet, williamsburg, NYCCrispy Baby Artichokes (3/4 stars) Another appetizer unexpectedly hidden beneath a pile of greenery. The artichokes below are fried and covered in a creamy garlic dressing. I can’t say I’ve had a better artichoke.

 

MeadowsweetBerkshire Pork Chop & Belly 2.5/4 stars These were both cooked to perfection. I can’t remember what the sauce on bottom was, probably because I was so focused on how good the meat was. They just prepare everything extremely well here.

 

meadowsweetColorado Lamb 2.5/4 stars I was only able to snag a bite of this one, but the lamb was juicy and had some really nice char going on. The harissa sauce was an interesting compliment.

Right Amount for 2? 2 app, 2 entrees

Meadowsweet
149 Broadway (Driggs & Bedford Aves)
Brooklyn, NY
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Jul 01

La Sirene

Note: I was invited as a guest of the establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review and opinions expressed are my own.

Why Come Here? Excellent renditions of French classics, intimate and affordable SoHo bistro

French cooking, once viewed as the pinnacle of high-end cuisine, has fallen somewhat out of favor in New York. Whether it’s trendiness or a desire to eat lighter, when is the last time your friend told you she wanted to go to a French bistro? And to be fair, many places in New York aren’t doing a great job with it. Because of this I think many of us have forgotten why the French are considered Kings of cuisine. Do yourself a favor and visit La Sirene for a reminder.

La Sirene is the flagship of Didier Pawlicki, who also owns next door fondue spot Taureau and healthified French eatery Le Village. Didier – who hails from the South of France and owned a restaurant in Paris for 13 years before coming to New York – somehow manages to serve as owner, executive chef and pastry chef at all three. I doubt he has a moment to think about anything other than serving you incredible French cuisine. But the effort definitely pays off.

La Sirene has the intimate feel of a traditional bistro with wooden tables, wrought iron panels and framed French artwork. The dishes are of the classic French decadence. Items like escargot, coq au vin and cassoulet often have corners cut in NYC or are only available certain nights of the week due to their complexity. But at La Sirene the hard work and traditional methods are used and it’s apparent as soon as they hit your mouth. Another nice touch are the vegetable sides. All entrees come with a rotating selection of 4 different veggies, which allows you focus on ordering the richest, meatiest things you can.

After years of being BYOB, La Sirene recently got its liquor license and now offers a full bar. The wine list is small and mostly French with many affordable bottles, but you can also still bring your own for a reasonable $10 corkage fee. French food is required to be paired with wine after all.

Le Sirene, French, SoHoEscargot (3/4 stars) These little guys are often so drowned in butter, garlic and breadcrumbs you’re not sure what you just ate. While the garlic is certainly potent here, it enhances without overpowering. It’s also great for dipping your bread in afterwards.

 

Le Sirene, French Bistro, SoHo, NYCCreole Mussels 2.5/4 stars The creole mussels come in a tomato herb cream sauce that’s actually lighter than it sounds and is another one you want to soak up with bread once the shellfish are gone. The generous hunks of spicy chorizo certainly don’t hurt either.

 

Le Sirene, French Bistro, SoHo, NYCCassoulet (3/4 stars) The list of ingredients in this dish is practically a who’s who of deliciousness: Cannellini Beans, Carrots, Tomato, Garlic Duck Confit, Slab Bacon and Pork Sausage all Braised with Noble Duck fat, White Stock and Foie Gras Jus. Sadly I only got to try a few bites of someone else’s.

 

Le Sirene, French Bistro, SoHo, NYCFilet Mignon Foie Gras (3/4 stars) Another dish of nearly outlandish decadence – a filet topped with foie gras topped with black truffles in a port and red wine truffles sauce. The filet was melts in your mouth and the foie makes the perfect creamy compliment. I’m pretty sure King Louis eating this every day was the cause of the French Revolution.

 

Le Sirene, French Bistro, SoHoProfiteroles (3/4 stars) Think of this as the French ice cream sandwich. It’s topped with melted dark chocolate and homemade whipped cream. Yes, it’s as good as it looks. (And yes Johnny Prime, I did steal this photo from you.)

 

Le Sirene, French Bistro, Le VillageChocolate Lave Cake 2.5/4 stars Chocolate-heavy desserts aren’t normally my thing so I just tried a bite of another diner’s. I have to say this is some seriously good chocolate.

Right Amount for 2? An appetizer, 2 entrees, 1 dessert

La Sirene
558 Broome Street (Varick & 6th Ave)
New York, NY
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Jun 29

Superiority Burger

Why Come Here? To get a damn good veggie burger

Superiority BurgerLate last week, Superiority Burger opened to much hoopla and hype. What’s with all the excitement? The reason is owner Brooks Headley, formerly of Del Posto, whose veggie burgers have appeared at numerous pop-ups over the past couple years and become the stuff of legend. Finally we are graced with a permanent location. Come to think of it, veggie burgers may have been the last remaining food item not to have a dedicated restaurant in New York. Or maybe even just the East Village. So there’s that too.

Superiority burger is little more than a place to purchase the burger and handful of other menu items (including a veggie sloppy joe). The space is tiny and uncomfortably crowded at about 15 people. There are less than 10 seats, each with a pull out tray table like you’re sitting in the front row on an airplane (because there’s no chance of getting actual tables in here). So expect to be doing most of your waiting and eating outside. Fortunately Tompkins Square Park is just down the street.

So what is this mythical burger like? I’ll start with what it’s not. Nothing made of a mash of grains and vegetables is ever going to compare to a juicy medium rare beef burger. So if that’s what you’re into then just move along. But compare it to other veggie burgers or even a well-done fast food style burger, and things get interesting.

Superiority BurgerSuperiority Burger 2.5/4 stars One of the things that stood out on this versus other veggie burgers is it really resembles a beef burger in many ways. The patty looks like meat. It’s got a nice charred exterior similar to meat. It doesn’t fall apart like many veggie patties. It of course doesn’t taste exactly like meat, but that’s why I compare it more to the less flavorful well-done burger. In terms of actual taste, the mustardy special sauce adds a pleasing zing that’s cooled by ample use of pickles and slow cooked tomato. And it comes encased in a soft potato bun similar to what you get at Shake Shack. Overall it’s a very enjoyable burger, with a fraction of the guilt of a traditional one.

 

superiority burgerCharred Broccoli Salad (2/4 stars) It’s worth noting the burger is kinda of small, so you’ll want something else to make your visit into a meal. The charred broccoli is the only permanent side on the menu as of now and comes with bird’s eye chiles, cilantro, peanuts in a mushroomy paste. It’s pretty unique and tasty and much easier on the waistline than an order of fries.

Superiority Burger
430 East 9th Street (1st Ave & Ave A)
New York, NY

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Jun 24

Plant Love House

Why Come Here? Hard-to-find Thai specializes, the Sizzling Brownie

Plant Love House is located in the Thai food haven around Elmhurst, Queens. So the fact that they serve Thai dishes relatively unknown to Americans shouldn’t come as a surprise. What does is the fact that they (or any Asian restaurant for that matter) offer up some destination worthy sweets.

Plant Love is on a side street off Queens Broadway that you would never find on your own, although it is just up the road from hot spot Chao Thai. It’s a tiny space with about ten tables, a blackboard and display case counter that looks more like a bakery than a restaurant. There is a small savory menu though that looks intriguing with dishes like shrimp paste rice with sweet sausage and spicy pork blood noodle soup. But dessert was the focus when I came here recently with the amazing baked goods blogger Jenn Baker. We tried their two dessert specialties:

Plant Love House, Elmhurst, Queens, ThaiSizzling Brownie (3/4 stars) It’s presented sizzling in a piping hot skillet like some sort of dessert fajita and this is definitely part of the appeal. But it’s also a really good brownie covered in what will soon become a delicious goo of melted ice cream, caramel and marshmallows. If that sounds good, you need to make this trip. If not, something is wrong with you.

 

Plant Love House, Elmhurst, Queens, ThaiPlant Love Toast 2.5/4 stars This is nothing like the toast you’ve been eating for breakfast. It’s an airy, buttery thick cut of bread covered in honey, powdered sugar and ice cream. You came all the way to the middle of Queens – don’t stop at one dessert.

Plant Love House
86-08 Whitney Avenue (off Broadway)
Elmhurst, NY
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Jun 17

Little Park

Why Come Here? Amazing things done to vegetables, ample booth seating

Credit: Yelp

I have been a fan of Andrew Carmellini since the opening of Locanda Verde six years ago. I find he’s at his best when cooking Italian – pastas in particular – so it was good to see that heavily represented at Little Park. Here the menu is more vegetable-driven using seasonal, sustainable meat and produce. At some point you have to wonder how much local, sustainable food is actually in season at any given time, but its seems like we’re okay for now. And at Little Park, these ingredients are certainly not squandered.

Little Park sort of feels like you’ve entered a rich guy’s farm house. The airy, light filled corner space is filled with little trees, earthy modern art and light wood tables and chairs all feels one with nature. It’s rustic but at the same time modern and sleek. One feature I am a big fan of is the ample usage of booths, which makes it a great spot for a date or catching up.

The menu has big sections of things that grow out of the ground and is sure to keep your veggie friends happy. This is where LP has gotten it’s biggest praise and was my focus too as my companion was not an eater of the flesh. However, there is a large selection of seafood and meat to keep carnivores happy as well. Plates are small so expect to order 2-3 person. They aren’t cheap either (this is the hotel the Kardashians stayed in after all), but reasonable for the quality and amount of space you get. Here’s what we tried:

 
Little Park, Tribeca, Vegetarian, Smythe Hotel, NYC, Andrew CarmelliniSnow Pea (3/4 stars) A light and refreshing salad perfect for summer with mint cooling the bite from the salty piave.

 

Little Park, Tribeca, Vegetarian, Smythe Hotel, NYC, Andrew CarmelliniGrilled Asparagus 2.5/4 stars The asparagus is sliced lengthwise in a Thai green curry sauce with crushed marcona almonds. If you can get me to eat the bottom part of an asparagus, you know it’s good.

 

Little Park, Tribeca, Vegetarian, Smythe Hotel, NYC, Andrew CarmelliniButterball Potato Ravioli  2.5/4 stars I’m not sure I’ve had potato ravioli before, but think of it as a sort of a piergorie. Except it’s covered in morel mushrooms, fava beans and pecorino. Carmellini always nails his pastas and this is no exception.

 

Little Park, Tribeca, Vegetarian, Smythe Hotel, NYC, Andrew CarmelliniBeetroot Risotto (3/4 stars) This was the standout dish of the night and I’ve never had anything quite like it. It also just looks really cool. The mix of beet and goat cheese with al dente risotto make it a tangy, sweet winner.

 

Little Park, Andrew Carmenelli, Smythe Hotel, Tribeca, NYCLive Diver Scallops (1.5/4 stars) I think in liquifying the watercress and coriander, the chef may have outdone himself a little on this one. Plus it looks like your scallops are being engulfed by Slimer.  The scallops topped with spring garlic are still good, but this was the clear weak link of the evening.

Little Park, Tribeca, Vegetarian, Smythe Hotel, NYC, Andrew CarmelliniStrawberry Shortcake 2.5/4 stars Fresh strawberries, airy cake and “milk jam” ice cream makes this one of the best renditions of the classic I’ve had.

Right Amount for 2? 5-6 plates

Little Park
85 W Broadway (@ Chambers St.)
New York, NY
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Jun 14

Big Apple BBQ Block Party Guide (2015 Update)

madison sq park, big apple bbq block party, nyc

The Pig @ 17th Street Championship BBQ

After a few more years of working the rounds at my favorite NYC food festival, I’ve decided to update my original post to represent my new faves and the current lineup. If you’re not familiar with the Big Apple Block Party, I feel sorry for you. But here’s the concept: in early June each year some of the country’s top pitmasters (wizards of making barbecue) bring their smokers and crews to Madison Square Park to gorge you on pulled pork, ribs, brisket and sausage. No tickets are required to enter, which means lines can get long for the good stuff. I recommend you either come with a group of friends to divide-and-conquer.

My top picks are below. I exclude the New York-based Houses of ‘Cue as they can be visited any time.

madison sq park, big apple bbq block party, nyc

Pulled Pork Shoulder @ Ubon’s Barbecue (Yazoo City, MS) rating-4stars Simply put, the best barbecue I’ve ever had. I first had it here in 2006, and I’ve come back every year if for no other reason than to grab a sandwich from these guys. The reason for the 4 stars is not just that the meat is amazingly moist and the slaw somehow perfectly crisp despite sitting in mayo all day, it’s because Ubon’s make the best BBQ sauce period. It combines the tart vinegariness of NC style with the richer, thicker sweeter stuff you typically find in the Deep South. Incredible. And it’s available at Fairway Markets in NYC, as is their outstanding BBQ Bloody Mary Mix.

madison sq park, big apple bbq block party, nycBaby Back Ribs @ Pappy’s Smokehouse (St. Louis, MO) (3.5/4 stars) What make these the best ribs I’ve eaten? First of all, the meat is fall-off-the-bone perfect with loads of flavor. But if you like ribs, you’ve probably seen that trick before. No, this one comes down to the sauce. It’s not the really wet stuff your ribs sometimes come drenched in, nor is it an entirely dry rub. It also isn’t sweet, but smokey with an earthy blend of spices like nothing you’ve never experienced before.

madison sq park, big apple bbq block party, nycChopped Whole Hog Sandwich @ Skylight Inn (Ayden, NC) (3.5/4 stars) I grew up on North Carolina BBQ (well, when I visited my mother’s family) and this is the first place to do it right in New York. The pork is tender  but mixed with the occasional crispy skin cracklin that adds a smokey crunch (though I’d like to see more of them next time). The spicy vinegar-based sauce packs a nice heat without overdoing the vinegar. There was also no line whatsoever this year. Add it to your must-try list.

Pulled Pork Shoulder @ Big Bob Gibson BBQ (Decatur, AL) 3 Star Dish  Chris Lilly is a big time BBQ personality and he makes a mean pulled pork sandwich. The meat is moist and smokey, but it loses points on the sauces which are more overwhelming than flavor enhancing. You also have to wait on typically the fest’s longest line to get your hands on it. For this reason I haven’t been in a couple years and probably won’t unless I find myself in Decatur.

madison sq park, big apple bbq block party, nycBrisket 2.5/4 stars & Sausage (3.5/4 stars) @ Salt Lick Bar-B-Q (Driftwood, TX) The Salt Lick is probably Texas’ best known brisket joint. The salty & spicy rub and 14-hours of smoking pack in a lot of flavor. And their spicy sauce is a top tier mustard-based sauce. Unfortunately when I’ve had it here the meat has been on the dry side. The sausage on the other hand is sort of kielbasa like in style and the best BBQ sausage I’ve eaten.

madison sq park, big apple bbq block party, nycBaby Back Ribs @ 17th Street Barbecue (Murphysboro, IL) 2.5/4 stars Meaty, fall-off the bone ribs with a spicy and tangy dry rub. These are great ribs that have won multiple awards as the the smoke shed painting proudly points out. But personally I prefer the “wetter” sauce and shorter lines at Pappy’s. Though I certainly wouldn’t fault you for trying both. Bonus: These guys put their fully smoked pig on display and offer hunks of meat straight from the carcass free of charge if you get there early.

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party
First or Second Weekend in June
Madison Square Park
New York, NY

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