Category Archives: BBQ

BB King’s

There aren’t many places left in the city to get a really good meal while you watch live music. Minton’s, Duane Park and Blue Smoke come to mind, but those joints are small and almost always limited to jazz. I love the B.B. King’s venue. They get a great variety of artists coming in there, ranging from old time blues guys and rock bands, to country stars and rappers. Yeah, they have jazz too, of course, but B.B.’s really has everything – including great food.

I had been to B.B. King’s once before to see a show, but I never thought to eat there. In fact I didn’t even realize that the other side of the venue has a nice big restaurant called Lucille’s; I’d only been to the bar and stage side with smaller, less “fine-dining” style tables. So when Chef Wenford Patrick Simpson (Chef Patrick) reached out and invited me in to review and try his food, my interest was piqued.

I read up on Chef Patrick, browsed his menu online, and instantly became eager to take him up on his offer and give this place a spin. Chef Patrick began cooking as a kid in Jamaica. While attending high school he was offered a job at Club Caribbean, where he was an intern, to begin immediately after graduation. He worked many resorts before taking his skills to the sea on Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise lines. Later, he settled in New York City, where he became Executive Chef at Negril Restaurant. Now, not only is Chef Patrick the Executive Chef for B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, Subrosa and the Highline Ballroom here in NYC, but he’s also the Executive Chef at the Howard Theater in Washington D.C. Wow! I don’t know how he does it all. B.B. King’s alone is crazy. That kitchen gets incredibly busy when both Lucille’s and the main stage room are packed to capacity and the orders are flying in.

So what’s next for a man with such an impressive pedigree? He’s launching his own cooking show, called “Cook-Up with Chef Patrick,” on the TEMPO Network – a pan-Caribbean culture and music television channel.

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His food has been awarded “Best in Taste” at both Spring Taste NYC, 2015 and Taste of Times Square, 2016. Sometimes he heads to Times Square, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s to give out tasting samples of his creations. In fact, Bloomingdale’s rated him its favorite chef.

It’s easy to understand why. Chef Patrick pushes boundaries in the kitchen. His goal is to create a unique dining experience; he takes Southern and American cooking to the next level with Caribbean spices and flavors. He cooks with love and passion, and his personality is as fun, warm and comforting as the dishes he serves to customers.

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Below is a look at some of those dishes. First, the starters. Chef Patrick brought out a sampler for us to try, along with some of the full sized plated versions of each.

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Let me start with front and center: mini chicken and waffles. These things are delicious. Savory, sweet, fresh, crisp, tender and juicy.

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Sweet and spicy fried catfish bites. These were so addicting and flavorful, drizzled with a sweet, spicy and creamy chipotle sauce.

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Popcorn shrimp with diced mangoes and a chili and lime sauce. Light, refreshing, and a real pop of flavor with each bite.

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We tried two different styles of wings. First was a brand new menu addition, the jerk chicken spice wings. These were our favorite between the two. Lots of great bold flavors, and Chef Patrick really brings the flavors of Jamaica to the table.

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The bluesy BBQ wings were good as well; we just preferred that strong jerk spice flavor.

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This bowl of chili is thick and hearty enough to eat with a fork! It had an incredible smoky flavor with just the right amount of heat.

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One of their best sellers is this nice, fresh chopped salad, with avocado, corn, bacon, tomato, goat cheese and a light vinaigrette.

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Smoked brisket sliders with Blues Boy BBQ sauce (same sauce as the bluesy wings). These were super tender and delicious.

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Speaking of brisket, the BBQ brisket here rivals some of the best dedicated BBQ smokehouse joints in town. It was incredibly tender and flavorful. In addition to brisket, Chef Patrick also fired up some amazing short rib, pork ribs and jerk chicken (the latter comes with a mango salsa).

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Again, the distinctly Jamaican flavor profile associated with jerk chicken is really killer here. This chicken was slow cooked BBQ style and resulted in super tender and delicious meat.

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But what southern-inspired meal would be complete without collared greens and a sizzling skillet of mac and cheese?

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The greens were nicely cooked and had a great freshness and zing to them. The mac came to the table bubbling, steaming and sizzling, and had a comforting, soul-warming and hearty cheddar flavor.

And just when I thought this feast was done, Chef Patrick brought out a gorgeous sliced porterhouse!

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The filet side was super tender and flavorful. I can’t believe I was even able to eat it after all that food, but I guess I have a separate stomach that’s just for steak.

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Check out how perfectly cooked the strip side was:

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It had great flavor and was perfectly cooked. For $80 this is one of the best deals you can find in the city to feed two people with steak. And I’d be a fool not to mention the awesome steak sauce that comes with this baby. It’s a bourbon steak sauce unlike any I’ve tasted before. I almost never use steak sauce, but this one was outstanding. I’ve actually been poking around the B.B. King’s website looking to buy a bottle of it, but I’ve had no luck yet!

And just as there is a second stomach for steak, there is also a third stomach for dessert. Chef Patrick made what I declared to be one of my favorite desserts in town. It’s a waffle with ice cream, whipped cream and strawberry sauce – nothing too complicated – but my primary motivation is flavor. This was absolutely delicious. The waffle was crisp and warm on the outside, but soft and tender inside. The ice cream was creamy and smooth, and the strawberry sauce was sweet and tart. Just perfect.

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I think that covers everything we tried. There’s just one other item that the chef brought over to our table to show us. It was an order for another table, so we didn’t get to try it. Fried catfish! It looked and smelled great.

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I guess I will say this in summary: lots of people buy tickets to a performance and they think they need to get food somewhere else beforehand or afterwards. This is not the case with B.B. King’s. Here, you not only get world class music performances, but you get top notch food to boot.

BB KING’S
237 W 42nd St
New York, NY 10036

Virgil’s Real BBQ

I used to live just down the block from this joint back in the day. I’ve eaten here many times, but that was all before I started writing restaurant reviews.

Over the course of the last year or two, I’ve had the pleasure of eating some take-out lunch from this joint, in the form of catered work functions. While I recognize that is not the best format to re-experience the glory of Virgil’s, the quality and flavors are consistent enough to what I remember, I’ve tasted enough different items, and, most importantly, I managed to snag a good enough photo (kidding with that reason, of course), to render out a nice, current, up-to-date review of the various menu items that I’ve tried here.

Let’s take this plate of protein, for example:

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Fried Chicken: Great crispy skin and batter, juicy thigh meat too. All around solid item that can hang with all the big boys of the fried chicken world.

Brisket: A bit dry, but packing an amazing smoked flavor in each bite. Good bark on the outside, but the dryness means that this would require some sauce. I ate a slice or two but got bored.

Pork Ribs: Best thing on the plate. These were cooked properly – not braised or boiled – so the meat had good bite texture and wasn’t falling apart. The bark was super tasty too: sweet but still savory.

BBQ Chicken: Skip it. I love a BBQ drumstick, but this was the worst thing on the plate. It was coated with too much shit so that the spice rub on the skin tasted like grainy dirt mud rather than a crispy spice bark. I was annoyed by that.

Pulled Pork: With the addition of sauce, this would be much better. I generally don’t like to put too much sauce on my pulled pork, but with the right sauce – something with a spicy kick and a little sweetness at the back end – this would be delicious.

One thing I will talk about that’s not in the picture is the jalapeno corn bread. Perhaps the joint’s location in tourist central (Times Square) causes them to approach the corn bread with caution, so as to not kill anyone with spicy peppers. But ultimately that means this particular corn bread falls short. The texture and moisture level was great, but I was hoping for some heat. Bummer. But if you approach it like a regular corn bread, then I think you’ll be pleased.

VIRGIL’S REAL BBQ
152 W 44th St
New York, NY 10036

Hometown BBQ

My first run-in with Hometown BBQ came when I attended Meatopia, a meat lover’s paradise that takes place on the piers over in Hell’s Kitchen. There, I met some of the people and pit masters behind Hometown, and I was thoroughly impressed with everything they presented that day, especially the beef rib.

Needless to say, I made it a priority to get over there and try more.

Hometown is a mix of Texas and Carolina styles – serving up a healthy smattering of both beef and pork, dry and sauced – but it has a heavy NYC influence to the flavor profiles, and the pit masters take lots of free license concerning BBQ fusion ideas.

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As I mentioned in my Guide to Regional BBQ Styles, I believe that NYC is emerging as its own distinctly amazing BBQ style, especially given the varied immigrant communities that touch on the lives of all in this great city.

Hometown takes advantage of that diverse cuisine-culture, as all of the ownership, management and pit masters come from either New York, Brooklyn or elsewhere in the five boroughs. As a result you have menu items like (1) Jamaican jerk baby back ribs, (2) Italian sausage, (3) Chinese sticky ribs, (4) Vietnamese lamb belly banh mi sandwiches and chicken wings, (5) Jewish pastrami-spiced bacon (sinful!), and (6) Oaxacan marinated wood fired chicken and tacos.

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As you can see, the menu is quite varied. And the pit masters will grab anything that comes their way and spin it into a great BBQ fusion dish, whether it’s beef tongue, duck, or whatever, on any given day. Turkey and chicken make a solid presence here. My only regret is that I was too full to try the turkey, wood fired chicken, and Vietnamese chicken wings.

So here’s what we had:

(1) Lamb Belly: This was actually our least favorite of all the meats, but that is by no means an indictment of quality. Think of it this way: You can choose five pounds of gold, or ten pounds of gold. Which do you choose? Ten, of course, but five is still awesome. This meat had all the great soft, yet sticky-crisp flavors that you associate with belly meat, but with the fat flavor of lamb. I can definitely see how this might go well on a banh mi sandwich, as per the menu offering.

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(2) Pulled Pork: This was delicious, especially when adding a little bit of the spicy (bright red) BBQ sauce to it. The meat itself wasn’t over sauced at the outset, of which I was highly appreciative, and it had both a nice sweetness and pickle-pop to it that didn’t overpower.

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(3) Brisket: This was probably my favorite. It was very juicy and had tons of smokey flavor. If you’re a smoke fiend, then add a touch of the smokey BBQ sauce (darker colored container), and you’re instantly transported to wood-fired heaven.

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(4) Italian Sausage: I loved this Brooklyn spin on the classic BBQ joint sausage link. While I do love me some Texas hot links and classic Bavarian sausage, this was a welcome change of pace. It was cleverly served with a light tomato sauce, though it didn’t taste exactly like a traditional parsley and cheese Italian link. The pungent smoke, fire roasted peppers and aged provolone added a whole different dynamic to the meat that truly made it Italian BBQ fusion.

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(5) Jamaican Jerk Baby Back Ribs: Wow. These were really interesting. The jerk spice and sauce create a nice thin bark on the outside, but the smoke causes the flavors to permeate through the entirety of the meat. This was a unique execution of baby back ribs.

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(6) Pastrami Bacon: Pastrami and bacon are two words that perhaps don’t belong together in the NYC Jewish community, as it is straight up not Kosher for Passover, but this was pure heaven as far as sinful eating goes. Crispy, fatty, meaty and all around perfectly cooked, this grill-kissed slab bacon came with a velvety honey mustard sauce that actually paired great with all of the meats we tried.

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We didn’t get down on any sides. Next time. We were so focused on the meat that we lost sight of the other goodies on the menu. I wish we ordered some whiskey sour pickles. My eyes were so dazzled by the meat selections that I completely missed them when I was reading the menu. BBQ + Pickles = Heaven. I am ashamed…

The bars here are great, too, by the way: one in the front, one in the back. They have a Texas vibe, and the drinks are somewhat reasonably priced for the city. My Tecate and neat Jameson came to $13: $4 for the beer and $9 for the whisky.

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The atmosphere here is awesome. It feels like you’re in a warehouse barn that has several fires burning. The smells are invigorating, warm and inviting. This was a perfect refuge from the downpour and cold weather that was happening the day I came here.

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That’s the back room. In the front (through the door to the right of the bar), there’s another big bar room with more tables and a small stage for live music performances. This is the counter where you order your food:

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In short, Hometown is my favorite BBQ joint in the area. It seriously fucking blows away the competition.

UPDATE 7/2/16

My wife and I hit this fucking place like champs today. Here’s a rundown of what we ordered:

Lamb Belly Banh Mi: This shit was legit. The sandwich was packed with good lamb belly meat, and the flavors of the pickled items were just right. The bread was perfect – a buttery French baguette. This baby got the seal of approval from my wife, so you can trust that it is really fucking good. Only downside: there is still some connective tissue in the lamb belly servings. I noticed this last time but didn’t mention it above, because I thought it was maybe a one-off thing.

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Chinese Sticky Ribs: I liked these a lot but the wife thought they were too sweet. The flavors were really layered. Spice, sweetness, and the meat was perfectly cooked to the point where you can bite it and see your teeth marks in the meat.

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Vietnamese Crispy Wings: Another win here. These full wings were nicely crisped and coated with a really delicious tangy and spicy Vietnamese-inspired sauce. Very easy to eat all day.

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Beef Rib: This was a monster. The meat was absolutely perfect. The bark on the outside gives it a textural crunch as well as a shot of electrifying flavor. Fucking awesome. It may be pricey, but if you come here and you don’t get one of these, then you’re a dick.

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Whisky Sour Pickles: This time I remembered to get a side. Since we were having some bread with the banh mi sandwich, I figured I’d steer clear of carbs. The pickles were a wise choice, as they went perfectly with the meats.

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I can’t wait to go back for round three, during which I will try the wood fired chicken and smoked turkey.

HOMETOWN BBQ
454 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Mable’s Smokehouse

My buddy and I came here for a quick bite before sampling some beers at the Brooklyn brewery.

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I sparked up a platter of brisket, pulled pork, mac and cheese and pickled beets. This came to about $27.

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The pulled pork was definitely the winning meat between the two.

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The brisket was a bit dry.

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Actually, both meats were slightly dry, but they were also both packed with flavor. You can always put some BBQ sauce on this shit to beat back the dryness, or some of the jalapeño vinegar that is on each table in the restaurant:

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The mac and cheese is tossed in a nice creamy and tangy cheese sauce, but it lacks crunch or texture. No breadcrumbs or anything toasted on top. Bummer.

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The pickled beets had an interesting clove flavor to them, very seasonal Thanksgiving. They were good, nice texture.

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I even messed around and made this carb-free pulled pork and pickle sandwich with a brisket bun.

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More like a slider, I guess. My buddy put down a proper pulled pork sandwich and a side of mac:

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Over all I’d say this place was slightly better than I expected, which was not awesome but definitely hit the spot. I’d put it on par with Dinosaur BBQ, though it has fewer menu selections. It is NOT on the same level as Hometown or nearby Fette Sau.

MABLE’S SMOKEHOUSE
44 Berry St
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Fat Daddy’s Smokehouse

Fat Daddy’s Smokehouse

Christian, the owner and our waiter, was an awesome host to us, and ended up giving tons of toys to my nieces, ages six and three, who have somehow managed to become vegetarians. I’ll have to fix that, eventually.

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We ordered a big plate of shit, as you can see below. Texas links, burnt ends, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, brisket, and ribs. We also did some mac and cheese as well as jalapeño hush puppies.

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As a matter of fact we did NOT order the chicken. It was given to us by mistake, but Christian left it for us free of charge. Sweet!

Anyway the links were spicy and smoky. The ribs were tender and correctly smoked – not braised – and had a delicious BBQ bark on them. The brisket was tender as well. All too often brisket comes to me dry and devoid of flavor these days, but that wasn’t the case here. And the pulled pork was moist, not drowned in sauce, and had a great smoky flavor that wasn’t overpowering.

The only down for me was the order of hush puppies. My other family members liked them, but to me they were a little grainy from the cornmeal and not seasoned enough with salt after coming out of the fryer. I also expected more heat from the jalapeños.

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Otherwise this meal was amazing. I even recommended Fat Daddy’s to another pair of haoles who were looking for a dinner recommendation. An extra bonus is the fact that they use spice rub and habanero in their Bloody Mary drinks. YES!

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Braai

NOTE: This place is now closed

Braai means BBQ in Afrikaans. And South African food is something I’ve never had before. So naturally I had to try this joint. I walked by this a few times and the menu looked really good. So tonight my wife and I gave it a try.

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First some cocktails: a bourbon julep and some South African wine. It’s important to note here that they also offer Tusker beer, from Kenya, which I like very much.

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Braai has a bunch of tapas for $9 each, or you can man the fuck up and get five for $42 and save a few bucks. That’s what we did.

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Top left is sausage, polenta (pap) and tomato. It had a nice pork and beef flavor to it, with a little spicy kick.

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Center was deviled chicken liver. I was expecting something whipped and spreadable for some reason, and spicy. These were some more traditional styled liver items… cut up and sautéed in a hearty sauce. Very iron flavored but not grainy or snappy at all.

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Top right: meatballs with tomato sauce. The sauce was tangy, and the meatballs were spicy and tender.

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Bottom right was fried chicken wings with peri-peri sauce. The wings were crispy and nicely battered, and the sauce was spicy and herbaceous – almost like a salsa. Very nice. I was putting it on everything!

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Bottom left was grilled octopus. This had less of a char flavor than I expected, but it was very tender.

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At this point we were pretty full, but we kept pushing on. We ordered the ribs (ribbetjies); baby back ribs with a rooibos chocolate glaze (a legume, often used in teas), sautéed spinach and creamy polenta.

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This was really good. The meat was tender and flavorful, and the sauce was sweet with a little spice to it at the end, and some depth.

We had to try dessert, seeing as though this is one of the only places that doesn’t just offer creme brûlée, tira misu and cheesecake (though they do have cheesecake). Love those when they are good, but come on! Anyway this place gets it. We ordered something called “koeksisters,” which is pretty much thin, braided fried doughnuts or funnel cake with ice cream and honey on top. Awesome.

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BRAAI
329 W. 51st St.
Hell’s Kitchen, NY 10018

Dinosaur BBQ

Dinosaur BBQ is a cool meat lover’s spot up in Harlem near the Hudson River. It’s been killing it up there for years now, but I finally got the chance to try it out.

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Inside the warehouse/parking garage-esque space there’s a huge bar with a nice selection of brews.

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Me and two buddies went with the bucket of cheap shit: six hipster beers for $16.

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Then we split the “Family Stylin’ Meal,” which comes with chicken (far left), brisket (top right), pulled pork (bottom right), and ribs (center) with corn bread (bottom) and three sides.

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As you can see they even sprinkled some pickles and jalapeños on the sauced items (brisket and pork):

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We went with fries, baked beans and mac & cheese for the sides:

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The dark meat chicken was excellent, but I felt the breast meat was a little dry. Both the brisket and pulled pork were great. Smoky, sweet, spicy and delicious, especially with the jalapeños and pickles in each bite. The big star(s) for me though were the ribs. They were perfect. As for the sides: the fries needed seasoning, the beans were good – not too soupy and with a good kick, and the mac and cheese was both creamy and crunchy with perfectly cooked pasta. It’s just too bad I didn’t have my good camera with me, because these photos all suck.

Photos from another trip:

Appetizer sampler – boiled shrimp (spicy and tasty), fried green tomatoes (crunchy and tangy), wings (awesome BBQ wings), deviled eggs (creamy and delicious):

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Choose Three with BBQ chicken, St Louis ribs, and sausage, with mac & cheese and salt potatoes:

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Full rack of ribs with BBQ fried rice and fries:

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DINOSAUR BAR-B-QUE
700 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027

Mighty Quinn’s

This recent addition to the BBQ scene sits on Second Avenue and draws a pretty big line at mea time. The set up is basically like any old fast food joint, where you stand in line, place your order, and tun wait to carry it away on a tray. The food is fucking delicious; everything from the sides to the mains. My buddy and I tried some sausage, some brisket, some ribs and a pair of delicious sides. Check the food porn – the cool part is you can eat street side:

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UPDATE 2/26/17

Amazing beef rib. For $28 this is better than going to a steakhouse.

Pastrami sandwich – limited time only – was so freaking good.

And burnt ends sandwich was killer.

Standard brisket sandwich:

Spicy chicken sandwich:

Hot links:

S’mores bread pudding!

MIGHTY QUINN’S
103 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003