Just when you thought the New York barbecue marketplace was sated — and believe us, we thought so too — comes word that yet another megabarbecue is coming to the city. And not just one location, either: Famous Dave’s has sold a territorial franchise to open seven restaurants in New York and Westchester to Sammy Benmoha, owner of Maxie’s Deli, and, with his father Jacob, the Roxy and BenAsh Delis. What is this Famous Dave’s anyway? And how can there possibly be room for seven more megabarbecues, with Spanky’s, Hill Country, Virgil’s, RUB, Blue Smoke, Daisy May, Dinosaur, and half a dozen others already feeding the masses, and B. R. Guest’s Wildwood on the way?
The first question is easier to answer than the first. Famous Dave’s is a streamlined barbecue chain, which as we recently pointed out, tends to be an advantage over one-off startups. There are more than 150 locations around the Midwest and the South, all powered by big Southern Pride smokers running on a combination of gas heat and hickory wood: a good way to make barbcue, provided the pit crew knows their stuff. Mike Bowar, the head of operations for Famous Dave’s, says there is an Overlord-style administrative plan in place for the New York invasion, and that the restaurant’s ribs, with their thick, sweetish dry rub and potent smoke notes, are the same ones that have been winning competitions around the country. On one level, the deal makes sense, however: It’s another victory for the Barbejews, and the everlasting affinity between different kinds of slow-cooked brisket.