The Big Apple BBQ Block Party is upon us again, and even if a Fastpass allows you express access, getting your fill of barbecue in Madison Square Park this weekend is going to be a challenge. It will be scorching and crowded, but it’s still the greatest single public-barbecue event in the world. What you need is a strategy. Here’s ours.
• Ration your appetite carefully. That means avoiding filling, non-barbecue items like the Proclamation Stew Crew’s immense witch’s vat of Brunswick stew or some of the lesser pulled-pork sandwiches, such as those served by anyone not named Chris Lilly or Ed Mitchell. And in both cases, you would be well-advised to avoid the bread, especially in the case of Mitchell’s very delicate, almost sashimilike product. Bread is a doughy distraction from barbecue perfection.
• Usually, our ribs ration is limited to Mike Mills, the beloved barbecue ambassador from Illinois, whose applewood-smoked baby backs are de rigueur at the event. But since John Wheeler, the pit master at the Upper West Side’s Rack & Soul, just won Grand Champion in Memphis last month, he gets some respect.
• Don’t miss Ed Wilson and Ed Mitchell’s hog-chopping performance, where each man smashes a pair of cleavers in a rhythm the Blue Man Group would envy. Wilson’s Barbecue, in Fairfield, Connecticut, is as good a barbecue place as there is in New England, but catch him here because he doesn’t make it to New York often enough.
• When ordering, it’s not rude to ask the servers to give you particular parts of the meat. When getting pulled pork, ask for some of the “bark,” or “Mr. Brown,” the crusty exterior of the pork butt (a good pork sandwich should always contain some). For brisket, ask for “deckle,” the rich, tender cap muscle where all the flavor lives. If someone is about to hand you a gnarly-looking rib or sausage, don’t be ashamed to ask for a different one.
• Finally, with all due respect to the desserts being offered at the Block Party, there’s only two possible choices for our money: the custard at Shake Shack (remember, you can snake into the B line if you’re not getting burgers) and the Alphonso mangoes being served at Tabla. Both are perfect codas for a barbecue bacchanalia like this one.
Related: Indian Mangoes Are Back!