This past year has brought not only more and better barbecue to town but a burgeoning cue culture we can call our own. Here, a look at the latest cuts that set our urban polyglot approach apart from the regional orthodoxies that inspired it.
*This article originally appeared in the July 8, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.
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Pastrami at John Brown Smokehouse$12 per half-pound; 10-43 44th Dr., Long Island City; 347-617-1120
Owner Josh Bowen might not be the first pitmaster to smoke his own pastrami, but he does the deli meat proud, crusting his terrifically tender brisket with black pepper, mustard seed, clove, coriander, and ghost pepper.
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Mighty Quinn’s Pulled Pork$7.75; 103 Second Ave., at 6th St.; 212-677-3733
Hugh Mangum commands lines of impassioned fans of his “Texalina” (a mash-up of Texas and Carolina styles) ’cue, the best expression of which may be the hefty sandwich of heritage-breed pulled pork, lightly drizzled with a not too sweet, not too vinegary sauce and topped with slaw and pickled chile peppers.
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Frogs’ Legs at Alchemy, Texas BBQ$7 for a quarter-pound; 71-04 35th Ave., Jackson Heights; 718-803-8244
At Josh Bowen’s experimental new location tucked into the back of a Queens dive bar, he seasons frogs’ legs with things like amla powder and garam masala and brushes them with a “mop” that includes foie gras and Founders’ Breakfast Stout.
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Brisket Burrito at Tres Carnes$8.73; 688 Sixth Ave., at 22nd St.; 212-989-8737
Chipotle meets the Texas Hill Country’s landmark Salt Lick in this new Tex-Mex joint, where tortillas are stuffed with smoked chicken, pork, or weekly specials like venison sausage and beef cheeks. Go for the brisket, and you’ll find a cache of soft, hypersmoky burnt ends mixed in.
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Turkey Legs at Hakadosh BBQ$10 to $12, with pickles and slaw; gotcholent.com for schedule
Does anything sound more New York than a Texas-raised Jew selling kosher barbecued turkey legs at street fairs? Caterer Ari White found his smoker on eBay and exorcised the ghosts—and grease—of pigs past. “More than any other meat, turkey takes on the flavor of the wood,” he says.
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Char Siu Pork at Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue$7 for a quarter-pound; 433 Third Ave., nr. 8th St., Gowanus; 347-763-2680
The menu draws influences from everywhere—Austin, Kansas City, even Hawaii and Asia, which inspired the char siu pork steak, marinated and glazed in a hoisin sauce blended with ginger, honey, and five-spice powder.
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BrisketTown’s Beef Rib$18 a pound; 359 Bedford Ave., nr. S. 4th St., Williamsburg; 718-701-8909
After brisket, the beef rib might be New York’s emblematic cut: big, brash, and—according to BrisketTown’s Dan Delaney, who calls ribs “the hot dogs of barbecue”—designed for on-the-go eating. Delaney’s beef comes from sustainable purveyors like Niman Ranch and Meyer Natural Angus.
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Lamb Leg at the Strand Smokehouse$9 for a half-pound; 25-27 Broadway, Astoria; 718-440-3231
Smoked mutton can be found in barbecue bastions, a term few would use to describe Astoria, Queens. But smoking lamb leg makes perfect sense in the venerable Greek neighborhood. Pitmaster John Zervoulakos (late of John Brown) seasons it with a simple salt, pepper, and rosemary rub.