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Notes on the Local Barbecue Revolution

Is the great Calvin Trillin rubbing his eyes in wonderment? Has New York become, after years of bitterness and complaint, a kind of glittering Kansas City by the sea? Or is New York actually a better barbecue town, these days, than K.C. or Memphis or any of the other fabled smoke pits around the country? With the success of Kansas City facsimiles like RUB, Danny Meyer’s annual BBQ festival, and the recent arrival of Hill Country, some respected barbecue hounds actually think so. And what does the Gobbler think? The Gobbler thinks barbecue is a lot better and more ubiquitous in the big city than it used to be. Here’s his guide to the new barbecue revolution.

Cheap Eats est Arrivé!

The annual Cheap Eats issue arrives this week and represents, as usual, a massive compendium of low-end gastronomic wisdom. The Underground Gourmet round up some of the city’s very best cheap eats in the main section, but Adam Platt also weighs in on what passes for cheap in the city’s high-end places, some top chefs give their own picks, and three of the city’s greenmarket specialists vie to outdo each other not just in locavorism but also in “cheapavorism.” Add to that laser-focused profiles on burgers, barbecue, and Korean fried chicken, and you have a Cheap Eats supplement to put all others to shame.

B.R. Guest to Hop the Barbecue Gravy Train?

Now that barbecue has utterly conquered New York, the coast is clear for even the most conservative of restaurant companies to move in and fire up their pits. Even B.R. Guest, the massive company behind such ultrasafe properties as Dos Caminos, Vento, and Ruby Foo’s has one in the works, we hear from one of our best restaurant-industry sources, a businessman with ties to the group.

Men Still Rule the Roost in Kitchens; April Bloomfield a Rai Rai Ken Fan

It’s still a man’s world in the kitchen, as Annisa’s Anita Lo or Ratatouille’s Collette can tell you. [NYDN] Count April Bloomfield in the Rai Rai Ken camp when it comes to the ramen wars. [Restaurant Girl] Hill Country pitmaster and noted “barbejew” Robbie Richter has borderline cholesterol, a meat bond with Zak Pelaccio, and little interest in side dishes. [Metromix] Related: Barbecue: The New Kosher Food?

Jason Perlow Captures the Soul of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

This past weekend’s Big Apple Barbecue Block Party was bigger than ever, and any number of bloggers, Sunday newspapers, and podcasters have tried to capture the excitement. But for our money, nobody has really done it like Jason Perlow, whose enormous Flickr slideshow on Off the Broiler conveys the appeal of good-natured Southerners handling massive amounts of meat. Check it out: It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than just looking at images of ribs and chicken. (Not that we mind looking at images of ribs and chicken.) Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2007 Slide Show [Off the Broiler]

How to Properly Pig Out at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, which happens this weekend in Madison Square Park, is the biggest and most important barbecue event of the year by far. But you still stand a good chance of being miserable there unless you know what you’re doing. Every year more people come, putting more pressure on the vendors and making it hard to enjoy yourself. Here are a few tips on finding barbecue bliss.

Brooklyn Heights About to Get a Candlelit Pizzeria

Brooklyn Heights: Oven, an “all candlelit, 150-label-wine-list pizza joint,” will soon open. [Brooklyn Heights Blog] Flatiron: Hill Country barbecue does a preview, and Jason Perlow is there to document it in high-res detail. [Off the Broiler] Flushing: A Fan Ti is doing amazing things with lamb. [Gothamist] Long Island City: Water Taxi Beach to throw a “vegan extravaganza” on Saturday. [Joey in Astoria] Lower East Side: Herring season has arrived at Russ & Daughters. [VV] Park Slope: Rose Water chef Ethan Kostbar to leave in a few weeks. [NYT]

Hill Country Opens With a Texas Menu and a Half-Burned Piece of Oak

Hill Country, the new barbecue restaurant Rob and Robin unveil in this week’s Openings, has given itself a double challenge: It’s opening a stone’s throw from Blue Smoke and RUB and, if that weren’t enough, also attempting to emulate Kreuz Market, the most celebrated barbecue in all of Texas – the equivalent of trying to build a Katz’s in Corpus Christi. The restaurant’s menu, captured here in all its spartan glory, reflects its Texas aesthetic: Beef is the main event, and sides and sauces are areas of minor concern. The place is trying to marshal all the barbecue karma it can: Kreuz pitmaster Rick Schmidt has given the place his blessing, even bringing a half-burned log from Kreuz to ignite the first Hill Country fire. “If they keep the coals and embers going, the fire will be continuous,” the famed pitman says. Restaurant Openings: Hill Country, Caffè Emilia, and Park Avenue Summer [NYM] Hill Country menu Earlier: Hill Country to Challenge Blue Smoke, RUB on Their Own Turf

Brooklyn Pigfest Suffers Notable Pig Shortage

The Seventh Annual Brooklyn Pigfest was held this past weekend and, except for the part about running out of food, was a huge success. Hundreds of people paid $85 a head to eat some of the city’s best barbecue, cooked up by the combined forces of the Waterfront Ale House and the soon-to-open Hill Country BBQ. Both teams had to scramble, though, as a result of organizers having wildly underestimated the number of attendees. Many frustrated figures were left standing in line with little to show for their time and money but some hastily cooked ribs — if that.

Fette Sau's Weird Williamsburg Barbecue Palace

As you probably know by now, Williamsburg’s Fette Sau is the latest entrant into the increasingly competitive New York barbecue field. It’s a trip visually, from the butcher diagrams looming on the walls to the hypnotic electric carving knives. As it turns out, the oak-smoked steak, pigs' tails, ribs, and other meats are no less impressive — or so we discovered when we talked product with owner Joe Carroll during our latest video visit. Related: New Hipstaurant Opens in Williamsburg

The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party Steamrolls the Opposition

The Danny Meyer broadcasting service just put out the word: The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party is on for this year. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Although the annual June bonanza is hugely popular, it’s also massively challenging. Past barbecuers have expressed much dismay that souvenirs and T-shirts yield very little profit (food profits go to the Madison Park Conservancy), and that the travel allowance doesn’t cover the cost of transporting heavy smoking equipment across hundreds of miles.

What, New York’s Not Good Enough for RUB Anymore?

RUB, fresh off its coronation as the best place for barbecue, apparently cannot be confined by the bounds of our city. We hear from sources inside the restaurant that an immense 9,000-square-foot outpost is in the works at the Rio in Las Vegas, with a planned summer opening. It will look completely different from the cramped New York original, with an open floor plan, 250-plus seats, and three full-size show rotisseries capable of slow-cooking whole pigs over wood fires. And apparently, this is only the start of a RUB plan for global domination: The restaurant’s negotiating to drop outposts into Harrah’s casinos both inside and outside of these United States. James Bond better let out that tuxedo.

Space for Even Your Butt in Williamsburg This Weekend

Harlem: Eat at Dinosaur, get bowling discount. [UPTOWN flavor] Lower East Side: Holes suspected in Schiller’s rubber glove story. That’s right, holes. [Gridskipper] Soho: Babouche, the Moroccan restaurant and lounge brought to us by the people behind Barbes, now serves brochettes at brunch. [PDF: Babouche NYC] Tribeca: Former Abboccato sous chef Greg Johnson is the new chef de cuisine at Dani. Sun amuses self calling the cook Dani Boy. [NYS] Union Square: 15 East now serving lunch. But why didn’t the Eater boys “live-blog” the event? [NYS] West Village: Blind Tiger will open at 4 p.m. today with beer on tap after an exasperating tug-of-war with the SLA. [Grub Street] Williamsburg: Mystery Japanese restaurant on North 6th thought to open tonight. [A Test of Will] But you probably won’t get in until this weekend. [i'm not saying, I'm just saying] Thankfully new tapas joint Nita Nita has room enough for wide asses. [Bad Advice]

RUB’s Jonathan Meyer Cleans Up Your ‘Mystery Napkins’

After serving as a barista at Cafe Gitane, Jonathan Meyer joined the opening team as a server at RUB, New York’s pick for Best Barbecue. “It was a huge change,” he tells us. “I didn’t know anything about smoking meats.” (Meyer’s primary love is the theater group he runs, PossEble.) Almost two years later, the Long Island native is informed enough to hold his own against southerners who he says “wear their barbecue knowledge on their sleeve.” We asked him to steer us through the very heated world of Righteous Urban Barbecue.

Y’all Think You Know Barbecue? In Fact, You Do Not

Barbecue champion Chris Lilly’s demonstration today in Madison Square Park could not be better timed. It’s now dawning on the city that we’re entering a sort of barbecue renaissance — just last week, Peter Meehan produced a lengthy survey of the local smoky arts — and the promise of warmer weather alone has sent our cravings off the meter. We look forward to gorging at RUB, our Best of New York barbecue pick, but that’s no excuse for skipping out on this southern master’s appearance. Lilly, a four-time Memphis in May world titlist, will be offering free samples of his famous pulled pork, fresh out of the smoker, at 5 p.m. Miss it and you’ll have to head to Decatur, Ala., and catch Lilly at Big Bob Gibson’s, his restaurant. “Spring Forward, Get Grilling,” Madison Square Park, between 23rd St. and 26th St. and Fifth Ave. and Madison Ave.; no phone. Related: The Great NYC Barbecue Battle [NYM]

Yet Another Bagel for Kobe Club; Sietsema Visits American Restaurants!

Bruni hands Kobe Club the dreaded bagel, for many of the same reasons Adam Platt did: a tacky interior, wildly overpriced food, and an ill-conceived menu that doesn’t include great steak. [NYT] Peter Meehan, meanwhile, discovers the joys of the diamond district’s kosher kebab house Taam Tov. [NYT] Sietsema takes a break from celebrating Haitian hot pots to survey and grade the new burger joints: The result is detailed, thoughtful, and moderate. None score higher than a B+. [VV]

Kosher Eatery Opens, Spurs Challenge to Bar-B-Jews

We recently happened on Milk 'N Honey NYC, a brand-new — not to mention clean, shiny, and completely kosher — midtown lunchery. Panini, sushi, pizza, and calzone: Is there any food you can't find in a kosher restaurant these days? We just wrote about New York's "Bar-B-Jew" phenomenon; now we're wondering why none of those guys are keeping it kashruth. As far as we know, there's no technical prohibition against smoking meat in Judaic law, and the Jewish people's fondness for beef brisket is well established. (Last year Erica Marcus wrote a piece in Newsday on that very subject; unfortunately, it's not available online.) Meanwhile, a reader wrote in to remind us of a Bar-B-Jew we neglected to mention — Ben Grossman, of the Smoke Joint in Brooklyn. There are so many of these fellas we can't even keep up! The question is, which one of them is ready to take the kosher challenge? Milk 'N Honey NYC, 22 W. 45th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-764-4400. Earlier: Barbecue: The New Kosher Food? [Grub Street]