BBQ Season Returns to New YorkThe city’s leading barbecue blog comes back to life with a Wildwood Barbeque review and announcement of New York’s only barbecue contest.
Chef Counters on the Rise; Chefs Put in Their Time on the LineAs chefs and cooks take on more roles of service, they cut out more costs and create a more intimate dining experience, especially at restaurants with counters overlooking the food preparation. [NYT]
Related: Ringside Seats at the Chef’s Counter
Apparently, restaurants’ hanging of red velvet curtains in colder months signals metaphors of birth and womblike spaces for diners. Ew. [NYO]
Chefs like Akhtar Nawab of Elettaria and Josh Eden of Shorty’s.32 both spent years cooking on the line before being able to fly solo. [TONY]
Sparkling-Pink Sake Might Tickle Your V-Day Fancy in Hell’s Kitchen; CommerceChelsea: RUB and Swich are just two under-$10 lunch options in this list devoted to the nabe. [Gridskipper]
East Village: A Spanish wine bar called Pata Negra opens Friday at 345 East 12th Street. [NYT]
Flatiron: A Voce pastry chef Josh Gripper classifies himself as single and dangerous. [Restaurant Girl]
Fort Greene: Don’t hold your breath waiting for lamb sliders from the French-Moroccan restaurant that was supposed to open on DeKalb Avenue; the space wasn’t completed, and the sign and menu have already been taken down. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Hell’s Kitchen: If you want to explore dining options outside our comprehensive Valentine’s Day Guide, you could look to Kyotofu, which is serving a three-course dessert prix fixe promising a raspberry Valrhona-dark-chocolate fondue and Hou Hou Shu pink-sparkling sake. [Kyotofu]
West Village: Commerce opens tomorrow in the former Blue Mill Tavern space and there will be a 20 percent discount on food through Monday. [NYT]; the last outlet of Flor’s Kitchen will shut itself down this Sunday citing problems with the landlord. [Eater]
Back of the House
This Year’s ‘Saveur’ 100 Is Thin on the NYC Love
We know another year has gone by in the food world because the Saveur 100 is out. The list “offers a vivid snapshot of the wide … world of food,” says the magazine, so the picks skewed global — licorice from New Zealand, anyone? — but we are, as always, only interested in the New York stuff.
Back of the House
The Mystery of the Pitmasters Stymies the ‘Times’The Times, touching on a story Grub Street broke when Moses was in short pants, had a big feature on the dearth of experienced pitmasters Sunday, pegged on GS pal Big Lou Elrose of Wildwood. The piece marvels at the quick ascent of Big Lou from working an Ozone Park lunch wagon to his current post, but in fact, Elrose’s bones were made as Adam Perry Lang’s right hand man in competition; the lunch wagon was just a lark. Still, the city’s top pitmasters are as baffling to food writers as they are to the general public. Their job is hard to understand, because nothing they do happens while customers are present to observe. The pitmaster’s art is exercised in the dead night, in secrecy and silence, and outside observers rarely get any glimpse of what it involves. There is one factor that never changes, though, and will always separate real pitmasters from merely titular ones.
RUB Bringing Barbecue to Los Angeles?Hill Country and the forthcoming Wildwood have been getting most of the headlines lately, but RUB seems to be the New York barbecue most likely to take over the world. The huge Vegas operation is set to open on the 15th at the Rio, and owner Andrew Fischel also has plans to open an immense RUB in Los Angeles. “It’s still something we’re in talks on, but it’s going to be big!” Fischel tells us. Of course it is. RUB is a planet eater. But will this occasion the building of a second RUB chopper? Or will L.A.’s car culture demand a RUB hot rod, possibly with a smoke-belching blower coming out of the hood? Or maybe a RUB lowrider? Fischel is mum on the possibilities, but we can’t help but dream.
Related: It’s Not a Motorcycle, Baby. It’s a Mobile Barbecue Pit.
Last Weekend at Red Hook Ball Fields; RUB Introduces Frito Pie to ChelseaAstoria: You can ask the chefs from Bistro 33, at 19-33 Ditmars Boulevard, to prepare a special tasting menu — but be sure to request the chocolate-espresso-stout ice cream served on a warm fudge brownie for dessert. [Joey in Astoria]
Chelsea: RUB has introduced the “open-face” and “sloppy” grease fest that is Frito pie to its menu and it’s best inhaled with a kindred Texas brew. [Gothamist]
East Village: David Chang is looking for one experienced cook to join his team for Momofuku Ko, “a very unique operation, with the possibility of no servers.” [Eat for Victory/VV]
Greenwich Village: Anita Lo has released a recipe for Rickshaw Dumpling Bar’s kimchee-and-tofu dumplings. [Restaurant Girl]
Red Hook: This is the last Sunday of the season for the ball-fields vendors. [Eat for Victory/VV]
This Theater Serves Pork, Not PopcornWarm weather is running out for Harry’s Water Taxi Beach, the aquatic venue that was the site of Meatopia and any number of other summer frolics. But the place has one more big event left in it: this weekend’s barbecue movie series, the last segment of the first annual NYC Food Film Festival. Starting tonight and running through Saturday, catch titles like the much buzzed-about (in BBQ circles, anyway) Barbecue: a Texas Love Story or Dial S for Sausage. All will be accompanied by real barbecue, prepared by Meatopia veterans Scotty Smith of RUB and Robby Richter of Big Island Barbecue. “These are great films which happen to be about barbecue,” says documentarian George Motz, one of the festival’s organizers. “The food, though, will make it a multisensory experience.” After the jump, catch a sneak preview of Barbecue: a Texas Love Story.
Meatopia IV: A Visual Feast
Last night’s Meatopia was everything we could have dreamed of and more: an unforgettable spectacle of infanticide with world-class chefs, world-class gluttons, and the beauty of the Water Taxi Beach as a setting for both. Here’s some hint of its wonders, captured by society photographer Melissa Hom.
It’s Not a Motorcycle, Baby. It’s a Mobile Barbecue Pit.
When we heard that RUB was commissioning Orange County Chopper, of American Chopper fame, to make a mobile barbecue pit, we thought it was a pretty cool idea. We expected it to be a novelty, like a two-headed kitten, or the world’s largest ball of string. Nothing prepared us for the mind-numbing coolness of the actual RUB Chopper: The restaurant’s owner, Andrew Fischel, correctly characterizes as “the sickest, baddest thing in the world.”
Motorbike-and-BBQ Megastore Coming to Palisades MallThe (strictly professional) love affair between Paul Teutul Sr. of TV’s American Chopper and ectomorphic RUB owner Andrew Fischel began with a hour-long special about the creation of a chopper with a meat-smoking sidecar and soon led to RUB cooking for Teutul’s wedding. Now the unlikely pairing has led to a major joint venture.
Back of the House
Bacon Has Jumped the SharkThe nation’s infatuation with bacon gets stronger every year, but now it may have gone too far. We were members of the Bacon of the Month club from way back. We too fell in love with the bacon-flavored chocolate promoted at the Fancy Food Show recently. We even hosted occasional bacon tastings, and just for good measure included everyone’s favorite breakfast meat in our recent Grub Street grilling video. But to say “everything should taste like bacon,” like the zealous producers of Bacon Salt do, is perhaps taking the obsession too far.
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.
Legendary Texas Beer Sneaked Up North Into RUB
We always suspected that the cult of Shiner Bock, a much-beloved Texas beer seldom seen up north, had more to do with scarcity than excellence. Now we’ll find out, because Andrew Fischel, the hyperkinetic owner of RUB, has found a way to somehow get the heretofore unavailable beer into the bar at his restaurant, where they will sell for $6 each. “We pulled a Smokey and the Bandit,” Fischel boasts. “Don’t ask me how we did it! I won’t say. But you can’t get it anywhere but here. And that’s it.” The dark, Czech-style beer is made at a single brewery in Shiner, Texas, with only 55 employees, but whether that translates into its really being better than, say, Rhinegold is another story.
Need a Meat-Smoking Sidecar? Call ‘American Chopper’!
The mind of Andrew Fischel, the brash young owner of RUB barbecue, never seems to rest. The last time we looked, he was opening up a giant spinoff in Vegas, and had retooled the New York branch with the loudest neon sign this side of Times Square. Now Fischel has engaged the guys at Orange County Chopper to create a customized “RUB Chopper” with a working smoker as its sidecar. “We’re creating the most kick-ass mobile barbecue vehicle ever made,” Fischel says. “It costs as much as a Bentley.”
Back of the House
The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party Steamrolls the OppositionThe 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.
Ask a Waiter
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.
The Other Critics
Everybody Loves Sfoglia; Meehan Loves All BBQBruni two-stars Sfoglia, the latest victory in a series for the Nantucket import, including nods from Adam Platt and Gael Greene in our Best of New York issue. The food is simple and rustic (frittatas, simple pastas), but it works for Bruni. Imagination can get you two stars, as the Ssäm Bar review showed last week, but so can execution, even if it isn’t very elaborate. [NYT]
Peter Meehan surveys nearly all the area’s BBQ restaurants, finding a lot to like: the pulled pork at Pies-N-Thighs and the burnt ends at RUB, to name two. Still, no revelations here. [NYT]
Sietsema hits up a Senegalese restaurant in Harlem: “Predictably, the dibi is awesome.” You said it, Bob! Has Sietsema ever met a foreign lamb dish he didn’t like? [VV]
What to Eat Tonight
The Skinny on Fat Tuesday: The EatsAsh Wednesday, if you don’t know, marks the start of Lent, Christianity’s season of self-denial and austerity. Some mark Ash Wednesday Eve consuming loads of meat and drinking. Here’s our short list of places to celebrate Fat Tuesday.
Hill Country to Challenge Blue Smoke, RUB on Their Own TurfHill Country BBQ, we’ve learned from owner Mark Glosserman, has officially signed its lease and begun construction at 30 West 26th Street, just a few blocks from Blue Smoke and RUB . Isn’t it bad medicine to open so close to a pair of established, busy barbecues? Says Glosserman: “It’s a great spot, and the price was right, and we’re in a big office building, so there will be a lot of traffic even though it’s a side street. We have a lot of faith in our product.” No doubt. But we actually like Hill Country’s chances. New Yorkers have shown a willingness to go the extra mile to eat great barbecue: Daisy May’s BBQ sat on a desolate stretch of Eleventh Avenue and didn’t even have tables; RUB ran out of meat every night; Blue Smoke barely had any smoke flavor during its first year, as a result of chimney malfunction. Glosserman hired the best barbecue cooker in the city, Robert Richter. If Hill Country delivers the goods, New Yorkers will support it … right?
Back of the House
Inside the Topsy-Turvy World of New York BarbecueHas the cold weather got you nostalgic for barbecue? We’ve got good and bad news, plus fallout from an ugly incident upstate. First, the good: Pitmaster Scotty Smith is now serving two weekly specials at RUB. Mondays it’s full-beef short rib; Tuesdays there’s spicy Asian pork belly, marinated for a week in a brew of chiles, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and the sweet soy sauce called kecap manis. then smoked for hours before being flash-finished in a hot oven.
Where Do I Feed Texas Tourists? Also: Is There a God?Dear Grub Street,
I have some friends coming into town from Texas and want to recommend a great restaurant to them. I think they’d appreciate a Texas theme, but I’m not sure if Lonesome Dove is really the way to go, or if Blue Smoke or Dinosaur are better bets instead. Money doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.
The best barbecue in New York is RUB. They have great burnt ends, a beef-brisket treat any meat-eating Texan can appreciate. But they’re not going to get better Texas food here than at home. I would take them to Great N.Y. Noodletown for Chinese spareribs. Or, if money really isn’t an issue, this may be your one chance for a meal at Masa!
Back of the House
Barbecue: The New Kosher Food?Reading about the launch of Blue Smoke in Danny Meyer’s new book Setting the Table, we had an epiphany. It’s somehow happened that, in the midst of the greatest barbecue boom New York has ever seen, nearly all of the cuisine’s major restaurants are either owned or operated by Jews. Given the wide berth our people have historically given pork, this seems worth commenting on. Meyers’s launching of Blue Smoke was just the beginning. Josh Cohen has just reopened Biscuit in Park Slope; Adam Perry Lang has become a major star in competition BBQ, in addition to launching his Daisy May’s empire; Andrew Fischel’s RUB was anointed by Adam Platt as the city’s best barbecue; and the field will only become further Semiticized this spring, when Mark Glosserman and Robert Richter launch Hill Country BBQ in the Flatiron district. Don’t get us wrong. There are some very fine Gentile barbecuers in New York: John Wheeler at Rack & Soul and John Stage at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que are both expert practitioners. Still, we’re surprised someone didn’t coined the phrase sooner: Bar-B-Jew.
Back of the House
Baron of BBQ to Hold Court SaturdayPaul Kirk, Kansas City’s “Baron of Barbecue,” gave New York RUB, the city’s best BBQ joint. On Saturday, he’ll lead a master class on his art at the Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City, covering the basics of cooking, fire management, sauce, rubs, spices, and even competition. The class is intended for professionals: The fee alone is 250 bucks, and that doesn’t include all the supplies you’ll need to bring, from cookers to fuel. (If you’re just looking to learn the basics, you can probably get away with buying the Baron’s book, available via his Website.)
Contact Matt Fisher or Robert Fernandez to enroll.
Haute Fast Food and International Fare for East Chelsea GearheadsIt’s a challenge for the young designers and Silicon Alley gearheads who work their magic around here to find something beyond pizza or deli-food for lunch — particularly in the environs near the Fashion Institute of Technology and the flower district, practically a culinary wasteland. Still, in the micro-micro-neighborhood surrounding Seventh Avenue and 22nd Street, there’s options running the gamut from Japanese and European street food to regional Italian and Persian fare.
Trans-Fat Ban: The Restaurants at RiskWhere would we be without trans fats? The joys of margarine and shortening know no end in New York. Few restaurants care to admit to using it. But going by our taste buds and instinct for human nature, we’ve got ten educated guesses at great local restaurants with foods containing the magical substance. None of these dishes would be the same with replacement fat: It would be better to stop serving them entirely. But a ban poses more risk to the business of some restaurants than others, of course. A RUB without the deep-fried Oreos would still be the city’s best barbecue, but if the Arepa Lady had to spray Pam on her griddle, even her cult might disband.
Meet Pawpaw for Dinner Tonight at SavoyThere are some southern specialties all the world loves, as our guide to local gulf-shrimp dishes makes clear. But some of these regional foods rarely make it past the Mason-Dixon line. Tonight, New Yorkers get the chance to sample an obscure treat: pawpaw, a large, tasty fruit, used in a variety of dishes. Savoy is hosting the second annual Betsy Lydon Slow Food Ark USA Award dinner. (Appropriately enough, the name’s a real mouthful.) Southern preparations like rabbit burgoo and Kentucky ham will complement pawpaw daiquiris and ice cream, as well as other recipes made with North America’s native tropical fruits. (The dinner, which costs $150, including tax and tip, starts at 6:30 p.m.)
In honor of the pawpaw, here’s our list of five of the most delicious southern foods you’ll find in New York.