June 13, 2005
Big Apple Barbecue Block Party 2005
Sure I love a good rack of barbeque ribs as much as the next person, but I won't say that I'm an authority on the subject. Though the situation has dramatically improved in recent years, we all know that NYC isn't the BBQ capital of the country. There are good examples to be found, but all in all, this is not the town to foster a true connoisseurship of the fine art of barbecuing.
That's just my way of saying I'm not going to break down each of the 5 'cues we sampled and review them in detail. They were all good, let's just put it that way. What I do want to write about is my experience at this event.
I hadn't been to either the 1st or 2nd edition of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party the previous two years. The first year I didn't know about, and last year when I walked by and saw the heinous crowds I didn't even try getting in line. This year, along with what seemed like every other person in Manhattan, I decided to see what the fuss is about and got there a half-hour before the noon opening to get in line early. There was already a sea of people when we got there shortly after 11:30 so apparently everyone had the same idea.
I went with four other people and, faced with long lines at every booth, we decided to divide and conquer. Each of us was to wait on a separate line and purchase 4 plates each and meet back in Madison Park with our bounties. Let me tell you, gingerly walking back to the meeting point while balancing four styrofoam plates precariously on top of one another, fighting through the massive crowd and sweating non-stop from the hot—and extremely humid—day, is not fun at all.
Anyway, almost an hour later from when we got there (and ~$150 poorer), we were all back at the meeting point. Five people times four plates each meant we had stacks upon stacks of meat on a tiny table we found by the Shake Shack. The picture above is but a portion of what we got. There were stacks of meat on chairs next to the table as well. We were (well, at least I was) a little flustered just getting to that point, from the heat, the wait and the general chaos all around. The intoxicating smell of the Shack waffling through the air made me wonder why I hadn't just gotten myself a burger instead.
An orgy of meat and sauce ensued. Eating barbeque is always kind of a messy affair, but not having any room at the table to put anything totally compounded the problem. Throw in the hot, humid day and you have the recipe for a thoroughly barbaric eating experience—grease and sauce all over the place, napkins flying about and sweat all over. And let me tell you, $7 for literally three ribs is expensive as hell, considering you had to wait in line for close to an hour under the punishingly hot noon sun and eat like animals in the park. These people must think New Yorkers are such suckers. Hey, let's go to those dumb Yankees and see what they'll pay for 3 ribs on a disposable plate! I'm sure they are all chomping at the bits to move here.
Sure the 'cue was good (all five places we tried were good), but so not worth the hassle in getting them.
Pork Shoulder with Coleslaw from Ubon's "Champion's Choice", Yazoo, Mississippi. I guess I just love pulled pork sandwiches since this was my favorite thing we tried today. The pork was moist and delicious. You didn't even really need to use any sauce with it, it was that moist and flavorful.
Baby Back Ribs with Beans from 17th Street Bar & Grill, Murphysboro, Illinois.
St. Louis Spareribs from Whole Hog Café, Little Rock, Arkansas. This was 4 portions worth, by the way.
Beef Brisket, Sausage & Coleslaw from The Salt Lick BBQ, Driftwood, Texas. This and the 17th Street Bar & Grill had the longest lines.
Brisket with Sausage and Beans from Southside Market & BBQ, Elgin, Texas. Despite having a shorter line, I thought the brisket here was better than the one from Salt Lick. The Salt Lick sausage was better though.
Food & Drink