Best BBQ in New York
Get your hands dirty at the city's top smokehouses.
New Yorkers have it pretty good when it comes to serious smokehouses. The BBQ boom of the last five years has given rise to some of the best regional low-and-slow cooking outside the barbecue belt. We’ve tied on bibs and left a trail of wet-naps behind in our quest to narrow down the city’s best places for brisket, ribs, pulled pork and more. Did we miss your favorite NYC spot? Join the conversation in the comments.
Weathered gas-station signage and barbershop mirrors constitute the artfully gritty decor at this honky-tonk saloon. The old Harlem meatpacking warehouse sees a heady parade of low-country favorites like fried-green tomatoes, chicken wings and beer-boiled shrimp. But true ’cue lovers should go straight for the meat: Fork-tender beef brisket, succulent ribs and juicy pulled pork get a dry rub, up to 18 hours of smoking over hickory, apple and cherry woods, and are finished with a slather of sweet-spicy secret sauce.
- 777 W 125th St, (at Twelfth Ave)
- Critics choice
Doubts that Joe and Kim Carroll were serious when they named their new Williamsburg barbecue joint Fette Sau, German for “fat pig,” are put to rest at the food counter, where the lightest meat served is charred pork (even chicken has been banished). Such unbutton-the-pants gusto, fervent even by gluttonous barbecue standards, makes Fette Sau great fun. After waiting dutifully in line, patrons order their meats by the pound, glistening mounds heaped onto paper-lined baking trays (only about half the menu’s offerings are available at any given time). Want a drink? You’ll have to make a separate trip to the bar. For those who prefer their smoke in a glass, there’s an encyclopedic bourbon selection—no surprise to diners familiar with Carroll’s obsessive Belgian beer list at Spuyten Duyvil.
- 354 Metropolitan Ave, (between Havemeyer and Roebling Sts)
- Rated as: 3/5
- Critics choice
Hill Country, Fette Sau, Daisy Mae’s, Dinosaur: Back in the aughts it seemed like a new barbecue joint was opening every week. That boom brought us plenty of great low-and-slow meat, but barbecue—unlike, say, pizza or burgers—still hasn’t peaked in NYC. Mable’s Smokehouse and Banquet Hall, which opened recently near the Williamsburg waterfront, brings this all-American art form into a laid-back and saloonlike environment: The soundtrack is Blues Brothers, the patrons are young and rowdy, and a big wooden bar across from the chow line serves Lone Star beer, pickle-juice cocktails, and trashy snacks like Frito Pie and Velveeta dip. Artist turned pit master Jeff Lutonsky, who opened the restaurant with his actor wife, Meghan Love, takes his craft far more seriously than this roadhouse setting suggests. His smoked meats and church-social sides, while not quite in the top tier in the city, are certainly better than your average alcohol sponge. The first-time restaurateurs—natives of Oklahoma and Kentucky, respectively—pumped their families for recipes. They named the place for Jeff’s grandmother Mable, the source of their top-secret sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. The couple spent the months before opening scouring flea markets and junk shops for decorative elements—the old beer signs, stuffed deer head and vintage LPs that fill the wood-paneled space. Their regional focus, crossing state lines, is just as much of a hodgepodge. The very limited menu, featuring just three meats and a handful of sides, includes Texas-style moist, fatty brisket—beautifully smoky and exceptionally tender—dry rubbed in copious black pepper before being left to cook for 12 hours in a Southern Pride smoker. The pork ribs, from the Oklahoma side of the border, are just as succulent, with a great caramel char around the edges from a pass on the grill after they emerge from the smoker. Only the Kentucky-style pulled pork shoulder disappoints, the mushy meat doused in too much of that secret-recipe sauce. As at most iconic barbecue joints, the sides take a backseat to the meat. The mac and cheese, made with gobs of Velveeta, is catnip for neo-rednecks, but it’s still pretty tasty: The lush, creamy sauce clings to noodles that still have some bite. Better yet are the crisp and smoky braised collards with chili vinegar and bacon nuggets, or the corn off the cob with heaps of butter and more bacon. There’s pie for dessert. Light and fluffy peanut-butter and bright and refreshing key-lime fillings both come spooned into an exceptionally flaky crust—house baked and surprisingly delicate. Mable’s might look like a good place to get sloppy drunk, but the food here tells another story. Our suggestion: Do both.—Jay Cheshes Vitals Eat this: Texas-style brisket, pork ribs, collard greens, corn off the cob, peanut-butter pie Drink this: The bar here offers a modest bourbon selection (Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace). The Frog ($8), among the “fancy cocktails” listed on a blackboard, is a surprisingly mild pickle martini. Sit here: You’ll have to walk up to the counter to order your food if you plan to eat at one of the big communal picnic-bench tables. You won’t have to budge if you dine at the bar, where the convivial bartender will take both your drink and your food order. Conversation piece: The dining room is decked out with a trove of salvaged finds. The wood panels on the walls are from an old barn near Buffalo. The owners found the feed-lot sign that hangs near the chow line on a road trip home from Texas.
- 44 Berry St, (at North 11th St), 11211
- Critics choice
The guys behind Hill Country are about as Texan as Bloomberg in a Stetson, but the 'cue deserves Lone Star cred all the same. Sausage imported from Kreuz market in Lockhart, Texas; slow-smoked slabs of tips-on pork spare ribs; and two brisket options—lean and "moist" (read: fatty)—are not to be missed.
- 30 W 26th St, (between Broadway and Sixth Ave)
Southerners know that the best barbecue comes from run-down shacks in the worst parts of town—so don’t let the location of Daisy May’s BBQ USA, on a desolate stretch of Eleventh Avenue, or its college-town atmosphere deter you: Daisy May’s, despite a few missteps (the pulled pork is overstewed in its own sauce), is the real down-home deal, a masterful barbecue survey. The Kansas City Sweet & Sticky Pork Ribs are meaty and just tender enough, while the creamed corn tastes like ballpark nachos—and that’s a good thing. The sweet tea with mint leaves will make you long for a front porch. Skip the desserts for a side of bourbon peaches, which calls to mind a drunken cobbler.
- 623 Eleventh Ave, (at 46th St)
- Price band: 1/4
- Critics choice
There’s no smoker here—owner Alan Natkiel believes in oven-roasting his meat with beer and finishing it on the grill. The unorthodox technique works just fine. Quality ’cue staples served in this small, wood-paneled space include the huge rack of pork ribs—tender flesh with a spicy rub needed little coaxing to be separated from the bone. Fried chicken was spectacular—crunchy, salty crust, the meat oozing with moisture. There’s no dessert menu to speak of, but sugary glasses of lemonade and sweet tea did the trick for us.
- 192 Orchard St, (between Houston and Stanton Sts)
- Critics choice
St. Louis native Danny Meyer’s barbecue joint tops the short list of Manhattan’s best ’cue contenders. Chef Kenny Callaghan knows his wet sauces and dry rubs: The menu includes traditional St. Louis spareribs, Texas salt-and-pepper beef ribs, Memphis baby backs and Kansas City spare ribs. The atmosphere is sports-heavy and includes a prominent bourbon bar and galvanized-metal buckets for your bones.
- 116 E 27th St, (between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave), 10016-89
- Critics choice
Zak Pelaccio has forged a formidable empire of “Fatty” establishments, and this one is the sexiest of the bunch. The menu here is notable for its balance and breadth—this is the first of the Fattys that won’t give you gout if you eat there too much. Delicate, shareable starters include cured artic char (a sort of Southeast Asian gravlax) and a zippy spin on a classic Caesar featuring red Russian kale tossed in a tart, creamy dressing. There’s also barbecue—roasted lamb, excellent smoked fatty brisket—and challenging dishes from Southeast Asia, like the delicious, pungent Thai-style sour-fermented pork sausage. Desserts are strange, surprising and mostly delicious: Try modernist, South East Asian–influenced creations like artisanal blue cheese crumbled on buttered brioche and jackfruit puree.
- 50 Carmine St, (between Bedford and Bleecker Sts)
What sets apart this new Fort Greene spot is its claim to offering “real New York barbecue.” But partners Craig Samuel (City Hall) and Ben Grossman (Picholine, La Grenouille) don’t stray far from the four basic ’cue groups: ribs, chicken, brisket and pork. “Brooklyn wings” had plenty of smoky flavor, and the lean, slightly singed baby back ribs tasted of hickory, mesquite and maple woods. House sauces were especially addictive: Piquant “joint smoke” is cooked for six hours, and the vinegary “holla-peña” is made with sambal spice. The space sports a honky-tonk look, with a bright-orange paint job and enclosed porch.
- 87 South Elliott Pl, (between Fulton St and Lafayette Ave)
Six years after debuting Pan-Latin Palo Santo, Jacques Gautier brings smoked meat to the 'cue-barren Slope with this sophomore venture across the street. The wood-clad barbecue joint, outfitted with a mosaic mirror wall and homemade mason-jar lights, draws on Palo Santo's resources, with vets of the space heading up the kitchen and bar, and hot sauce made with pickled veggies grown in the rooftop garden. Lia Forman, also an alum of Colicchio & Sons, mans the Cook Shack smoker, turning out brisket, pulled pork and spare ribs, sourced from Creekstone Farms and Heritage USA. You can round out your order with down-home sides, including biscuits, collard greens, and mac and cheese featuring cheddar, Gruyère and fontina. Barkeep Akil Marshall slings artisanal cocktails—like the Bobbito Burns, made with mescal, Bénédictine, Averna, bitters and an orange twist—but brewhounds can order local beers (Peak Organic, Brooklyn Brewery) instead.
- 669 Union St, (between Fourth and Fifth Aves)
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