Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue + BrisketTown
The Kings County smoked-meat scene heats up.
Rated as: 3/5Fletcher’s: 433 Third Ave between 7th and 8th Sts, Gowanus, Brooklyn (347-763-2680). Subway: F, G, R to Fourth Ave–9th St. Mon, Wed, Thu, Sun 11:30am–2:30pm, 5–10pm; Fri, Sat 11:30am–2:30pm, 5–11pm. Average pound of smoked meat: $20.
Rated as: 4/5
BrisketTown: 359 Bedford Ave between South 4th and 5th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-701-8909). Subway: J, M to Marcy Ave. Mon–Fri 8am–noon, 6:30–9pm; Sat, Sun 8am–3pm, 6:30–9pm. Average pound of brisket: $25.
Photograph: Dominic Perri
Barbecue fiends are a fanatical crew, up all night tending to their pyres, working for weeks on their signature rubs and chasing trophies at hypercompetitive smoke offs. Until recently, New York’s best low-and-slow meat, in fact, could be found on the amateur circuit. But a serious barbecue boom that started at Hill Country and Fette Sau raised the restaurant bar a few years back, and now semipros are entering the commercial fray as well. Two new spots in Brooklyn—Fletcher’s near the Gowanus Canal and BrisketTown just off the Williamsburg Bridge—represent opposite ends of the ’cue- nut spectrum.
Bill Fletcher’s brightly lit restaurant takes a big-tent approach, mixing up regional styles—from Missouri to Texas—along with original stuff you won’t find anywhere else. The ex-adman, who fought for years in local contests (Grillin’ on the Bay, Brooklyn Chili Smackdown) under the moniker “Barbecue Billy,” colluded with an old rival—former RUB pit master Matt Fisher—on his brick-and-mortar debut.
Their chow line, everything displayed in a heated glass case, sells meat by the pound on paper-lined trays. There’s a vast spread to choose from, cooked in a custom-built fire-red smoker filled with oak logs and maple. That workhorse, affectionately dubbed “Joanie” (for another red-hot number, Christina Hendricks on Mad Men), consumes the whole place in an alluring, smoky scent.
While the generalist tack means lots of variety—as great for a group as the communal wood tables—there’s an opposable dud for every triumph on the wide-ranging menu. St. Louis ribs, finished with a vinegar glaze, have a gorgeous sheen but meat that’s too dry around the bone. Brisket burnt ends, though, may be the best in New York, the fatty deckle transformed into caramel-crusted meat-candy cubes. And while amber smoked wings, ten to an order, arrive leathery from lingering too long in their heat-lamped pen, char siu pork shoulder—a house innovation in a hoisin, soy and ginger glaze— is a delicious, sweet-sticky homage to the barbecued loins dangling in Chinatown windows.
The limited selection of sides is hit-or-miss too. A three-bean medley, dried out in the smoker with bacon and onion, would have much more depth from a stove-top braise. But the sharp and creamy mac and cheese is excellent, with an optional dollop of sweet-and-spicy brisket chili on top.
Vitals: Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue
Eat this: Burnt ends, char siu pork, brisket-chili mac and cheese
Drink this: There’s a decent selection of artisanal hooch, behind a short bar with a half-dozen stools, including Hudson Baby Bourbon at $15 a glass. Apple cider spiked with Bulleit bourbon is a refreshing mixed drink poured into an icy pint ($9). Or grab a Sixpoint Sweet Action ($6) from among the three beers on tap.
Conversation piece: Bill Fletcher ran a successful ad agency, Domani Studios, before selling his share to his partner in 2010.