Many of Gotham’s barbecue sanctuaries claim legitimacy via faithfulness to one specific tradition, but meat buff Hugh Mangum takes a different tack. Drawing on the Carolinas (mustard and vinegar) and Texas (dry rub), the chef melds traditions from his father and in-laws, respectively, into a self-styled “Texalina” category. In the bright former Vandaag space—now staged with white-painted brick, Edison lightbulbs and stacks of splintered logs—’cue-hounds can dig into superlative statehopping grub that upends purist ideals with gut-busting glory.
ORDER THIS: The simple chalkboard menu lists just six proteins (including brisket, sausage and spareribs) and four sides, above a cafeteria-style assembly line. Load up your tray with the behemoth Brontosaurus Rib ($23): The crispy, blackened beef is enhanced by only a sprinkle of Maldon salt after a ten-hour session over embers. Counter workers finish the top-notch pulled pork ($7.25)—rubbed with paprika, cumin and sugar and cooked for 12 hours—with just a squirt of the house-made Texalina sauce, a slightly sweetened ketchup-vinegar condiment pepped up with mustard. Fill up your tray with meaty baked beans, fortified with burnt ends, and a rustic sweet-potato casserole studded with pecans (small size $3), plus bright cucumber and celery pickles to cut through all the richness.
GOOD FOR: Smorgasburg groupies sniffing out smoke-accented proteins. Mangum earned devotees slinging brisket at the Kings County weekends-only food bazaar. Fans can now chow down seven days a week, without having to balance a mounded plate while dodging hungover Williamsburg shoppers. In addition to seating at communal wooden tables (and all-weather cover), the newfound restaurant comforts include cold craft beer: Sixteen options, such as Founders’ Dirty Bastard ale and Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, are available in drafts and growlers or in bottles.
THE CLINCHER: The fare may have down-home origins, but fine-dining alum Magnum (Nougatine) finesses the old-school craft with exceptional ingredients. The all-natural meat—Berkshire and Duroc heritage-breed hogs, pasture-raised and grain-finished Angus beef—is cooked over oak, apple and cherry woods in a 7,000-pound smoker that fires 24 hours a day, perfuming the joint with a campfire aroma. Sure, the modern digs and young patrons exude East Village cool, but that distinctive smoke is pure south-of-the-Mason-Dixon sizzle.—Caitlin Griffith