Finding good ribs and brisket in the city was not always this easy. A decade ago, the New York barbecue scene was about as dry as the rub used to season it with, but today there is some serious ‘cue happening, especially in Brooklyn.
While the (mostly friendly) war continues to wage in some parts of the South over which barbecue style reigns supreme, Brooklyn has become a sanctuary for innovative pitmasters combining both traditional fare and more non-regional recipes that celebrate the ever-changing diversity of the borough. According to Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine, “Brooklyn pit masters like Daniel Delaney, Billy Durney, Matt Fisher and me are known in the industry as ‘stick burners,’ which means that we cook completely without the aid of electricity or gas. We can get away with this because Brooklyn treats barbecue as a craft and not a commodity.”
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Nowadays, there’s less reason to travel to the land of the long leaf pine to get your smoked meat fix. Read our list, find a venue near you and crack open a cold one as you enjoy some of the best and most innovative barbecue around.
44 Berry St.
Walk into Mable’s and it could just as easily be a roadhouse in central Texas. No doubt that the food here is much better. Located in the heart of trendy North Williamsburg, owners Meghan Love and Jeff Lutonsky designed and built the restaurant with a honky-tonk feel, utilizing long communal tables and mismatching chairs. Lutonsky grew up in Oklahoma near the Texas border, and the recipes are those of his grandmother Mable.
As Love describes, it’s Texas barbecue with an Oklahoma flair, just like their roots. “We keep it country,” Love said. “Very traditional and authentic to the way we grew up.”
Don’t expect to find any fancy aged cheddar mornay sauce in the mac and cheese at Mable’s. This place prides itself in no-frills cooking. They proudly use Velveeta.
The Arrogant Swine
173 Morgan Ave.
Arrogant Swine serves the traditional Eastern North Carolina style of whole hog barbecue—a craft that pitmaster Tyson Ho mastered in, none-other-than, North Carolina. The process involves slow roasting an entire pig over wooden embers for several hours, mixing the meat from every part of the pig together and dousing it with a peppery vinegar-based sauce.
“While other styles of BBQ focuses on individual cuts, ours intends to give a taste of all parts of the animal in every bite,” Ho said. The establishment also includes a beer garden in the impressive 5,000-square-foot space, ideal for the Southern tradition of a communal hog roast, called a Carolina Pig Pickin’, in Brooklyn.
“While one may if particularly hungry polish off an entire slab of ribs, a pig demands the seating of the community,” he said.
354 Metropolitan Ave.
This list could not be complete without including the restaurant that pioneered much of the new barbecue taking place in Brooklyn. Fette Sau opened in 2007 and has blurred the lines between styles of barbecue ever since. Along with ribs, brisket and burnt-end baked beans, the menu usually features less traditional items such as house-cured beef pastrami, pork belly and wagyu beef cheeks. The name is a nod to the German influences that owners Joe and Kim Carroll include in their cured pastramis, German potato salad and sauerkraut sides.
The menu changes daily, and there is often a crowd on nights and weekends. The front patio is a nice place to sample some of Fette Sau’s large collection of whiskeys during a long wait.
Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue
433 Third Ave.
A dip in the Gowanus Canal may not be a good idea, but diving face-first into a rack of Fletcher’s St. Louis ribs will cure any ailment.
Fletcher’s sources only antibiotic and hormone-free meat from animals raised humanely in upstate New York, so the prices run higher than other places on this list. The menu rotates according to availability and seasonality, but try and get your hands on Fletcher’s ginger soy pork taco special topped with chimichurri and pickled ramps. Also be sure to order the summer market pickle plate, which includes asparagus and koolickles — watermelon rind pickled in bright neon red kool aid.
Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue
267 Flatbush Ave.
Former pitmaster John Avila of Morgan’s Barbecue in Prospect Heights once worked at Austin’s Franklin Barbecue, so clearly he knows a thing or two about smoked meats. He’s no longer there, but with Mark Roper now in his place, the brunch menu at Morgan’s is still as creative as ever with items like brisket tacos, a brisket breakfast burrito and brisket hash. This joint also offers smoked turkey and turkey tails, which can be difficult to come by at barbecue restaurants.
454 Van Brunt St.
Owner Bill Durney combines a few different styles of American barbecue, offering both a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce and a South Carolina mustard sauce at the table. While traditionalists might turn up their noses at Durney’s addition of international flavors, the rest of us can blissfully enjoy his spicy smoked chicken wings with sriracha and cilantro ranch, and the best lamb belly bahn mi sandwich you have ever had.
604 Union St.
Dinosaur was arguably way ahead of the northeast barbecue curve when then they opened their first shop near Albany in 1983. It took them more than 20 years to open their first New York City outpost in Harlem in 2004, but like the handful of storefronts before it, the venue took off. Today, there are nine Dinosaur locations across New York and Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland.
Go to their Gowanus restaurant and you’ll likely smell the smokers from a few blocks away. The huge saloon-esque space hosts live music and boasts a long menu of barbecue iterations including pulled pork, ribs, linked sausage, beef brisket and chicken (with variations of each). You might feel overwhelmed by the options, but you’ll do well to keep it simple with the original pulled pork sandwich.
Hill Country Barbecue Market
345 Adams St.
When the first Hill Country opened in Manhattan in 2007, it’s legit Texas-style barbecue—think brisket, sausage and ribs smoked over oak—took the city by storm. Like the original, the Brooklyn outpost features modern sides and desserts from culinary director Ash Fulk, plenty of space and lots of live music. And while it does have more cue competition than it used to, you could say it’s still cutting edge, given its swanky new space on a stretch of downtown Brooklyn that’s just begun to blossom.
Did we forget a venue? Let us know by leaving a comment.
Bridget Shirvell contributed research