By Anne Jones
New Yorkers have the luxury of being able to order a rack of ribs to their apartment at 4 a.m. and the convenience of finding pulled pork at over 20 different establishments in the city; but whether it’s real BBQ or not is questionable. Do they know meat? The 8th Big Apple Block Party brings in some of the finest “que” from all over the U.S. so that New Yorkers can taste the best in the country.
Braced with my “Fast Pass,” which guarantees entrance to the quick-moving lines where the wait was only a fraction of the regular lines, I carefully mapped out my meals for the afternoon based on region, cut of meat and photo of the actual pit master. FYI: Having this around your neck is the VIP of BBQ. It’s a must-purchase and they sell out, so if you come to eat, then it’s worth every penny (or Benjamin).
First stop was 17th Street Bar and Grill that hailed from Memphis. I love some Memphis “que” and have been there many times just to eat the deliciousness. My curiosity was instantly peaked because this joint had the longest line. Indeed, the ribs, of the wet and sweet variety like I grew up eating, were very good and the sides of beans were delicious, which is a feat in itself. I was ready to move on and decided that the line may have had a little something to do with it being near the entrance.
Next stop: The Pit Whole Hog BBQ. These boys rode in from Raleigh, NC and I had them on my radar for the fact that they were shamelessly slapping whole pigs on the pit and then chopping them up faster than one could blink. I seriously liked the looks of the owner from his photo. An older lad, who looked as if he’s sampled some barbeque in his lifetime, was strolling around in his overalls and long sleeve shirt in the 95 degree heat chatting it up with all of his hungry patrons while he occasionally took turns with his men to pull a piggy out of the pit. For the record, that little piggy was straight from heaven. The pulled pork was tender and juicy and the sauce was perfectly vinegary with a touch of spice. I contemplated waiting in that “fast” line for another. But on to…dessert.
I had to do NYC justice and although I’ve already had much of the barbecue joints on the list and was there to compare, I stood in line for a delicious Peanut Butter and Jelly cupcake from Blue Smoke. That icing is to die for. Moms all over would instantly gain popularity if these were a lunch box staple.
Last stop, and by this point, my small stature is starting to expand. I’ve only been here for two hours and have had two full meals, dessert, along with a stop for a heap of more baked beans, hush puppies, smothered greens and then some, by the Everyday with Rachael Ray, “On the Side” seminar for “tasty tidbits to round out your ribs and brisket.”
Like a trooper, I marched on and luckily, I saved the best for last. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q from Decatur, AL was my last stop. I chose this based on aesthetics alone. There was no line in the fancy pants section so I headed right up, grabbed my pulled pork sandwich and seconds later only an empty basket remained. It was heaven on a bun.
Mark Big Apple BBQ on your summer must-do list for next year.