Two weekends ago, we left the safe haven of Brooklyn to attend the 5th Annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park. We put on our finest elastic pants and practiced our stretches. We weren't going for the spectacle... we meant business. The Big Apple Barbecue brought together some of the finest barbecue from across the country, and by gum we were going to stuff ourselves on tasty offerings from across the land. It was our patriotic duty.
We had stopped at the BBQ in 2006, but we were young and unprepared for the tastiness. Not this year. We had our map and our plan of attack all ready. As soon as we arrived, we made a beeline for the whole hog sandwich from Mitchell's BBQ from Wilson, North Carolina. Ed Mitchell is a genius. The meat itself is so tender and flavorful, seasoned with salt and some secret seasonings (maybe they weren't so secret, but I like the mystery), and bits of the cooked skin chopped up for good measure. The only downside is occasionally finding a bit of bone, but that's an obstacle I'm willing to face.
The picture does not represent how truly delicious this is. I'm telling you. If you like pork, and you have the opportunity to try this sandwich, DO IT.
We braved another long line to sample some baby back ribs from 17th Street Bar & Grill from Murphysboro, Illinois. The pitmaster, Mike Mills, seems to be somewhat of a legend on the barbecue circuit, and I trusted the extremely long line to steer me to yumminess
I was able to peek at the ribs inside the giant smoker. Yum.
I think the portions at the event were pretty generous. If you're sharing every dish and have your heart on trying most of the out-of-towners, you'll be quite stuffed. Anyhoo, the ribs did not disappoint. The meat was tender, but not too saucy. It broke away from the bone cleanly, which is apparently desirable in a rib. I just knew it was tasty.
Since the line for the 17th Street Bar and Grill was so long, Q ran to Ubon's "Champion's Choice' from Yazoo, Mississippi to grab some pulled pork shoulder. The line was nonexistent, so he was able to quickly procure some line-waiting fuel.
Eh. There was a reason the line was short. The pork itself lacked a bit in flavor. While it certainly was good, it didn't compare to the other offerings.
We then waddled over to the beer garden for a breather.
I think Madison Square Park should always have a beer garden set up. Screw Shake Shack.
The offerings weren't just limited to pork. There was beef too! The Salt Lick BBQ from Driftwood, Texas offered beef brisket and sausage. I'm not a huge sausage fan, but it was nicely spicy and had a good snap. The brisket was very good, but I thought the best thing about The Salt Lick was their selection of sauces. I should have seen if I could buy a bottle. Oh well.
At this point, our pants were getting a wee bit tight. We met up with our friend Jill, who is now living in Baltimore, so we went by the New York offerings so she could quickly catch up. We went by our favorite BBQ joint in the city, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and sampled their pulled pork shoulder.
Oh Yazoo, Mississippi, now THIS is pulled pork shoulder! Delicious! Dinosaur can do no wrong in my eyes. The sandwich was sweet and tangy, but the meat flavor always shone through.
While we were strolling by the New York stands, we decided to try the offerings from Hill Country, a new BBQ joint that had just opened that weekend. Hill Country offers Texas-style BBQ, meaning beef! We bit into one of their huge beef ribs.
Unfortunately, most of the rib was bone. The rib definitely did not live up to the hype going around about this place, but I'll give the restaurant a shot.
MAXIMUM MEAT CAPACITY!!! We were heading into a giant coma brought on by copious amounts of beef and pork. Wait. What's that giant vat?
Brunswick Stew, eh? That sounds a bit dubious. Wait, doesn't that usually have squirrel in it? Sure does smell good though. Ok, maybe a little taste...
This tied as my absolute favorite thing here (along with Mitchell's whole hog sandwich). They passed out recipe cards so you can be sure of what you're eating, but I'm not going to ruin the surprise for you. I'll definitely need to try my hand at making it, but the recipe card is for a few gallons of the stuff. May need to cut that down a bit. Maybe.
You can buy a Bubba's Fast Pass, which allows you to go in shorter VIP style lines, but I actually really like the experience of waiting in line. Everyone is there for the same thing, and they kill time by sharing stories and experiences. Nothing brings people together like delicious barbecue, cold beer, and a beautiful day in the park. Sigh. Life is good.