a barbecue recommendation from a southern expat.
before we start this review, let’s get a few things straight:
barbecue is a food – pulled pork. there are plenty of variations on this subject, however, it is and can only be pulled pork. you cannot attend pulled pork. you are not invited to pulled pork. you crave it, you seek it, you smother it, you eat it. and repeat.
a cookout is an event, with a grill. common foods found at a cookout include burgers and dogs. there can be barbecue at a cookout, but it must be accompanied by a smoker. the outdoor meat-making machine, not a nicotine-addicted or solely socially-inclined attendee. barbecue from the smoker, burgers and dogs from the grill. with the presence of a smoker makes this a fancy cookout.
please allow me to illustrate a scene for you where these mixed-up meanings led to plenty of confusion when the winds of my vagrant sails blew northward for the first time…
scene: waiting patiently at the grill for your burger to be done, at a cookout.
a northerner appears.
Northerner: “hey where is the barbecue?”
Southern Expat: “ah i don’t think there’s any here! i didn’t see a smoker.”
Northerner: “”i’m a social smoker. what does that matter.”
Southern Expat: “not at all man.”
Northerner: “so then what are you waiting online for?”
Southern Expat: “online?”
Northerner: “yeah what are you waiting online for?”
Southern Expat: “i wasn’t even using my phone, just waiting for my burger to be finished.”
Northerner: “exactly, so you’re waiting online for the barbecue.”
Southern Expat: “no i think i’ll be filled up enough with the burger, i’m not going to get pulled pork on seamless or whatever. what’s the point of a cookout then?”
Northerner: “i guess to have a cig.”
NOW that we have all of that cleared, let me say that i take my barbecue quite seriously. although carolina and tennessee tend to make their names pretty well-known in this realm, if you haven’t noticed, the old dominion is right in between the two. and it very proudly boasts some of the best smoked pork goodness you can find around. so to say that you can find such a southern delicacy this far north of the mason dixon line was surprising even to me.
we were all here for the city’s big brisket bonanza, when the cheap beef cut swept the city in a multitude of representations, from the delicate yet unbelievably satisfying brisket sandwiches that sold out weekend after weekend at mighty quinn’s stand at smorgasburg, to the no-frills mounds by the pound served with a side of white bread at BrisketTown. it’s still here and still smoking strong, but we’ve evolved as an urban species to demand something more dynamic. we want the whole event. the fancy cookout, if you will. the barbecue.
and we find it, unsurprisingly, in the quaint little village of red hook. which more and more feels like an artist town by the river in VA than a part of south brooklyn.
you’ll smell hometown barbque before you see it, with at least 4 smokers (and a few smokers!) milling outside, preparing the day’s meats. inside is a perpetually smokey ambience settles to reveal simple picnic tables, brown paper menus adorning the wall, and a perpetual but swift-moving queue. snag a drink from their immaculately stocked bar to drink while waiting IN line, but drinkers beware, the moonshine is ONLY for the brave at heart. and even for those of us, it is fucking humbling.
get your food. choose your poison by way of a smattering of sauces. pay no mind to the napkins, let nothing get in between you and the unbelievable meaty experience that is about to take over your entire body. i dream about this place. it helps quelch? my hunger in between long bouts when i can’t head south. it’s an oasis, it’s my mecca, it’s hometown bbq in red hook and it’s where to eat this weekend. and all of those other weekends too.
what not to miss
the pulled pork sandwich. the brisket tacos. the fucking lamb belly banh mi my god. and the wings! what are these wings! pure perfection. yes get all of these things. get all of them.
how not to miss it
454 van brunt st.
OR, of course, just follow my handy little biking guide to red hook. where i have never led you astray.
eat up, brooklyn. it’s gonna be a long winter and we’ll need that insulation.