[Update for 2017: It’s been a long while since we took a look at the BK BBQ scene and has it ever changed! We’ve lost a lot of good restaurants – pour one out for Pork Slope – but we’ve gained a lot of good ones, too. Sadly, like your rent, prices have increased since 2013. But there are still deals to be had. Check them out below!]
Barbecue, with its long, long cooking times and slow preparation has traditionally been the province of the South. Things just move too quickly up here in the go-go North to sit all day smoking pork butt. Or so people said. At some point when these people weren’t looking, barbecue restaurants have sprung up in Brooklyn, displaying skills in everything from St. Louis mastery over ribs to Asian/BBQ fusion to the best brisket you’ve ever had. Which one should you go to though? Well, none of these are really bad choices, but at least this will give you a peek at what to expect in Brooklyn’s new barbecue heaven! Here’s where to find the best BBQ in Brooklyn.
A note on our ratings:
Brokelyns: how nice is the price, from 1 (Hostile) to 5 (Benevolent).
Ribs: how good is the food, from 1 (Guy Fieri) to 5 (Pitmaster).
Style: what kind of barbecue tradition are we talking about.
173 Morgan Avenue, Williamsburg
Arrogant Swine serves one thing and one thing only: whole-hog barbecue, North Carolina-style. It’s what you expect – an entire hog is slow-cooked over embers for hours, pulled, chopped, and seasoned. There’s some smoke belly and spare ribs, but if you’re going to do Carolina-style right, you need to go the whole hog. Prices are pretty good, too, with a 1/2 pound pork just $11, and sides ranging from $4 – $5. The interior is Bushwick industrial-chic with a beer garden to match.
180 Livingston Street, Downtown Brooklyn
The family behind Dallas BBQ opened their first location in the ’80s and have since expanded to 10 restaurants throughout the city, with two in Brooklyn. The food is tasty, the portions huge and decently priced. For just $20 you can get the BBQ Special of sirloin steak, baby back ribs and a 1/4 rotisserie chicken. There are a lot of seafood options for your pescatarian friends, however the chef seems to rely on deep-frying them. The giant “Texas-sized” frozen drinks are a steal and they even sell pitchers of beer.
604 Union Street, Gowanus
There was some general grumbling when this sprawling church of barbecue opened in 2013. How dare an almost-chain open up in our mom-and-pop borough? (Hah!) But four years might as well be forty in today’s Brooklyn. Since then Dino BBQ has become a full-blown regional chain and weathered the cut-throat NYC restaurant market well. It’s probably because the BBQ is still pretty solid. And the prices haven’t changed much, making this one of more pocketbook-friendly restaurants on our list. Sandwiches are about $13 including two sides; three-meet combo plates are about $22.
354 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg
I’m actually surprised that anyone is at home or at work reading this right now, seeing as every time you step into line at this Williamsburg ode to pork, it looks like all of Brooklyn has gotten there just before you. Yes, the lines here are long, but that must translate into amazing barbecue, right? Well, the barbecue is very good, but for the prices they’re selling at and the necessary fight to get a table, it may not be worth it unless you’re looking to make some new friends or check out their very impressive bar program. I’d highly recommend stopping by on the off-hours and sampling the ribs or any and all specials you can find, and making sure you get a thorough tour of the variety of whiskeys and cocktails being offered here (also, it’s hard to find a better perch for people-watching than the outdoor tables).
Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue
433 Third Avenue, Gowanus; Dekalb Market Hall, Downtown Brooklyn
Hey, you know what’s fun? When a chopped brisket sandwich is so expertly made that you don’t even need to use the sauce the restaurant gives you. And that’s exactly what confronted me at Fletcher’s, where the chopped brisket ($7 per 1/4 pound) was perfectly fatty, sweet, succulent and piled high enough to make your eyes full. Be warned that this is a spot where they run out of different meats, so be prepared to change your plans on the fly. Not that it’s a problem if everything else is as good as that brisket sandwich. The BBQ comes by the pound here, and they’ve got a glass display case for you to see what’s bountiful that day. They’ve also got daily wild card specials, which included duck tacos and an entire pig’s head, when I popped in. And, not that it affects the food, but they had one of the nicest servers we encountered on the entire BBQ tour.
Style: Brooklyn barbecue (their name for a combination of styles)
Hill Country Barbecue Market
345 Adams Street (on Willoughby Plaza), Downtown Brooklyn
Everything’s big in Texas, and this restaurant is no exception. Hill Country Brooklyn, located in the former Brooklyn Edison building downtown, is probably the most impressive restaurant space in the borough. But the wonder stops there. The food is middle of the road Texas BBQ and the service could be better. Prices are a little lower than average. The lunch and dinner specials are where it’s at ($23 for two meats, two sides and cornbread). There’s even an all-you-can-eat special on Mondays, 5-10 for $23. But how much average BBQ do you really want to eat?
454 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook
The wait to get into Red Hook’s only barbecue joint can be as long as an hour, but it’s worth it. The place has no pretensions of replicating any specific barbecue style and it works. The brisket is tender and well-smoked, the Vietnamese hot wings are spicy and delicious. Alas, prices are average to above-average and there are no happy hours or specials, making Hometown, for us, a sometimes food.
Style: “Brooklyn” (incorporating Asian, Caribbean, and Mexican flavors)
44 Berry Street, Williamsburg
“WE’RE FROM THE SOUTH!” is being loudly screamed by just about everything in Mable’s Smokehouse, but subtlety isn’t exactly Southern either, so it works. The food is exactly what you’d expect: down-home barbecue goodness. While somewhat reliant on the sauce, it is still more than enough to satisfy a quick fix. Alas, this is Williamsburg and what used to be a cheap joint is now no longer. The Deluxe Platter — three meats and three sides — went up 50% since 2013 to $47 (nearly $70 if you want extra, extra ribs). But the regular platters (two sides and a meat) average about $21. Not bad for the “HOW much is that cocktail?!” part of Williamsburg.
Style: St. Louis Ribs, Oklahoma Links
899 Bergen Street (Berg’n), Crown Heights; Smorgasburg Williamsburg and Prospect Park
While the brick-and-mortar spot is technically not Brooklyn-based, Mighty Quinn’s did get their start in the humble origins of Smorgasburg, and still make frequent appearances there. The menu is easy to negotiate and there’s no wrong answer. The ribs and brisket perfectly capture the smoky, juicy, savory goodness that makes everyone (vegetarian excluded) barbecue lovers. Even the sides are mind-blowingly awesome, ranging from the traditional and perfectly-executed beans on one end of the spectrum and the experimental edamame-goat cheese salad on the other. The prices may not be as cheap as some of the other BBQ spots on our list, but once you have a bite here you’ll agree that you didn’t pay nearly as much as you should have.
Style: Texalina (Texas/Carolina hybrid)
267 Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Heights
Morgan’s BBQ brings Texas to the heartland of Brooklyn: Flatbush Ave. And despite being on one of the busiest streets in the borough, inside you could imagine yourself sitting in a road house on the edge of Houston. But ambiance ain’t everything. The food’s solid, well-executed Texas BBQ, but the portions are small for what you’re paying. But the $2 tacos and $4 beers at happy hour (M-F 4-6pm) take the sting out of it.
480 Union Street, Gowanus
Pig Beach, as the name suggests, is best visited on a hot summer day. The better to enjoy their huge outdoor space, with picnic tables and corn hole. The food is probably the best BBQ we’ve had in the borough. Makes sense, considering all of the prizes the BBQ competitions the chefs have won. Brisket and ribs are delish. The triple burger is obscene and obscenely good. Food prices are average. Mixed drinks are a bit more expensive than we’d prefer, but they’re strong. Maybe stick with the house wine, Salty Rinse, if you’re on a budget.
The Smoke Joint
87 S. Elliot Place, Fort Greene
We wonder if the staff at Greenlight Books hates this hickory-smoked BBQ outpost for flooding their store with sauce-stained book browsers? Nah, just kidding. But this Fort Greene spot does bring the pain with $8 sandwiches of both the pulled pork and brisket variety, plus a huge array of whiskey and bourbon that gives Fette Sau a run for its money. Another instance where the use of the sauce left on the table with you is tasty but not necessary, the pulled pork sandwich perfectly absorbs the flavor of the hickory it’s cooked over. If you want to do a side, grab the baked beans, which are full of enough burnt ends to justify being a meat dish almost on their own.