Barbecue, with its long, long cooking times and slow perparation has traditionally been seen as the province of the South. Things just move too fast 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, eleven barbecue restaurants have opened 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.
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, which, while somewhat reliant on the sauce, is still more than enough to satisfy a quick fix. The happy hour is surprisingly pleasant for an establishment mere steps away from the hyper-fancy Wythe Hotel, giving you a Frito Pie, a beer, and a shot for only nine bucks. Add on the bring-some-friends Deluxe Platter that gets you three meats and three sides for $28, and this becomes a surprisingly affordable, homey hang-out spot in the “HOW much is that cocktail?!” part of Williamsburg.
Brokelyns (how price friendly is it?): 4/5
Ribs (how’s the food?): 3.5/5
Style: St. Louis Ribs, Oklahoma Links
91 South 6th Street, Williamsburg
Hordes of Brooklynites can still tell stories of spending absurd amounts of money for fish oil-covered lamb ribs at this unique BBQ spot that brings Malaysian food and down-home cooking together with surprisingly delicious results. The recently re-opened spot hasn’t skipped a beat since re-opening, albeit now it’s much more shiny and polished. The food is as good as ever, finding a weirdly comfortable balance between Far East and Deep South, and the prices still forbid anyone not living above the 8th floor in one of the new Williamsburg hi-rises from stopping by. The surprising new variable here though is the Late Night menu, which is available Thursday-Saturday from midnight to 2am. Here, you can grab late night bites that include a fried chicken bao for $3 and or bowl of noodles for $8. Add in the pretty great drink specials, and this might just be your new Williamsburg booty call.
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 whiskies and cocktails being offered here (also, it’s hard to find a better perch for people-watching than the outdoor tables).
669 Union Street, Park Slope
This micro-BBQ den hidden under a brownstone in Park Slope is being challenged to a very serious fight by newcomer/BBQ Disney Land Dinosaur BBQ opening up the street. Granted, they are about as different as can be. Fort Reno focuses on the small size and boutique quality with “old-timey” service that has you putting in the orders at the counter or the bar, but at the end of the day meat is meat. The thing to get here would either be the ribs or their eye-catching specialty, the Hot Mess. This, described as a “BBQ parfait,” would include pickled veggies, slaw, barbecue of your choosing, corn bread, mac and cheese and baked beans. With the price ($6-$8) I would highly recommend ordering it, but the only catch would be the BBQ comes off as the least memorable part. Their sides are all very solid, and I will dream of their extraordinarily balanced mac and cheese, but the brisket does disappoint. Their pork options are more solid, and their bar program (cocktails for $10) is indeed really impressive, making this a better selection for a late night sip and snack rather than a full meal.
103 2nd Avenue, East Village/Smorgasbug
Critics all over New York have been hailing this meatery as the chosen one, sent to lead the new army of city slicker barbecue in the Great Meat Wars of 2015 (it’s on the Mayan calendar). They’re on to something: if not for a slice of brisket from Briskettown, I could very safely say that this is easily the best barbecue I have ever had the pleasure of scarfing down. 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)
359 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Dan Delaney is a cheater. There, I said it. While other Brooklyn pitmasters have been splitting their time between pork, beef and chicken in various difficult forms, Delaney decided to sit down, focus on that most humble piece of meat, the brisket, and work out the best brisket anyone’s ever eaten. I am here to tell you, he did it. This is among the best meat I have ever consumed on this planet, perfectly moist, juicy, flavorful and fatty all at once, and should be the only thing people give me on holidays from now on. Other features are good here, too, with stunning ribs and just-added sausage, along with killer breakfast tacos that won’t break the bank at $4. The brisket here sits at $25 a pound, but would be worth twice that, and the tacos act as a great way to sample the wares and get your BBQ fix early in the morning.
604 Union Street, Gowanus
Recently opened up in Park Slope, this sprawling church of barbecue raises a lot of emotions from Brooklyners, all very quickly. First, there is a natural outrage that a business that is on the border of hitting full-blown chain (currently 7 locations and looking to open up their Philly branch soon) would dare set foot on locals-only territory. Second, comes sheer shock when the knick-knack-and-sign emblazoned walls meet the eye; it’s like someone trying to recreate Fette Sau, but is only able to describe what it looks like to a designer from Orlando. Third, acceptance, as they have a bite of the ribs and pork and realize the barbecue is solid here enough to satisfy even the most locally-sourced natives. The prices aren’t terribly Brokelyn-friendly here, but with $11 sandwich and side deals and large plates of meat for sharing ranging $17-$18 it’s a fine place to hang out when you’ve got a party too big for Fort Reno and you need a rib fix.
247 5th Avenue, Park Slope
Pork Slope is already on your radar, either if you’ve got a beer book or if you read New York Magazine‘s “Best of NYC.” One thing that both of those pieces of press fail to mention is the restaurant’s fantastic, messy and enormous Porky Melt ($13). Pork sausage topped with cheese, mustard, and a pile of grilled onions, all between two slices of toasted rye bread makes for one of the most unique sandwiches in New York and is proof that barbecue doesn’t need sauce. Pork Slope has some other more traditional BBQ fare like pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, but I can’t recommend the Porky Melt enough. As far as something brokester-friendly, Pork Slope also offers a deal to make Mondays worth living through, their “Burger and a Beast” deal: their terrifically popular burger, a side and can of Milwaukee’s Best for just ten dollars.
Little Brother BBQ
544 Clinton Avenue, Clinton Hill
Don’t be scared by the teeny tiny storefront that is Little Brother BBQ. If there’s no room to sit, or you just feel like it, you can grab your food to go in a tin foil pan and scarf it down next door at Hot Bird. Not that you need the beer to make your food taste better. And with sandwiches coming in at just $7.50 and plates (includes dirty rice and beans) just $9.50, this spot is as kind to your wallet as a genteel Southern hostess. Our advice though? Go for their Meat Lover’s platter, which gets you two pieces of pork sausage, chicken, beef, pulled pork, dirty rice, beans and cole slaw all for an astoundingly cheap $19. Eat it with a friend, take it home and eat it over three days or do some weird thing where you insist on eating it alone in one sitting I guess. Either way, the tanginess of the BBQ is cut perfectly by the sweetness of the rice and beans, and also OH MAN SO MUCH MEAT.
Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue
433 Third Avenue, Gowanus
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 ($8 lunch/$10 dinner) 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, 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 words for a combination of styles)
The Smoke Joint
87 S. Elliot Pl., 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 variety 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.
Follow Kenji for more tweets about meat at @Kenjimagrann