With my Texan girlfriend leading the way and teaching me everything there is to know about true Texas ‘cue, I’ve become a bit of a barbecue aficionado, as regrettably also a bit of a snob. I’ve had enough experience consuming the real stuff to know what makes good and bad BBQ and NYC has plenty of each. I’ve travelled around NYC, throughout the boroughs, to Cochon 555, and The Big Apple Barbecue Festival a number of times. Hell, I’ve even been to a barbecue head-to-head event where many of NYC’s top BBQ producers go to show off their chops. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s what in the New York BBQ world.
There’s been much written lately about the booming NYC barbecue scene, but I’ve often found myself disappointed with many of the most highly-regarded, hyped, big-name places. But there also really is some incredible barbecue to be had around NYC. I’ve written previously about my love for Mighty Quinn’s and I think that Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke is pretty phenomenal, but I think the best of the best might be at the old Brooklyn mainstay Fette Sau in South Williamsburg. Fette Sau’s name means “Fat Pig” in German and that’s exactly how you’ll feel after indulging in a meat-tastic gorge-fest there.
On this particular Saturday night, after a couple of hours bar-crawling around South Williamsburg, our stomachs began to growl so we decided to walk the few blocks to Fette Sau. Amy had never been to Fette Sau before and I had been meaning to bring her there to experience and judge it for herself. She’s often told me about how she misses the ease of access to spectacular barbecue that she had while living in Texas and I don’t think she’d really found her fix for great ‘cue in New York yet.
Like most of the popular places in New York, you better be prepared to wait a bit. There’s almost always a line snaking out of the main dining room into the front outdoor seating section. Even at 10 PM on a Saturday, when we arrived, the line extended almost to the entrance gate. As soon as I saw it, I threw out an estimated wait time of 30 or 40 minutes. As it turned out, my approximating was pretty close.
So we did the smart thing and left two of our party of four in line while the other two walked over to the bar inside to grab a round of drinks to consume while we waited in line. I was in a whiskey mood and asked the bartender if they made any cocktails. He handed me a menu and told me ‘yes, but it’s pretty limited.’ Fair enough. He wasn’t lying, there were five cocktails offered of the menu, two of which contained whiskey so I went with the Rye Mule.
This drink, served in a mason jar, had a nice rustic look and a bold, sweet, sour, and gingery flavor that mixed well with the whiskey. It was exactly what I was in the mood to drink outside and really did help pass the time while we waited in line.
Just as I was finishing my cocktail, we reached a sign indicating that we were getting closer. But there was also still plenty of line to go ahead of us. Looks like Cody was getting pretty hungry at this point. Hold on buddy. Just a little bit more, I promise this’ll all be worth it.
Shortly thereafter, we reached the main room and Amy immediately turned to me and claimed with a exasperated and relieved look that it smelled exactly like Texas in there. Yes, Amy, this is the real deal. That smokey scent permeated the air and danced into our nostrils, teasing us just a bit more before we could actually indulge in that meaty bliss.
And just a few feet before the meat counter, we came across a chalkboard listing the night’s offerings. This, my friends, is my biggest issue with barbecue in NYC, the prices. Though not as expensive as some of the other trendier BBQ joints that shall-not-be-named, it’s still three or four times more expensive than the places I know and love in Elgin and Lockhart, Texas. But it’s just a fact of life with BBQ in NYC and you’ll have to suck up if you want to experience the good stuff.
My group of four left the ordering to me. My friends undoubtedly trust my judgement when it comes to things like this. When I reached the butcher counter, I requested two Vintage Beef Short Ribs, 1 Pound of Berkshire Spicy Sausage, a pound and a half of Black Angus Beef Brisket (a moist cut if possible), and a large cup of Burnt End Baked Beans. The meat master put two fingers towards his eyes then towards me and said “I got this for you.” He knew that I knew what was up.
We paid for our massive platter which also included a handful of bread rolls and grabbed a seat at one of the indoor wooden picnic tables. I snapped my photos as quickly as possible because it was already 10:45 PM and I knew everyone was feeling pretty ravenous. But holy crap, look at that haul we ended up with!!
We divided up the ‘cue between us and dug in. I began with the mammoth-sized beef rib. This juicy meat was extremely tender, shredded easily, had a nice pink, signature smoke ring on the inside and a deep, thick, crusty bark on the outside. It was just flat out delicious and certainly as good as any barbecue I’ve had elsewhere in NYC.
Next, I took a detour over to the baked beans. Normally, my rule of thumb on BBQ sides is to ignore and forego them altogether in favor of consuming even more meat, but these beans are loaded with burnt ends!
Burnt ends are one of my favorite BBQ cuts. They are the fatty, extremely spice-loaded bits of meat cut off the ends of a beef brisket. While I’ve always been a little disappointed that Fette Sau doesn’t sell the burnt ends separately by weight like many other BBQ joints in the area do, I still appreciate that I can have them in the hearty, chunky, flavorful, rich, and meaty baked beans. These beans were actually really excellent, so they certainly get a full recommendation from me.
I then dug into the glowing red sausage. As it turned out, each link was approximately a quarter-pound, so the one-pound order allowed each person to have their own link. And it was a phenomenal sausage. It was spicy, juicy, snappy, meaty, and flavorful and was a nice textural departure from the rest of the order. Though these links were outstanding and some of the best I’ve had in NYC, they still can’t hold a candle to the incomparable Elgin Hot Guts links.
Finally, we arrived at the pride and joy of any Texan BBQ spot, the brisket. Many barbecue joints in NYC sell the moist and lean brisket separately at different price points, but that’s not the case at Fette Sau, so I made sure to request the fattier, moist cut when ordering since I find it to be much more flavorful and enjoyable.
This turned out to be an incredibly decadent decision because the moist cut was covered in a layer of some of the most buttery, luscious beef fat I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. The only place that’s even come close in NYC was Mighty Quinn’s. It’s even nearly as incredible as the stuff from Black’s in Lockhart, Texas although vastly pricier. The meat was tender, moist, and easily pulled apart. The bark added a nice peppery crunch to the whole thing, but those ridiculous fatty bites are what meat-gasms are made of. Serious meat boner from this stuff.
So, after we crushed every last, smokey, meaty bite of ‘cue and licked the remaining BBQ grease off of our fingers, we all realized that a mega-food coma was inevitable. We all decided to go our separate ways before each flopping into bed in a beefy, porky bliss. I feel like I don’t even need to tell you at this point, but this BBQ is some serious stuff. It’s the best I’ve had in NYC and though you’ve got to pay substantially more than you would in Texas, if you looking for the real deal, look no further. And always remember, you don’t put sauce on true Texan ‘cue.
Got another epic meat-centric spot in NYC I need to check out? Let me know in the comments below.
354 Metropolitan Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11211