Get Warm at the NYChilifest

As the days keep getting colder, the idea of a chili festival sounds might warm and inviting. You’re in luck; this Sunday is the Third Annual NYChilifest, taking place at the Chelsea Market from 7 to 9pm. For $55 you get unlimited Sam Adams beer and chili samples from some of the city’s, excuse the pun, hottest purveyors. Twenty-three restaurants are participating, including Perla, Pies n’Thighs, Potlikker, Salvation Taco, Talde, and Gramercy Tavern.

Like last year, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, one of the presenters along with The Cleaver Company, is supplying each team with t100 percent dry-aged, locally raised beef. After sampling from each crock, cookbook author Rick Rogers, New York Times food writer Julia Moskin, Wrighteous Organics‘ Martin Tessarzik, and Laura Silverman, founder of will decide the winner of the Golden Chili Mug of 2013.

What’s not to like about 500 feet of hot chili fun, with perky country music by The Dixon’s included. All proceeds benefit Food Systems Network NYC, so when you leave to hold your belly and down an antacid, you will know your chili binge was totally worth it.

Brisket Boom

In April 2012, Texas native Daniel Delaney started Brisketlab, a pop-up shop featuring, what else, smoked brisket. In 48 hours, he sold 2,500 pounds of meat and earned a name for himself and his product. Now, Delaney dishes up brisket at his first brick and mortar shop Delaney Barbecue, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There, you can buy tender, fatty brisket and smoky ribs by the pound, along with a tangy potato salad and coleslaw. Bring your own beer to chase the meat, and lots of friends to share it with.

Also dishing out stellar brisket is Bill Fletcher, who runs Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue in Gowanus. What is Brooklyn barbecue you may ask? The owner said it’s not from Texas, it’s not from St. Louis, and it’s not from the Carolinas, it’s from Brooklyn. Plus, in sticking with the local, organic, grass-fed beef trend that, thankfully, many restaurants in the borough have adopted, Fletcher’s also makes sure their product remains sustainable. You can also buy by the pound here, and, aside from ribs and brisket, they serve Pat LaFrieda spicy sausage, pork shoulder, baked beans, and house-made fridge pickles.

Recently, in Astoria, Queens, The Strand Smokehouse opened up with former Jeffrey’s Grocery chef Eric Milley cooking pulled pork, smoked pork loin, and macaroni and cheese. They have a good selection of beer and have a handful of whiskey-filled barrels right for tapping. 


Photo Credit: Critter

Brooklyn is Not The New Kansas City: The Borough’s Own Barbeque

Dan, the bartender at Fort Reno in Park Slope, has a curled-up mustache and a knowledge of bourbon that sits somewhere between impressive and intimidating. “A guy came in here the other night and goes, ‘So you specialize in stuff no one’s ever heard of?’ and it’s like, pretty much, yeah,” he told me while dropping bitters onto a sugar cube. And this procurement of specialty flavors only starts at the bar (that patron wanted “something smoother,” and wound up with a glass of Berkshire Bourbon from Southwestern Massachusetts). As a BBQ venture, there’s no pretense about bringing Memphis or Kansas City to Kings County. When I asked about influence, the manager Akil shook his head. “This is Brooklyn barbeque.”

In some respects, what makes it Brooklyn barbeque is the same thing that gives any food that “Brooklyn” prefix—the cows and pigs are grass-fed, the meat’s organic (Fort Reno gets theirs from Pat LaFrieda in New Jersey, among others), and greens don’t grow out of the ground, they grow out of a rooftop. I had just missed Goat-tober, where males past their procreation dates go to local restaurants interested in the “subtle sweetness” of their meat. Fort Reno made stew out of it. They’ve also gained notoriety for their seven dollar “Hot Mess,” sort of a KFC bowl for Vassar grads with beans, mac, pork shoulder, cornbread, slaw, and hot pickles layered in a—wait for it, Tyler Coates—mason jar. My bartender over at Halyards says it’s the neighborhood’s favorite drunk food, though it’s worth seeing with clear vision. In Park Slope, pretty don’t stop for drunk.

Down the street at Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue, things are slightly less eclectic (the bartender’s mustache doesn’t curl), but the sentiment’s still there. “We call it Brooklyn barbecue first and foremost because we’re in Brooklyn, and we’re not trying to replicate any of the amazing regional styles of barbecue that have come before us,” Bill Fletcher, the owner, told me. There are staples, no doubt—pork shoulder, brisket, St. Louis ribs. But the real gems here are the char siu pork (shoulder with a Cantonese marinade) and coriander-rubbed baby-backs with pineapple-lime chutney sauce. At a point where Brooklyn is also synonymous with fusion (“I think this juxtaposition is at the root of what it means to be making barbeque here,” says Bill), it’s high time for an incredibly old and distinctly American food to get an international kick. That said, I don’t know what other country would tolerate the chili-topped mac and cheese—radiatori noodles (so much better!) covered with melted white cheddar, brisket and BBQ sauce. Talk about drunk food.

And now over in Williamsburg, Dan Delaney of Brisketlab fame has opened his brick and mortar joint, Briskettown. The style doesn’t exactly jibe with the South Brooklyn spots—Delaney’s settled on perfecting Texas style barbeque (“there will be no innovation,” he contends). Though sans pineapple-lime braising, the meat doesn’t exactly lack for flavor, especially if you ask for a fatty cut. BBQ sauce isn’t part of the equation, so I guess if you get a lean piece that’s dry, take a sip of beer or something. But while the meat takes from Texas, the Brooklyn seeps in elsewhere. The place is something of a minimalist little hall with shoulder-to-shoulder seating. The two fellows next to me went a good fifteen minutes playing the “Have You Been To?” game, before one of them concluded that the food was tasty but the place was too crowded (“If they move these tables—see, these are the things I notice now that I’m in business school.”). They left. Two other guys sat down and started talking lying about blowjobs. Williamsburg is as Williamsburg does.

Brooklyn does not lay claim to any barbeque crown. I can attest, from watching copious amounts of Travel Channel specials as an adolescent, that folks in North Carolina and Texas take this stuff very seriously. I’ve made my pilgrimage to Arthur Bryant’s, and K.C. is indeed proud. But if there’s something this borough is consistently good at, it’s taking something wonderfully simple—a chocolate bar, a bowl of ramen—and getting just the right amount of precious with it. And so far as barbeque’s concerned, I’d say it’s working.

New Barbecue Restaurant Feeds Gowanus

Despite all the cancellations and pushed back opening dates, Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue had no problem during Hurricane Sandy and welcomed guests into their warm, hearty eatery or the first time last Friday.

"We were lucky,” said owner Bill Fletcher, aka BBQ Billy. “The restaurant didn’t flood, we didn’t lose power, and we were able to stay on track for a Friday opening."  

This means Gowanus now has what Fletcher describes as “a uniquely Brooklyn style of American pit barbecue” at their greasy, saucy fingertips. Though what Brooklyn-style barbecue is has yet to be fully determined, we eagerly await the verdict and the chance to try the goods, which get cooked over maple and oak wood in their 2,600-pound, cherry red pit. After all, Fletcher himself has a long history working the pit and has won many accolades on the northeast barbecue competition circuit. Another reason we have high hopes comes in the form of pit master Matt Fisher, formally of R.U.B., who will be manning the meat with BBQ Billy.

Together, they pile plates high with ribs, pork shoulder, brisket, and a rotating menu of market-driven options like Char Siu pork belly and maple smoked Red Wattle Pork Loin. All the meat is sustainably raised and they plan on keeping specials and side dishes seasonal. Aside from slabs of meat, you can also get mac and cheese, pit-smoked baked beans, a rotating list of sliders, and barbecue tacos. 

All of this can be found in their industrial-butcher-meets-rustic-eatery on Wednesday through Monday, starting at 5pm until they run out.