The truth about Brooklyn barbecue

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If you’re gonna take a picture of a tray of meat, THEN ORDER A TRAY OF MEAT. (Photo courtesy of Izzy’s Smokehouse, Brooklyn.)

The article was headlined “Why Is Brooklyn Barbecue Taking Over the World?” I’m not even going to link to it. But it was a perfect example of a certain sort of food writing: provocative clickbait written by someone seemingly ignorant about barbecue and journalism.

It also gave Brooklyn way too much credit while trying to champion something that didn’t need his damn help—which seems to be a particularly Brooklyn thing to do (and by that, I mean a particularly Williamsburg thing to do).

As a certified barbecue judge who’s eaten his way through Austin, Lockhart, Memphis, and Kansas City, with a couple of stops in the Carolinas, I can tell you this: Brooklyn barbecue isn’t taking over the world, but it is good and doesn’t need this trend-setting bullshit.

The piece featured a handful of places, including one Brooklyn barbecue restaurant that’s been closed for over a year. The only thing remotely supporting a claim that Brooklyn barbecue was taking over the world was that people in other locations are using the same sort of decor (which, to be honest, is generic Brooklyn hipster and not remotely unique to Brooklyn barbecue joints).

And there was the photo. On an oversized metal tray lined with butcher paper, five slices of gray brisket, two pickles, what appear to be two Kings Hawaiian rolls, and beer served in a Mason jar (of course). There had to be two inches of real estate between each item.

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Eating Louisiana: A few photos

I’m home in Louisiana for the holidays. And that means food. Lots and lots of food. How has it gone so far? Let me show you.

1. Fried shrimp platter from Soileau’s in Opelousas, eaten upon completion of 25 hour drive from New York.


2. Sunday morning breakfast. Boudin and cracklins from Ray’s. (Billy’s boudin recipe, though.) Donuts from Mikey’s. I ate a lot more than what is on this plate.

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How is the Brisket King’s brisket?

It was one of the more Texas things I’ve seen. The big guy walked into the place and took off his jacket, exposing the holstered pistol on his hip. He joined his two friends, each of whom were working on an $80 prime-rib steak. The big guy sat down to a rib that looked like it had come off of a T-Rex rather than a cow.

I’ve seen plenty of guns before. I’ve used guns before. I have family members who walk around their own houses with guns in their pockets. I’m okay with guns. But I kept stealing glances at this one.

Because I wasn’t in Texas. And the guy wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat. The big guy and his friends were all wearing yarmulkes.

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The Big Debate: Tipping at Sonic

Photo courtesy of Sonic

For those of you who go to Sonic, do you tip the server? 

On one hand, it’s a fast-food joint. You don’t tip at McDonald’s, why would you tip at Sonic?

On the other hand, these people walk food out to your car. Sometimes they SKATE food out to your car — on inclined pavement that typically leads to a busy road. 

How Long Can You Talk About Brisket?

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From left: Nick Solares, Billy Durney, Jake Dell, Daniel Vaughn and John Tesar.

UPDATE: Congrats to Izzy’s in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for being named the 2017 Brisket King.

After over a decade of attending and planning and participating in panel discussions, I’d become pretty convinced that a) panel discussions suck and b) there’s no reason for them to ever go longer than 25 minutes. But last night I sat through a panel that ran a little over two hours and I didn’t want it to end.

The topic was brisket. Yes. That’s right. Two hours about brisket.

This isn’t exactly a fair comparison to my panels of the past. Most of the panels I’ve dealt with over the years have been marketing, advertising and media related. And something happens to even interesting people when they get on a stage with talking points from a PR team and some message to sell.

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Brooklyn Barbecue Files: Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Behold, the brisket. A beefy beauty, but not the easiest cut of meat to tame. That one there is moist, succulent. It is sporting a sexy little smoke ring and a glossy black bark. But appearances can be deceiving. I’m not going to complain (too much). The brisket was perhaps the juiciest one I’ve ever done. But it wasn’t smoky enough. Neither was it seasoned enough for my liking.

The amount of smoke — or lack thereof — wasn’t a surprise. I was experimenting. I use charcoal plus wood chunks. Even if I wanted to use logs, the practicalities of New York living would make it prohibitively expensive (though I did order some sticks from Smoak). I used a lot less wood this time around to see what would happen — and what happened was perfectly fine barbecue that I wish had gotten a little more wood smoke on it. I also expected it might be on the milder side since the turkey and chops I’d pulled off earlier didn’t get very much smoke on them.

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Poll: Tony Chachere’s or Slap Ya Mama

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I had a very surreal moment last month. Trying to find something at Trader Joe’s, I overheard a man with a British accent asking a store employee if TJ’s carried something called Tony Shasheer’s.

“Excuse me?” the store employee said.

“Tony Shusheery’s?” the Brit said.

“Say what now?” the employee responded.

“It’s a Louisiana seasoning blend,” the Brit said.

“No,” the employee said.

I should take a moment to point out that, defying centuries of Wheaton genetic coding, I didn’t insert myself into this conversation. One, the first rule of Trader Joe’s is “Get the hell out of Trader Joes.” Two, I knew that TJ’s didn’t have Tony Chachere’s.

Continue reading “Poll: Tony Chachere’s or Slap Ya Mama”