For the last 13 years, the best BBQ pitmasters in the country have gathered in Madison Square park in Manhattan to do what they do best – smoke (literally) tons of meat. This last weekend was the 13th annual Big Apple BBQ Block party, and for the second year in a row I was there to sample the best smoked meat the country has to offer. Started by Danny Meyer as a way to raise money for this (at the time) underloved park near his flagship restaurant Eleven Madison Park, this event has grown every year and has come to be seen as something of a showcase of the best of each regional style of BBQ. This year’s lineup included Tim Love, Mike Mills, Chris Lilly, Wayne Mueller, Scott Roberts, and Billy Durney. If you’re me, these names evoke some of the same screaming fanboyism as the Beatles circa 1963.
Standout dishes were the sausage from The Salt Lick (which incidentally is very high on my bucket list’s restaurant section), the jerk ribs from Hometown (In my Fleisher’s days we would be in hometown on a weekly, sometimes twice weekly basis), and the beef brisket from Dinosaur (little known fact, my wedding rehearsal dinner was in the original Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse – we probably would have had the actual reception there if only I had whined a little more to my wife.
To top the whole thing off, Eleven Madison Park had a bar set up serving every age of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon – allowing people the ability to wash down America’s best BBQ with America’s best bourbon. The takeaway from all this is that if you find yourself in NYC next June (or, even if you don’t – cash in those frequent flyer miles) you really, really need to check this event out.