Pat and Gina Neely have always loved welcoming guests into their kitchen. After co-founding a string of family-style barbecue restaurants in their home state of Tennessee, the couple catapulted into stardom when they began hosting their own Food Network show, Down Home with the Neelys.
This desire to share their rib-sticking Southern cooking eventually led Pat and Gina to open Neely?s Barbecue Parlor on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Down-home charm doesn't just pervade the menu, it also spills into the decor. The restaurant's seven dining areas evokes the spirit of a stately Southern home with hand-selected vintage furniture, broad windows, and luxuriously patterned wallpaper and curtains.
Where Would You Like to Eat?
|The Porch||The Sitting Room|
|Tall windows keep it bright, light, and airy||Dark wooden trim and mocha-hued wainscoting impart a certain elegance|
|The Private Dining Room||The Living Room|
|Damask-patterned walls and a simple chandelier give this area a formal vibe||A stone fireplace is the centerpiece of this inviting, floral-carpeted room|
Cooking from Across the South
Although the Neelys hail from Tennessee, the menu at their New York outpost embraces flavors from all over the South. Patrons slather ribs with their choice of Memphis-style spices or Kansas City?style sweet and sticky sauce. All the meats on offer come from New York?founded Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors.
To complement the entrees, chefs cook up down-home side dishes, including whipped buttermilk mashed potatoes, cornbread with butter, and brussels sprouts tossed with bacon and onion. Even the drink menu shows its Southern roots by highlighting premium bourbons such as Michter's Sour Mash and Pappy Van Winkle.
A former police officer on the NYPD motorcycle unit, Big Lou Elrose knows a thing or two about hogs. He traded in the mechanized version for the meatier one when he retired from the beat to serve as the pit master at Wildwood BBQ, a multiregional barbecue joint inspired by smoke shacks across the United States. Now that he no longer has to grill criminals, Big Lou spends his time smoking Texas briskets and rubbing spices on racks of Kansas City–style baby back ribs. For all the complexities of his meats’ flavors and aromas, his barbecuing philosophy is refreshingly simple: “Always start with a good cut of meat … and always cook low and slow using wood.” The restaurant’s interior mirrors the food's straightforward simplicity with its rustic furnishings, big-screen televisions, and piles of firewood for sports fans who like to celebrate touchdowns by burning something. The drink menu might be a bit harder to navigate given the awe-inspiring list of more than 60 bourbons and American whiskeys. Luckily, several whiskey flights take brand selection out of the mix and instead serve patrons a trio of tried-and-true ryes, bourbons, or spirits from local distilleries.
Norma Jean Darden, owner of Miss Mamie?s Spoonbread Too, proudly claims that people from all walks of life visit her quaint and cozy soul-food eatery, and her assertions are far from lip service. From Columbia University students to VIPs?including former president Bill Clinton?it truly does seem that everyone ventures into this 110th Street eatery for a generous plate of Southern-style comfort food. Norma Jean, who named the spot after her mother, showcases recipes from her cookbook, Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine, which she wrote with her sister before opening Miss Mamie?s. Feasts of southern-fried chicken and other hearty entrees cozy up to selections from a list of nearly a dozen sides, such as cornbread stuffing, hand-cut french fries, or collard greens. Glasses of fresh-squeezed lemonade and iced tea wash down a variety of classic Southern desserts. The chef serves up generous slices of coconut layer cake, sweet-potato pie, and peach cobbler, and a Motown soundtrack provides tunes that are nearly as sweet.
At the center of the platters of miso-soaked steak, intricately marbled Kobe-style short ribs, garlic shrimp, and fresh veggies that crowd any given table at Gyu-Kaku sits a yakiniku grill, ready to bring all these flavors to life. At more than 700 locations worldwide, parties choose from a cornucopia of ingredients, tell their servers how they'd like them marinated—in sauces ranging from the strictly traditional to basil pesto—then begin searing their feast over the smokeless gas grill. New York magazine admired how "dominoes of harami skirt steak, marinated in sweet dark miso, turn caramelized and succulent on the hot grill." If protein overload looms, there are stone bowls of bibimbap and ramen to add balance. Patrons can wash down their meals with super-premium daiginjo sakes, sweet Japanese plum wines, and Asahi Super Dry beer, known to enhance its imbibers' deadpan witticisms.
Eight Mile Creek unfurls across two floors, transporting New York diners down under with an exotic spread of Australian pub-style cuisine and imported spirits. Splashed in the flickering glow of candlelight, bronze-tiled walls establish the restaurant's rustic feel, as guests browse menus stocked with grilled-kangaroo skewers, burgers, and elegant entrees such as racks of Aussie lamb. On the first floor, live music further inflates casual airs with energized tunes, and themed holiday parties offer visitors an alternative to stuffy office banquets and get-togethers with socially awkward snowmen. During summer months, Aussie beers and New Zealand wines accompany warm breezes on an outdoor patio, where a wooden deck and an exposed-brick walls combine to create a tranquil dining experience.