Chili is in SmokeHouse's name for a reason: it’s the centerpiece of this sporty grill's collection of culinary delights. Winner of Westchester Magazine's Best Chili award for 2008, each bubbling bowl ($5.25 regular, $6.25 bread bowl) is packed with ground beef, sweet Italian sausage, crisp bacon, and an array of secret spices and seasonings, all topped with a blend of shredded monterrey jack, yellow cheddar, and a dollop of sour cream. SmokeHouse's craftsmen keep their award-winning masterpiece on its toes by creating a new concoction every week to compete in a chili-based Thunderdome presided by a panel of post-apocalyptic chefs. The restaurant’s menu is also chock-full of other game-time bites to munch on during Yankees or Jets matchups, such as buffalo wings, hearty burgers, soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and more.
When the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives came to visit Mo Gridder’s BBQ, host Guy Fieri couldn’t get over that barbecue this delicious was being served in the parking lot of a Bronx auto-repair shop. But when, like Fred Donley, you’re both a head mechanic and a head chef, you have to keep your workplaces close together. Fred picked up BBQ as a hobby a few years back and started to bring in samples for his customers at the auto shop. Their rave reviews encouraged him to make it a part of his business. Now you’ll find a 35-foot cooking trailer in the parking lot and a dining area in a room where he used to service cars. On certain days, you can even get special deals that combine Fred’s two passions, such as a windshield replacement and a rack of ribs.
Despite its unusual setting, Mo Gridder’s still serves up barbecue “so good you’ll think you’re in Texas,” according to Fieri. Fred slow-cooks all his meats in a massive cooker, so whether it’s his signature pulled pork sandwiches, brisket, chicken, or ribs, it’s tender and juicy.
At Palm's Portuguese barbecue, chefs prepare flame-kissed steaks and baby back ribs for diners to consume amid salmon-and-lime-green walls. While succulent lamb is prepared in the Middle Eastern rotisserie style, the kitchen's wood charcoal grill raises the temperature on 14-ounce rib eyes and tender pork chops. Postmeal, guests can indulge in a rice pudding or watch themselves in the wall-length mirrors as they slowly pour rice pudding onto their own forehead.
Owned by baseball legend and semiprofessional magician Darryl Strawberry, Strawberry's Sports Grill pleases crowds and palates with a menu of updated American favorites and thoughtful comfort food. Slide head- and feet-first into a plate of crawfish-and-cheddar hushpuppies ($8.95) or get started with some championship chili ($7.95), loaded with enough ground beef, brisket, red beans, peppers, and onions to dominate chili challenges and handball round-robins. A bevy of burgers features beef, lamb, turkey, and falafel options, including the Hellenic 1986 burger ($12.95), with a lamb patty, feta cheese, cucumbers, and tzatziki sauce, and Strawberry's "Double Beef" burger ($14.95), whose beef patty is stuffed with chopped brisket and topped with fried onions and barbecue sauce. Barbecued ribs ($18.95) and chicken ($16.95) are smoked in-house, while surf and turf ($29.95) pits land (16-ounce rib eye) against sea (fried shrimp) in the greatest elemental cage match since wind defeated fire in 1937.
There is cooking, and then there is barbecuing. At Blind Boar BBQ, the chefs show their passion by seasoning meats with their signature rub and slowly smoking the spice-dusted cuts above a fire stoked with fragrant hickory and cherry woods. Platefuls of sliced brisket, pulled chicken, and ribs arrive at tables glazed with a house-made sauce of your choice, with one version even featuring a hint of Dr. Pepper. That same attention to detail is applied to the rest of the menu's southern comfort foods, too, such as the fried green tomatoes and the sides of cornbread, coleslaw, and mashed potatoes with gravy.
The dining room also shares the casual, down-home spirit of the restaurant's menu. Shadowboxes filled with everything from black-and-white photographs to golf clubs adorn the walls, and a ledge circling the dining area brims with scavenged goods, such as worn tires, stoneware jugs, and hay bales. The stout wooden tables and exposed ceiling beams complement the space's rustic charm, making it easy to relax while enjoying a cold beer from the draft list, which includes perennial favorites as well as domestic and imported craft microbrews.
At Memphis Mae's BBQ Bistro, owners Andreas Nowara and Jeff Matros are rewriting the barbecue gospel. They've crossed out a number of popular myths—that barbecue joints should be shrouded in smoke, that barbecue puritans only cook in the style of a single region, and that those who divulge secret recipes should be cooked themselves—in favor of a more chic and diverse sauce hot spot. Their dining room emulates a crisp bistro, and their menu traverses several Southern states, listing Texas beef brisket alongside Carolina pulled pork and Memphis ribs. They don't limit themselves solely to barbecue staples, either. Comfort foods such as Mississippi catfish and chicken-fried steak appease patrons who might not want to get their hands dirty, and vegetarian options include smoked portobello mushrooms and "pasties" filled with sautéed vegetables.
Their eclectic approach has hardly canceled out down-home prep, however. The kitchen's wood smokers infuse meats with flavor 24 hours a day, passing on zesty notes from pecan and hickory logs. The beer is likewise carefully brewed, arriving from Dogfish Head, Duvel, and other craft companies. In maintaining this delicate balance between strict tradition and inclusivity, Memphis Mae's BBQ Bistro has cemented a savory reputation. The restaurant has catered the New York Yankees' opening-day celebration and was later featured in the New York Times which praised its brunch and catalog of sides, which contains drunken yams, peach applesauce, and none of "the usual throwaways or fillers that most barbecue joints offer."