When Karen Harrison of New Jersey Monthly visited Bourbon BBQ & Catering, she left with a new admiration for the house “meltingly tender chopped beef brisket” and “two-fisted St. Louis ribs,” promising readers that they’ll “be glad our evolutionary ancestors came down from trees, tamed fire, and started roasting fleshy beasts.”
Harrison’s admiration is well placed. The kitchen clearly knows barbecue. The staff smokes beef brisket in an all-hickory smoker for ten hours before tossing it into the slow-cooker for another six. They use fresh chickens delivered from a nearby farm for his bourbon chipotle wings, buffalo chicken wraps, and southern fried chicken. According to the Memphis tradition, the kitchen also rubs pork spare-ribs with spices before carefully smoking and steaming them until they’re fork-tender. Bourbon BBQ offers a host of options for enjoying the decadent food, from stopping in for lunch or dinner to ordering meats and sides by the pound for catered events.
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.
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."
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.