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."
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.
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.
Though they can grill up tender pork ribs and make a mean barbecue sandwich, the chefs at Pepe’s BBQ really shine with their authentic Peruvian cooking. Within their smoky kitchen, they fold tender slices of steak into traditional dishes such as lomo saltado and bisteck a lo pobre. They pluck plump chickens straight from the spears of fiery rotisserie grills, then serve the birds Peruvian-style: dressed in spices and hand-knitted alpaca caps. To craft their ceviche dish, the chefs marinate fresh seafood in lime juice, onions, and cilantro. Diners await meals such as this next to the lofty windows in the seating area while sipping on fizzy Inka Cola—a sweet soft drink imported from Peru.
It’s a typical Saturday night at Turkois Grille—the dining room is lit up by warm lanterns, lively Mediterranean music fills the air, and a beautiful belly dancer glides across the room, rolling her hips and shaking her glimmering bangles. Diners perch at white-clothed tables, applauding and raising glasses of fine wine. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the strains of chatter and music are drowned out by clattering pots and the hiss of sizzling lamb, veal, and chicken. Chefs bustle about, skewering marinated meats and seasoning dorado, snapper, and salmon in authentic Turkish spices. They pair warm, crusty bread with seasoned olive oil, a dip that the Journal News lauded as “an addictive combination of toasted sesame and nigella seeds plus a sprinkling of lemony, thyme-like zatar.” The versatile chefs even extend their culinary expertise to a menu of kid-friendly dishes, including crispy chicken fingers and small skewers of lamb, veal, and vegetables shaped like gummy bears.
The chefs at Muscle Maker Grill put a healthy spin on flavorful dishes inspired by Italian, Asian, American, and southwestern cuisines. The chain was founded in 1995 by Rod Silva, a fitness enthusiast who grew weary of fast-food eateries that bogged customers down with unhealthy morsels and toys sculpted from butter. What began as a smoothie stand has expanded into a successful franchise that slings pastas, burgers, salads, and Tex-Mex wraps and proudly displays the calorie content and relationship status of each dish on the menu.