Just A Little Food Tour

Live Bait (Manhattan, NY)

Live Bait Bar Manhattan NY

Live Bait
14 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
(212) 353-2400

During my years in NY, I was not a major fan of the many dive bars my friends enjoyed. One of the few I did like – & for reasons I cannot explain – is Live Bait just off Madison Square Park. Part dive bar/part Southern comfort food joint/part raw bar – it has a slightly affected feel to the roughness but still remains genuine. The staff is friendly – it has a fairly large bar – & a fairly decent catfish po’boy.

On a recent trip to NYC & as a worm up to lunch at Wildwood BBQ – Cherie & I stopped in for a couple of beers & a snack. Looking over the menu, we settled on the Fried Jalapeños with spicy queso & Jalapeño Hush Puppies. Both were nicely fried without being greasy & arrived at our seats piping hot. The dipping sauce for the hush puppies was a sort of tartar sauce sort of thing – not really worth using or noting. The batter on the Fried Jalapeños could have been crisper but they brought a nice bit of heat. The hush puppies – while nicely moist & flavorful – lacked any real heat. Cherie quickly solved this issue by taking a hush puppie – cutting it in half – putting a fried jalapeño on the hush puppie – & adding a dollop of the spicy queso. The combo of the two snack added up to one perfect treat. To those out there with a fryer reading this – embed a jalapeño in your hush puppies & call it Devil Dogs. You’ll thank me in the morning.

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Wildwood BBQ (Manhttan, NY)

Wildwood BBQ Manhattan NY

Wildwood BBQ
225 Park Avenue South at 18th Street
New York, NY 10003
(
212) 533-2500


A recent trip to NYC for some business of BBQ required a lunch visit to Wildwood BBQ. Full disclosure: Wildwood’s pit master & partner Big Lou Elrose stopped in the Hut a couple of times over the summer & I consider him somewhat of a friend & definitely an inspiration. As the original pit master for Hill Country, Lou’s brisket is my benchmark for greatness. Part of the reason for the lunch trip was to repay the visits & discussions Lou & I had at the Hut over the summer.

That said – I approached this lunch with a bit of trepidation. Wildwood BBQ is a part of the BR Guest family of restaurants in NYC. I am not much of a fan of many of their spots & definitely not a fan of corporate Q. However – with Lou running the pits – I had hopes for this proving to be the exception to the rule.

Thankfully – my hopes turned out to be reality.

Hit WWBBQ at around 1PM after a quick stop for a snack & beer at Live Bait. Not sure I’m down with a revolving door as entrance to a Q joint, but this is NYC – land of a million building codes – so there is probably a good reason. Cherie & I – as is our usual practice – skipped the dining room & headed directly for the bar. Why? Basically – you get the chance to chat with the bartender while eating plus it puts you closer to the beer. First thing I noticed when walking in – the smell of smoke. ALWAYS a good sign – especially in NYC joints. Seriously – if you do not smell smoke in the dining room of a Q joint in NYC – I guarantee they are roasting that meat over gas or electric.

While we waited for Lou to arrive, we ordered up a couple of beers & perused the menu. I went with the Wildwood Organic Ale. Brewed by Peak Brewing in Maine – I am guessing it’s somewhere around the Peak Organic Nut Brown or Amber Ales. Ended up sticking with this throughout lunch as it worked perfectly with the spread we got. As we were looking for maximum sharing efficiency & menu coverage, I decided to go with The Three Pigs (pulled pork, grilled bacon & two spare ribs) while Cherie got 1/2 pound of brisket (moist of course) & a sausage link. For sides we went with Cheese Grits, Wildwood Baked Beans (with Burnt Ends & Bacon) & Sweet Potato Tots.

About the time we finished ordering, Big Lou arrived. A quick exchange of sauces followed – yeah we did that – & Lou asked whether we had gotten any starters. Honestly – we skipped them because we pretty much had a small ton of food coming. Ever the host – Lou popped into the kitchen & next thing we know we’ve got Spicy Shrimp “Diablo” (bacon & jalapeño wrapped shrimp) & Double Cut Bacon Trio (house cured bacon – fried & grilled – with Redeye & Voodoo sauces).

To say we had a bit of food would be an understatement.

Wildwood BBQ Lunch Spread

Our small lunch shot with my cheap iPod Touch camera

Before dropping to a carnivore frenzy – we asked if we could get a tour of the kitchen. As someone running a pretty low budget joint, I found myself with a serious case of kitchen envy. Two beautiful Ole Hickory Pits cranking on full wood. Ribs & bacon in the one we peeked into – beautiful beautiful bacon. Sampled a bit of the Mac & Cheese and Chili. Gotta say – not bad but I do think we do both better at the Hut. Separate refrigerated room for prepping meat? Jealous! Two walk-ins? Green with envy! Prep areas for days? OK – I give up! Get me back out for the feast.

Wildwood BBQ bacon in the smoker

Seriously – my crap iPod camera does not do this justice

And feast we did.

I’ll start with the biggest surprise of the day: the sides kicked ass! Seriously – why do so many joints make such shitty sides? As someone with more than a few bowl of grits to his history – WWBBQ’s Cheese Grits are some of the best. That these have some how NOT been made to order amazes me. It takes a certain level of voodoo to be able to hold grits in a service line & not turn them into putty. Creamy cheesy decadent goodness – thank the grit gods Cherie is not a fan. ALL FOR ME, BABY!

The beans? Well – I still dig Cherie’s take at the Hut – three beans, peppers, onions, BBQ sauce, caramelized – but damn if the are not the 2nd best I’ve had. Thick rich sauce with amazing smokiness from the burnt ends & bacon (plus they get smoked as well). Let’s start the Lunch Bacon Tally here: 1.

Cherie is a notoriously anti-Tots person – so her choice of Sweet Potato Tots was – needless to say – confusing. Turned out to be quite brilliant. Perfect crispiness with a solid sweetness. The Mustard-Molasses Sauce was amazing & something I’ll be looking to rip off in the very near future. Knowing what I know about these – & frankly will not reveal here – makes them all that more amazing.

With sides out of the way – let’s get down to the meat of the issue – THE MEAT! Spread out before us we have multiple versions of pork, some shrimp & a bit of beef. Let’s break this down by meat category:

Shrimp: plain & simple – I RARELY order seafood unless sitting in a seaside seafood joint. The shrimp here was fine – as good as any appetizer shrimp – but overwhelmed by the treatment. The bacon & jalapeño were the stars here. Probably would have preferred a Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño & skipped the shrimp.

Bacon: By my count – there was five (YES FIVE) instances of bacon in this meal. Cherie claims there was possibly TOO much bacon in this meal – but acknowledges that is treason in the U.S. The Double Cut Bacon Trio & Three Pigs both featured the bacon winner of the meal: grilled bacon. Yeah – we’ve all FRIED our bacon – but dear god grill it & you’ll enter true bacon heaven. Leave it to Lou to do something like that in NYC. Loved the two sauces with bacon on the Trio as well. Never really thought about saucing bacon (or grilling it for that matter) but it REALLY does work.

Pork: While we’re in a swine state of mind – the pulled pork was – well – pulled pork. Really – I am not much of a fan of pulled pork, It’s pork – the other white meat – kinda dull – add a sauce or some dust & it’ll work but nothing I immediately go for. This was nice smoky & moist. Lou brought a bit of the house vinegar sauce (ask for it if you do not get it) & I added a bit of the shaker rub making this solid pork – seriously nothing special. (Yeah – I told him as much..) The ribs fared better. Moist with a moderate bark and a light smoke. Tender without being rib mush.

Sausage: this is house made & smoked sausage. A moist beef mix with a touch of heat & a wonderful crisp casing. The perfect bed lead in to…

Brisket: Yeah – this is what I came for. Lou is the man who rocked my brisket world – creating a moist brisket so amazing at Hill Country that I had to leave NYC lest my bank account would be drained. (OK – that’s an exaggeration – but his brisket does kick serious NYC ass.) We – of course – ordered moist. Lean brisket is for suckers. No disappointment here. As brilliant – if not better – than anything at Hill County. Juicy, smokey, barky perfection. It still continues to be my benchmark.

Oh yeah – there was also a great skillet of cornbread – though really who cares about bread in a Q joint. I did love the pieces of real corn in the bread & it was very moist & cakey. Even reheated well the next day.

We did a fair job at plowing through this feast. When all was said & done – a couple pieces of bacon, 1/4 sausage & a bit of corn bread was all we took with us. Ended up eating the bacon & sausage at Idle Hand later that night & having the corn bread next morning for breakfast.

Wildwood BBQ Lunch

Not much left…

The bottom line? I am quite impressed that BR Guest has given Big Lou free reign to do what he does best – make incredible Q. Great sides – mostly impressive meat – & still one of the best damn briskets in NY. I could have done with some music on the sound system instead of the baseball game – but really that’s just nitpicking. Glad to see Big Lou continuing to keep NYC Q on point. Planning a return visit as soon as possible.

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American Glory BBQ (Hudson, NY)

American Glory
342 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534
(518) 822-1234

Thanks to a recent search on Facebook for other Q joints, I came across a new place in Hudson, NY (about 2 hours from the Hut HQ). Located in the old H. Rogers Hose Company firehouse, American Glory BBQ did an amazing job at a restoration that keeps a firehouse feel while hitting the right Q joint notes. Dark wood, a nice big bar with the coldest beer EVAH – seriously the ice on the taps is wild – & a good mix of rock, blues & country on the sound system.

We settled in at the bar & were pleased to find a nice array of microbrews on tap. Got a pint or two – forgot what we ended up drinking – & looked the menu over. As is usual when we hit a new joint, we went to a sampler platter. On the meat list, they offer pulled pork, beef brisket, St. Louis ribs, spare ribs, turkey drumstick & Texas Hash – a combo of chopped beef & pork simmered in a house sloppy joe sauce. Sides include the usual beans, mac & cheese, collard greens & slaw but add in usual items (at least for a joint in upstate NY) like pickled red cabbage & mushrooms with cherry peppers.

We went with a three meat/two sides sampler for $20. Choose pulled pork, beef brisket & Texas Hash. For sides, we went with mac & cheese & pickled red cabbage. You definitely get enough of each meat & side for two to share. Of the three meat choices – my vote goes to the Texas Hash. A great blend of pork & beef, the shred on both meats made them extremely tender. The house sloppy joe sauce had a nice kick with a touch of smokiness. Unfortunately, we were a little less impressed with the brisket & pork.

The brisket – while tender & moist – lacked a discernible smoke ring or any real smoky flavor. It had a nice roast beef flavor but not much of a “brisket” flavor. The pork also lacked any real smoke & was more sliced into long chunks – & not really chopped – than “pulled”. Again, a good moistness & nice roast pork flavor but not really my style of Q.

The positive side to both the pork & brisket is it came un-sauced. Definitely a thumbs up for that! My biggest pet peeve with Q joints are those who serve me pre-sauced meat. Always makes me wonder what they are hiding. The mac & cheese was nice enough – good creamy texture. The side winner was definitely the pickled red cabbage. Great tangy sweet pickling dressing, the cabbage was tender but still had a bit of crunch. Makes me want to look into something like this for the Hut.

While having our sampler, we noticed the couple next ot us having the smoked turkey drumstick. Think obscene Renaissance Fair turkey leg then take that up a bit & you get the idea. Again – has me thinking about a special some weekend in November/December.

All in all, I’d have to say I dug American Glory BBQ. They are working a bit of a different style of Q than mine – & that’s perfectly fine. I really dug 1/2 of what I ordered & am curious to return for more of their menu. In addition to the Q selection, they also do some fish (catfish, salmon & shrimp) as well as steaks & burgers. As with most Q joints these days – they have a small vegetarian selection. Worth the trip if only for the ice cold beer & the Texas Hash.

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Tortillaville (Hudson, NY)

Tortillaville
347 Warren Street
(next to Dogs of Hudson)
Hudson, NY 12534

Like most folks aware of current food trends, I am a bit obsessed by the food truck. I honestly believe they will be the dominant food trend for the next decade if not longer. Cheap to start – low over head – & laser focused in menu. If done right, it’s the perfect dining experience. Even though the Hut has a fixed physical “restaurant” location, I’ve spent a great deal of effort to design it as basically a food truck with a dining room.

On a recent trip to Hudson NY to visit American Glory BBQ, we stumbled upon the Tortillaville Truck while wandering down Warren Street. What was most interesting was their set up – like an outdoor cafe with a food truck kitchen. Even more interesting was the empty garage next to their location. Rather than attempt to open a traditional restaurant in the garage space, the Tortillaville folks choose to keep it simple.

Out of the tiny vending truck kitchen, the two owners crank out a variety of tacos, burritos & platas made fresh daily. All the standard meats – pork, beef, steak, chicken, fish & shrimp – plus tofu & beans for the veggie crowd.

As we were on our way to American Glory, I decided to go with a couple of tacos as a pre-Q appetizer.

I went with one pork & one beef. They are served trad style with two thin grilled corn tortillas as a base. The pork had a nice texture but could use a bit more punch. The addition of some hot sauce kicked it up a bit. (To be fair, I tend to like things a bit on the spicy side.) The beef was juicy & had a nice spicy bite. Both come topped with salsa fresca, guacamole, and queso fresco. At $2.50 a piece, they really are a perfect deal. Cherie & I shared them making it just enough for a quick snack. Definitely worth repeating again in the future.

Given the fact Tortillaville is run out of a truck & Hudson NY tends to get quite a bit of snow, it should come of no major surprise they are seasonal. The Hudson location operates from May to October then the operation moves south to the Florida Keys for December to March.

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Bar-B-Q Barn (Catskill, NY)

Bar-B-Q Barn
14 Deer Ln
Catskill, NY 12414
(518) 943-2200

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I decided to head to Hudson, NY to check out American Glory BBQ. As I take State Route 23 to get from my house to Hudson, I knew I would be passing The Bar-B-Q Barn. After many times of not stopping, I decided this trip would be the one to check it out.

The Barn is also known – in the area – as “Good Eats” & perhaps that would have been a better name overall. Why?

There is basically no BBQ (bar-b-q, bar-b-que, barbeque or barbecue) here. I firmly believe one should not be invoking the BBQ moniker without the majority of menu items being smoked or Q staples. Most of the Barn’s fare appears to be burgers & fried chicken. They do have a pulled pork sandwich & that is what I ordered.

I have to say – for a place not really a Q joint I was quite surprised. The menu stated the pork was tossed in the house sauce, but – as is clearly evident from the photo above – comes unsauced but they include a 2 oz. sauce. The sandwich comes with fries & a choice of side. I went with the baked beans.

The pork was actually quite nice. Moist & well pulled (no pork foam here), it did lack any real smoke or bark. I suspect it’s actually roasted & pulled, but at least it is actually pulled. The fries were amazing. Fresh out of the fryer – hot & very crisp. I could not stop eating the them. Very addicting.

The house sauce tastes vaguely commercial brand – though I cannot ID the brand – but had a nice balance of spicy to sweet without the massive commercial liquid smoke edge. If I was forced to use a commercial sauce, this would be a top contender.

The beans were possibly the least impressive part of the meal. Clearly something from a can & doctored a bit, they were still a bit too bland for my tastes. Would like to have seen a bit more kick & less generic canned bean flavor.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by the sandwich. I’ve come to dread eating BBQ in anything other than a dedicated Q joint. The Bar-B-Q Barn does a nice job of making a solid pulled pork sandwich. Unfortunately, that does not make you a Q joint. I suggest changing the name to Good Eats – because clearly that is what they serve.

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