Just A Little Food Tour

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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The Smoke Joint (Brooklyn, NY)

The Smoke Joint
87 South Elliott Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 797-1011

Having worked up an appetite cruising the Brooklyn Flea & warming up with food from HNH BBQ & Asia Dog, we reluctantly headed out of the Flea & over to meet our lunch guest at The Smoke Joint. (As stated earlier, had we known about the Flea, we would have made plans to meet & eat there, but as we are a cellphone free couple there was no way to change plans.)

When we lived in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area, I would have killed for a place like The Smoke Joint. At the time we were in the hood, food choices were a bit limited & many of the offering were – ummm – not really edible. A nice Q place with a bar must have been quite welcome to the area. The Smoke Joint has that casual “hang out have some Q drink some beer have a bourbon” feel. The front opens to provide al fresco dining but still have the comfort of a roof. There is quite a nice selection of craft beers & several nice bourbons.

As it was noon – bourbon was not on my mind – but beer & Q was. (Yes – I was actually still hungry after eating at the Flea.) Cherie’s friend took another 15 minutes to finally show up, so we started with a round of beer & slowly took in the menu.

This is a straight up Q joint. Pork, beef & chicken with a couple of fried seafood offerings. Three kinds of ribs – pork spares, baby backs & beef short ribs – plus pulled pork, hot links, chopped beef, smoked chicken & pulled chicken. They also offer a Black Angus Beef Dog topped with your choice of Q’ed pork, beef or chicken & Brooklyn Wings – their take on chicken wings.

Sides run to the usual suspects – mac & cheese, beans, greens, slaw, corn on the cob & fries. Beyond the beer selection, they offer Boylan’s & Dr. Brown’s sodas, homemade limonade (fresh squeezed lemon & lime), Kinda Sweet Tea & a Tiger Woods (half limonade, half iced tea).

We decided to go the sandwich route for lunch. Cherie got the Chopped Beef & mac & cheese. I went with Pulled Pork & barbecued beans. When our lunch guest arrived, she went for mac & cheese & the smoky greens.

The chopped beef is a combination of shredded beef short ribs & brisket. What is strange to me is they do not actually offer brisket on the menu. My guess is the short ribs are leftovers shredded down in classic Q joint style. (What does not sell – take & make hash/chili/shredded sammies with…) The beef is mixed with the house sauce. A nice sandwich, but I preferred the brisket sandwich from HNH BBQ up the street at the Flea. As to the mac & cheese – well it was nice enough but when you’ve tasted Cherie’s Smoked Mac & Cheese (or the Four Cheese at Macbar), the bar is placed pretty high.

The pulled pork was a bit better. A nice ropey texture with some crunchy bark, it was lightly sauced – enough to keep it moist but not saucy – with a light smokiness. The pork carried over nicely into the barbecued beans with a sweet slightly thick sauce studded with three kinds of pork goodness. Certainly some of the better beans I’ve had.

I had a taste of the smoky greens & have to say – not really knowing greens – they were fairly wonderful. Nice smokiness while still crisp & “green”. Even more interesting – they are meatless! I’ve had many requests for greens at the Hut & this convinces me we can do them & keep our vegetarian side policy.

All in all a nice lunch. This is not necessarily a mecca for BBQ – just a solid neighborhood joint for good Q & cold beer. I guarantee if I were still in the area you’d find me here at least one night a week – if not actually working in the kitchen. Worth dropping by if in the hood & HNH BBQ is not at the Flea.

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Hill Country (New York, NY)

Hill Country Texas Barbecue Market
30 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10010-2062
(212) 255-4544

This is my church
This is where I heal my hurts
For tonight
God is a Pitmaster

(with apologies to my friends in the dance music community & Faithless)

Hill Country is my church.

It is – in my opinion – the single best BBQ joint in all of New York State. No use debating with me. I’m a zealot – a fanatic – one of the truly devoted. I feel guilty if I go to NYC without making the pilgrimage. I aspire to be 1/10 the BBQ cook this place is.

The reason for my zealotry?

Brisket

Not just any brisket – but the BEST brisket anywhere in New York State. What the Hill Country pitmasters do with a whole brisket, kosher salt, Butcher Block Black Pepper, cayenne & slow smoking proves there is something divine in the universe.

(Yes – I know this is all a bit twee & gushy – but damn is this GREAT brisket!)

We chose to make Hill Country our first stop on the 2010 NYC Food Tour (what we would later rename Meat Coma 2010) & that was both a good & bad thing. Good because we did not have to spend hours or days waiting for our chance to pray to the Gods of Brisket. Bad because we realized we might have been starting the tour with no where to go but down. Luckily, we did discover other great meals while on the tour.

Though nothing came close to the brilliance of Hill Country. This is a market style joint. You get a meal ticket at the door & order everything by the pound. We chose to completely skip the sides – Cherie made a pass for research but saw nothing interesting – & stick with a pure meat orgy. Straight to the meat counter for:

1/2 lb moist brisket
(from the deckle or point end of the brisket. This is the yummy fatty part. It’s our preferred cut.)

1/3 lb lean brisket
(from the brisket flat)

a bit of brisket burnt end
(the crispy first cut from each end of a whole brisket Our carver gave us the end from the point. MMMMMMM)

1 regular Kreuz sausage
(shipped in from Texas)

1 beef back rib
(plus the carver gave us one of the end bones to “gnaw on”)

All together I’d say we picked up about 2 pounds of meat. Plus – we were given about 1/2 a loaf of white bread. Made our way to a table & got a lemonade & ice tea & got ready to worship…

OH MAN OH MAN OH MAN…

Truly I started weeping a bit about this brisket. I want MY brisket to be this amazingly tender, moist & full of flavor. Three ingredients in the rub, great beef & perfect smoking come together in way I never thought possible. Cherie sums it up nicely (if not a bit insultingly after 23 years of marriage) with “This is the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth.” I definitely prefer the moist brisket here. Wonderful juicy fatty goodness. Always remember this: FAT IS FLAVOR! The lean was also delicious, but I still wish we had gotten more moist.

The Kreuz sausage is a classic example of smoked sausage. Great smoky beefy flavor with a snappy skin & good spice. The beef rib had a great crust & juicy meat but ultimately suffered the same problem every back & spare rib does for me. It’s a rib. I just do not get the rib obsession. (Now short ribs are something I completely understand!) Cherie pretty much left the rib to me in exchange for more of the moist brisket for her.

One thing to note – eating like this at Hill Country is not cheap. Moist brisket runs $22.25 per pound. Lean is $19.75. A 1/2 pound sausage will set you back $6. It can all add up quite quickly especially as the euphoria of food this good seizes you.

The way I look at it is it is MUCH cheaper than a trip to Texas…

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