Review: BrisketTown (Delaney BBQ)

359 Bedford Ave
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

Shifting off of a project in Portland to one in New York, BrisketTown was the first restaurant I had in my sights to write about on the blog. You see I, like most food enthusiasts in Texas, have been watching Daniel Delaney with a somewhat curious eye. Reading reports about the brisket coming out of BrisketLab, a pop-up type restaurant that allowed Delaney to hone his smoking his skills before opening a brick and mortar, I was excited to see for myself how his skills developed and how his brisket stacks up to my favorites. Take a second to check out Daniel Vaughn’s write up on TM Daily Post about BrisketLab here, it’s definitely worth your time.

Plugging in the address for BrisketTown as a co-worker and I left our hotel on a Wednesday, the GPS on my phone showed an hour and a half drive. I sheepishly assured him that the meal would be worth the drive. I didn’t actually know whether it would be, I’m just generally non-confrontational.

Pulling up to the entrance, was a bit confusing. There’s no sign outside, you kind of have to figure out where it is for yourself. I actually saw Delaney standing outside, so that was a good giveaway as to the location. We lucked out and found street parking just a few cars down from the entrance. I’m not sure how hard finding a parking in Williamsbug normally is.

Finally inside the restaurant, we strolled up to the counter (set up in traditional Texas BBQ meat market style) and ordered our meal.

My order was a pound of brisket, a half pound of ribs, some potato salad and a Mexican coke. Squatting into our table, I immediately tore into the brisket. A place that calls itself BrisketTown needs to bring the goods.

“Damn.” That was my first reaction. Immediately followed by a smirk and a quiet laugh. Looking at my colleague (who lives in Oregon and has apparently never had real BBQ), he had the same grin on his face. Without saying anything more to each other, we both nodded and returned to our attention to our plates.

The brisket has all the indicators of a well seasoned pitmaster. The salt to pepper ratio on the bark was spot on. The smoke ring was beautiful and thick. And the fat was perfectly rendered, in both the lean and fatty cuts, indicative of a patient approach to smoking the meat – the dude obviously found the sweet spot for temperature & time during BrisketLab.

The ribs were less Impressive. They were a bit chewy and were somewhat lacking in smokiness. They weren’t bad mind you, but definitely not in the same league as the brisket.  The potato salad was fine, it didn’t leave a lasting impression either way. I wasn’t huge on the other side options, but that is just personal preference. I generally like more low brow selections like mac & cheese or fried okra when I’m eating BBQ.

To say I was impressed with BrisketTown is a vast understatement. I’ve been so accustomed to being disappointed in BBQ joints that I try during my travels (see Smoque) that it was beyond refreshing to see someone doing brisket right. The ribs weren’t quite there yet, but I’m confident Delaney will make tweaks to bring them up to par.

The brisket here is better than any brisket I’ve ever had outside of Texas, and it holds up just fine against the greats inside of my fair state. It is deserving of a 5 star rating by itself.

RATING: *****

BrisketTown on Urbanspoon

Review: Woodsman Tavern. Portland, OR.

The Woodsman Tavern
4537 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97206

Man, I ate here a while ago. I took on a lot of eating during my last week in Portland and subsequently followed it up with not-a-lot of writing. As a blogger with a full time job, some times the post takes a while to get to.

Woodsman Tavern is Duane Sorenson’s (of Stumptown Coffee fame) first foray into restaurants. I’m a huge fan of Stumptown (I still maintain it’s the best coffee roaster in the US) and was excited to see if Sorenson could create a restaurant with the same kind of magic.

The menu at Woodsman Tavern is seafood-intensive, and I was willing to go along with it. Starting off the meal was kumamoto oysters and chilled dungeoness crab. Both were awesome. Some of the best (maybe the best) raw seafood I’ve ever had. I still have dreams about those oysters.

For the main course, I ordered the prosciutto wrapped halibut w/ green beans & tomato butter sauce. This is the best seafood dish I’ve eaten in 2012. It was awesome. Seriously, look at the photo. Amazing. And it tasted as good as it looks. The halibut was cooked spot on and seasoned perfectly. The proscuitto had a nice char and contributed what almost felt like a sear on the outside of the fish. The tomato butter sauce was the perfect compliment. I could not get enough of the stuff and continually ran the green beans though it because….. well it tasted so damn good.

I didn’t get dessert this night, though I wish I would have. The rest of the meal was so good that I can’t imagine that it would have been a drop off.

The last couple of months I’ve talked a lot about the bon appettit top 50 new restaurants… mainly because I have been obsessed with eating as many of them as I can. So far Woodsman Tavern is the top of the ones I’ve experienced, and it’s not even close. Most of the negative reviews I’ve seen of Woodsman revolve around poor service. While the service I had there wasn’t great, the food more than made up for it.

RATING: *****

The Woodsman Tavern on Urbanspoon

Review: Franklin Barbecue. Austin, TX.

Franklin Barbecue
900 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702

That’s right. BBQ Mecca. I went there and you’re jealous. We all know the drill.

After my original attempt to eat delicious BBQ was thwarted, I returned early the next morning (8:38AM to be exact) to wait in line for the 11AM opening. I was fourth in line (actually sixth when you consider spouses not seen in photo).

Hanging out wasn’t too bad. I sat and read GET JIRO!, drank some coffee (sorry about my hairy legs) and before you know it, the wife and daughter had shown up and the doors were open.

No Tom Petty, the waiting wasn’t hardest part.

The hardest part for me about eating here is writing a review. It’s recieved so much praise, I wasn’t sure that I had much more to contribute to the conversation. It’s amazing. Everyone knows it. What else is there to add?

But after stewing on it, soul searching, and consulting with my spirit-animal (it’s an alpaca in case you’re wondering), I decided that it was still worth getting my thoughts on the matter out there.

So here they are:

If you grew up in Texas like I did, everything about Franklin Barbecue will seem familiar. The building is like a million other barbecue joints in the state. The aroma of the smoldering post oak permeating from the smoker out back will remind you of another time when you had really good Texas barbecue. Like I said, it’s familiar.

At the same time (and this is the hard part to explain), it’s completely new. It’s fresh and it’s like nothing you’ve ever had because….. well…….. it’s perfect. Aaron Franklin puts on a clinic daily. And that clinic is about how to make flawless Texas barbecue. It has to been eaten to be believed. It’s the kind of meal that makes your eyes light up on first bite. The kind of meal in which you immediately know you’re eating something special, dare I say magical. It’s similar to barbecue you’ve had, just way (way way way…) better.

Here was our spread: 1.5lbs brisket (1/2 lean 1/2 fatty), 1lb ribs, 2 sausage links, .5lb pulled pork, potato salad.

The brisket (especially the fatty) is pure magic. As are the ribs. Juicy, savory, fatty, perfect. That’s how I’d describe them. The sausage is different than what you’d expect, but every bit as good. The pulled pork was for my wife and tasted fine (didn’t want to waste too much room for it). The potato salad was standard tasting mustard based fare.

We actually didn’t eat all of this, but we did down most of it.

We also ordered Banana bourbon and pecan tarts, but we didn’t eat them until about an hour later. They were great, though I can’t remember who the vendor was.

As we drove off from Franklin in a complete state of protein-overload, we both had smiles on our faces. I propositioned my wife for some filthy BBQ sex and lucky for her she declined. Later I blamed the meat, it had put me in a state of euporia in which I thought anything would be possible.


Franklin Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Review: Salt & Straw. Portland, OR.

Salt & Straw
2035 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211

2012 for me has been the year of Portland. For the food-obsessed blogger such as myself, that is considered such a blessing. Portland is a mecca for great food. An amazing restaurant on every corner.

The sheer quantity of places I needed to try in Portland is the only excuse I’ve got for not trying Salt & Straw sooner. I knew about it. Everyone knows about it, hence the ever present line at the brick-and-mortar locations.

So after months of eating through the town and after a quick yet delicious bite at Little Big Burger, I decided that enough was enough. Salt & Straw was on call for dessert.

After waiting in line and sampling a few of the flavors, I ended up choosing Almond brittle with Salted ganache on a fresh waffle cone. Oh man, this thing was amazing.

Have you ever taken a bit into something and have your eyes light up because it was so good. On a different level with any other item in that category. This ice cream was that for me. No doubt the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Nothing is even close.

It’s the first time I’ve really freaked out after eating something since eating Doughnut Vault in the spring. I immediately texted some friends and told them that they wouldn’t believe how good it was…. to which one asked if it was better than Braum’s (it is).

I’ve since tasted some more adventurous flavors and while good, none of them can compare to the first one I had. The fact that I mentioned it in the same breathe as Doughnut Vault is about as high of praise as I can give it. If you’re in the area, you have to check it out. I wish I did sooner.

Salt & Straw on Urbanspoon

Review: Laurelhurst Market. Portland, OR.

Laurelhurst Market is the place in Portland that I’ve eaten at more than any other. It’s good and I love steak. It’s probably my favorite steak house I’ve eaten at in a long time. It isn’t fussy, quite casual actually. That doesn’t mean the meat isn’t superb local/grass fed cuts.

The place is a butcher during the day (super cool right?), offering sandwiches and the like. It’s got a very artisan feel. Very Portland.

The interior is nice and open. The decor is meat-centric. A high quality steak house like this is honestly refreshing compared to the larger-than-life types that are so prominent in my home town.

I always start off my meal with mussels/clams frites (whichever is on the menu at the time). You guys, these are awesome. The fries are seriously the best I’ve had in Portland and all the different preparations I’ve had are wonderful. These were prepared with dijon creme fraiche, scallions and preserved lemons. Another winner.

At laurelhurst, I’ve had the ribeye, the strip and multiple preparations of the the flank steak. The flank is the one I keep coming back to. I think it’s just my favorite cut of meat right now. This night they prepared it with fresno harissa, queso fresco and charred scallions. The harissa provided as nice amount of heat and the whole dish was simply prepared and wonderfully executed.

I’ve never ordered dessert here, so I thought I would for the purpose of the review. I ordered a chocolate banana cream pie with candied walnuts. They served a french press of stumptown coffee to accompany. It was a nice finish, but I do have an inherit problem with paying $8 for a slice of pie.

Overall, this place is the one I’ve eaten at more than any other in my travels (not including Chipotle). It’s a fantastic restaurant and if you’re in the area looking for a great steak there is no better choice.

RATING: *****

Laurelhurst Market on Urbanspoon