Review: BrisketTown (Delaney BBQ)

BrisketTown
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: 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.

RATING:*****

Franklin Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Review: Smoque BBQ. Chicago, IL.

Smoque BBQ
3800 N Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60641

I stumbled upon Smoque by way of a review via the BBQ Snob. BBQ, like mexican food, is not something I seek out when I’m away from the motherland (Texas) unless I see something that seriously peeks my interest. In this case, it was a 5 star review by The Texas BBQ authority himself (Daniel Vaughn doesn’t just give away 5 star reviews). Add to that the veritable praise from Eater Chicago and I knew this place was a must visit.

I efforted to eat at Smoque during my last trip through Chicago but was thwarted when I showed up to a dark lounge with chairs on top of tables. It was a Monday, and they were closed (This also caused my cab driver to tell me that Smoque “Probably has a website” and that I should “look up the hours before I head somewhere”).

This trip I would not be denied. Unfortunately, this time I wasn’t staying in downtown, so I had to drive there myself. After an hour and a half of rush hour Chicago traffic, I strolled in. I was exhausted (5AM flights do that to you), hungry and ready to tear into some good BBQ.

This is what the line looked like when I arrived. About 25 deep on a Wednesday night. This was a great sign to me. I never like eating at restaurants that are dead. You’re just asking for a terrible meal.

After about 20 minutes in line, I made it to the front and ordered. My order was this: Brisket plate with 2 sides (fries and macaroni n cheese), half rack of baby back ribs and a sausage link.

Let’s start with the sides. The fries were really good. Not super crispy and they tasted fresh. The mac ‘n cheese was really good as well, though the difference in portion size between the two was astounding.

On to the meat. As can be seen above, though I asked for all sauces to be on the side, my brisket was sauced anyway. It didn’t end up being too bad of a thing because the word that kept coming to mind while I was eating it was dry. The foundation was there for great BBQ, great seasoning and bark on the meat, though it was oddly lacking a smoke ring. Something was causing this meat to be way too dry.

The next set of meats (sausage and ribs) overwhelmed me with the same feeling. Both could be great, but both were extremely dry. The seasonings seems to be great, but there was no juiciness to the meal.

I’m not sure what caused this. Maybe they were having a hard time keeping up with the demand for the product and were cutting corners some way (heatlamps?). I hope that’s not the case. None of the great BBQ joints (here’s looking at you Franklin’s and Pecan Lodge) sacrifice quality of meat because of demand. Selling out of it is a badge of honor to those guys and they wear it proudly.

Overall, I would definitely like to give this place another shot. The components were all there for a great meal, but it was just a bit off. Reading their BBQ Manifesto, I don’t believe it was up to their high standards.

RATING: ***

Smoque BBQ on Urbanspoon