Thursday, December 18, 2008

Texas BBQ in the Big Apple

Whenever I hear anyone talking about New York City, I usually hear some combination of It's too big; It's too fast paced; It's a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. But if someone were to ask me for my reaction to the Big Apple, I would respond that, with few exceptions, there's something for everybody in New York. Chances are, regardless of your ethnicity, race, gender, hobbies, interests, or any other characteristic, you can find something or someone catering to you. You can find similarly situated people. You can find something that makes you happy or makes you comfortable. Turns out this is true even for Texas BBQ fans.

In town for two days and one night, I wasn't leaving town without a meal at Hill Country Barbecue on West 26th Street. Thanks to a couple of friends here in Austin who are friends with the owner (Marc Glosserman), I was able to get word to HCB about my blog and that I would be stopping in for dinner. Marc was not in this particular night, but he got word to me to ask for John Shaw, who, along with Geoffrey Williams, took care of me and made my visit a fantastic one. After dinner, Geoffrey went out of his way to give me a personal tour of the two-level restaurant, which was absolutely packed. I am sure there was plenty he could have been doing, but he took his time to show me the cooking and cutting areas and the downstairs music venue. I couldn't have asked for better service.

HCB might be as close as you can get in New York to the Texas Hill Country and Texas BBQ. Lockhart, Texas, memorabilia on the walls (Marc's grandfather was mayor of Lockhart.); wood (post oak) and sausage from Kreuz Market; meat served on butcher paper; iced tea in a Mason jar; Blue Bell ice cream; Lone Star and Big Red; live Texas music (e.g. Heybale played on opening weekend and on the 1-year anniversary); Texas music playing in the dining area (Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas from the Family" came on right before I ordered). Geoffrey said it's the only Texas-style BBQ joint in NYC, calling it "100%, straight-up Texas" but noting that sauce is available on the tables.

One difference between HCB and BBQ in Texas: price. But this is New York, so not a huge surprise. For comparison, a pound of moist brisket at HCB is $22 (plus tax), while brisket at Kreuz Market in Lockhart is $9.99. A Big Red is $3, iced tea is $4, and a Lone Star is $5. But prices didn't seem to be a problem. The place was absolutely packed upstairs, and they were preparing for a private party downstairs later that night. There was even a rope line connected to the hostess station, blocking traffic into the dining area.

I ordered the Pitmaster's Combo: 1/4 pound of lean brisket, 1/2 chicken (white or dark), 1 pork rib, 1 beef rib (I took an extra pork rib in lieu of the beef rib.), and 2 sides (I got green bean casserole and baked beans.). The only thing I would change about the meal was the temperature of the BBQ. The brisket, ribs, and chicken were not hot but all had good flavor. The chicken (the least hot of all the items) was very moist. The sides were quite good, and the portions were substantial. (Sides come in 3 sizes: Good Eatin', Heapin' Helpin', and Feed Yer Family.)

All in all, a great visit to Hill Country Barbecue. The food was good, the atmosphere was fun and energetic, and the service was outstanding. Probably your best bet to cure Texas withdrawals in New York.

Hill Country on Urbanspoon


Russell said...

TX BBQ in New York City?!?! I'm naturally skeptical, but sounds like kind of a cool experience. I would have tried the beef rib! Glad you're back safe. RP

Anonymous said...

Even Blue Bell? Wow! Those guys had a great idea to enlighten the New Yorkers with a little taste of TX!