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Is BBQ in NYC hopeless? How is BLUE SMOKE?

  • s

From what I've heard in past posts, barbecue in NYC sounds pretty sub-par. Is this true?

What's good at Blue Smoke?

Is it good to go there with a group of co-workers? Comfortable for groups?

What are their best dishes?

Thanks,
SB

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  1. i like blue smoke. i'm not sure if i'm an expert on BBQ, however. i like the texas salt and pepper ribs there, and their mac and cheese. i've liked other things too, but they come to mind at this time. i like going there. oh, the salted peanuts are good too.

    it is on the expensive side for bbq so people from bbq regions may balk at the prices, if your co-workers are from out of town. are they bbq experts? also, make sure you get a reservation, don't just drop by as it's usually packed.

    regarding your first question - is bbq in nyc hopeless? i've had stuff i've enjoyed eating here, and stuff i've not liked in texas and kansas (even is some famous places). i think people take it all a tad TOO seriously. i dunno - if i like the taste of something i'll eat it! :-) i actually like virgils too and many bbq affictionados would not be impressed. it could be considered maybe a little too bbq theme-y, with may diff styles available. it is good for groups too.

    1. I really liked Blue Smoke. They use wood fire pit smokers and sustainable meat. I shared the sampler with my boyfriend and got a bunch of sides and was not dissapointed. They have lots of different kinds of ribs, from dry rub, to moist Memphis, and long and lean St. Louis style. I liked the cheese fries, didn't like the baked beans so much, the hush puppies came out cold. Surprisingly, I have been craving their salad of a slice of iceburg lettuce and russian dressing ever since I had it.

      The atmosphere is very casual. And we walked in on a weekend night and got a table easily.

      1. New York isn't Memphis (thankfully) and never will be (thankfully) but a few places do a good job with the pig.

        I enthusiastically second the Blue Smoke recs from the last posts, but would add a plug for Dinosaur (12th Ave @ 131 st). Their big-ass pork plate (smoked shoulder) is excellent, but ribs aren't as good as blue smoke.

        Plus, there's nothing wrong with Virgil's except the location. :-)

        1. The salt and pepper beef ribs and the brisket are great at Blue Smoke (as is the atmosphere).

          1. Scroll down to my 1/27 post on the pulled pork sandwich there - very good.

            1. I tried Blue Smoke once and thought it was so-so, but nothing like the real thing. Personally, I can do without, but if you're dying for bbq, knock yourself out. Virgil's is just as good (read: OK), but a lot more tacky.

              1. Blue Smoke is a multi-million dollar monument to the sad state of BBQ in NYC, if you ask me. I went last summer and had one of the most depressing meals of my life: the food was ok, though some of the sides (especially the cornbread) were atrocious, and everything was outrageously expensive. It was the exact opposite of what I want out of a bbq place--great, earthy food at down-to-earth prices. I actually prefer the full-blown cheesiness of Virgil's to the stilted casualness of BS.

                I can't really speak to the quality of their Texas/Memphis/KC style dishes, but this Carolina boy won't be going back, no matter who drags him.

                1 Reply
                1. re: benghoil

                  I absolutely agree with this.

                  I enjoyed the atmosphere at Blue Smoke, but the dishes were almost entirely sub-par. You'll read a lot of arguing back and forth about which sides people liked or didn't but what generally doesn't seem to get discussed is that the side dishes as a whole -- even the tasty ones -- are roughly what you'd expect at a TGI Friday's. Sure, the ingredients are better, the preparation is more subtle, and there's more consistency (to a degree) but the whole thing reeked of a vastly overpriced meal.

                  I had a mixed opinion of the BBQ. Loved the brisket, hated the salt & pepper ribs, which I thought tasted like beef jerky. I like beef jerky, just...not that much of it. On the other hand there are many different styles of BBQ and this is certainly a valid one...what can't be denied was that the ribs and the brisket were cooked to perfection, perfectly tender and falling off the bone.

                  I almost had the impression that this was too much attention to be lavished on barbeque. It's meant to be a messy, cheap food...you take the cheapest part of an animal, formerly scraps, and cook it outdoors in the only way possible to make it edible, and serve it with sides that you can cobble together from what you have. This is part of BBQ's charm. Hush puppies were not meant to be made from the finest organic corn...

                2. Blue Smoke is just awful. best in Manhattan is Rack'n Soul on Broadway near Columbia University. But almost any of the other notables are better than Blue Smoke

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: seanp

                    DH and I like Rack n Soul as well. But we also prefer Dinosaur to Rack, especially for anything pork (DH is addicted to their pulled pork). I like Dinosaur's sides better than those at Rack (especially those salt potatoes and the mac n cheese). But the red velvet cake at Rack is awesome.

                  2. As to your first question, BBQ in NYC is a spotty at best game.
                    Second question: Blue Smoke is way over-rated. Being from Memphis, I am aware of what they are shooting for. Too bad they miss on most things. The food is over priced Danny M. fare. That said they do a alright pulled pork and mac and cheese. Ribs are lackluster.

                    If what you are looking for is true or at least truer BBQ, your best bet is Daisy May's BBQ on 11th ave. By far the best the city has to offer, in this department. I must also give a nod to Hill Country, but they only serve the the Texas version of BBQ AKA brisket with the only pork product on the menu being ribs all come with an underwhelming sauce. Good luck with your quest for the Q.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: Bottom Feeding Foodie

                      They serve pork chops, too.

                      Alot of it all comes down to personal preferences (obviously) in the style of 'que that one likes. I enjoy RUB, Blue Smoke, Hill Country, Daisy May's, Dinosaur, Rack and Soul and others, but all for different reasons. I think they all do some things very well and others not as well. Their atmospheres are vastly different as well.

                      I've eaten barbecue all over the country and from competitions as well and I believe that what we have in NYC can stack up pretty darn well. It may not equal your favorite place from some rural spot, but I think there are alot of reasons why that might be the case.....the total experience matters.

                      1. re: BackyardChef

                        i agree it's about personal preference. that and the inconsistency within some restaurants. I, personally, do not like the ribs at Blue Smoke (tried the St. Louis ones and the Salt And Pepper ribs) and I can't really disagree with benghoil's opening line above, "Blue Smoke is a multi-million dollar monument to the sad state of BBQ in NYC."

                        Blue Smoke is very crowded and not really all that friendly. However, I like the mac and cheese there as well as some other items. i find them all a bit pretentious.

                        I will definitely agree with some of the others here who have recommended Daisy May. THeir ribs appeal to me far more than Blue Smoke, RUB and Dinosaur.
                        Try the Memphis Dry and ask for a side of BBQ sauce. SOOOOOO GOOD!!!
                        I'm not crazy about their side dishes at all. If they made a good mac and cheese, I'd probably be in there at least once per week.

                        1. re: nativeNYer

                          Remember the OP posted about two and a half YEARS ago... a lot has changed in NY BBQ since then! Back then Blue Smoke had recently opened, as the first of the new breed.

                          BTW, I think they are weak, at best. Nice dining room... weak Q. Like one of the posters said, there's good stuff now, RUB, Hill Country, Daisy May, Dinosaur among them, each for different reasons.

                          1. re: woodburner

                            leave manhattan and give pies n thighs and fette sau in brooklyn a shot.
                            blue smoke isn't BBQ. that's like telling me tabla is indian. don't get me wrong, i like both but they are high end takes on classic cuisine

                            there is also a place in ft. greene brooklyn that is worth a shot, but i cannot remember the name..AHHH! .

                            1. re: cdog

                              Smoke Joint is the Ft. Greene place. Fantastic smoked collard greens, ok brisket, good chicken wings.

                              Second Rub for their rib tips.

                            2. re: woodburner

                              i agree, woodburner. we have come a long way in 2 yrs and blue smoke is no longer a front runner in the Q dept.

                              1. re: nativeNYer

                                well folks a brand new BBQ place will open in a month or so in the old Park Avalon, Barca 18 spot on PAS, Wildwood BBQ from our friends at BR Guest Inc. Even though its not even close to opening, I cant see this place succeeding. Its like Steve Hanson said what kind of food dont i serve yet. But i could be wrong. So far the decor looks pretty good and they've been having meetings into the night.

                                1. re: ricky7

                                  Blue Smoke is ok but way to fancy for BBQ. They do serve up some nice cocktails. Dinosaur is my fave with RUB a distant second. I'm trying to get to Daisy May's but they close way too early for me. Locked up tight at 11pm on a summer Sat. night? WTF? Anyone been to Oklahoma Smoke? I think it just opened this summer.

                                  1. re: ladypandora

                                    Reading through Chowhound posts on the subject, people are incredibly critical of BBQ in New York.
                                    Could it be the problem is that, well, maybe BBQ just isn't that good?

                                    I've recently come to the realization after eating at almost every BBQ joint I've come across based on peoples' recommendations for most authentic or best rib or brisket or sides, etc... the meal is always an over-seasoned, fatty, sloppy, overpriced-for-what-it-is mess that makes me feel like crap for an hour after I've eaten it.

                                    I think I've had my last BBQ meal after waiting in line to spend $24 for lunch at Hill Country.

                                    1. re: Chow Baby

                                      ladypandora, i strongly second your frustration at daisy may's super-early closing. THIS IS NYC!!!!

                                      first, it's such a schlep for me as well and for them to close at 9pm on weekdays and 10pm on weekends is laughable. this means that they are already in closing mode by 8:30pm on weekdays and 9:30pm on a 'summer Sat. night'. i always wondered if they are concerned about their safety due to their remote location.

                                      any thoughts on oklahoma smoke? i didn't even know it existed.

                          2. re: BackyardChef

                            Wise words, Backyard Chef, and well said.

                        2. I'm from the South, myself. The sides at Blue Smoke far outweigh the others in the city. However, I prefer the brisket at Hill Country.
                          Blue Smoke would be perfect to go to with coworkers and is comfortable for groups. Hill Country may be a bit overwhelming & loud.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: LeahBaila

                            the solution: a restaurant where blue smoke's sides are merged with daisy may's ribs. blue may's, smokey daisy's... etc.

                            1. Before any of those restaurants opened, there was Virgil's -- still the only Southern BBQ worth eating in NY. The ribs are always perfect, and the brisket is divine.

                              1. Personally, I love Blue Smoke. The sides are fantastic, most notably the mac and cheese and fry bread. However, looking at ribs alone, there is no question the best BBQ in the city is Dinosaur in Harlem.

                                1. 1) all new York BBQ is overpriced. I'm used to hole in the wall placed in the Carolinas that serve up better food for a quarter of the price

                                  2) I've eaten at R.U.B, the pulled pork was ok, brisket was dry, chicken was ok, sides sucked, ribs were blah but the chill cheeze fries were out of this world good (mainly because the chill was outstanding). However it was too pricey and not worth (plus they don't have any mustard based sauces.. really nowhere in NYc has this)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: harlock_jds

                                    i'll say it again, get off your butts and get out to the outer boroughs especially brooklyn. folks are really doing some good things with BBQ. i am sure the things you will find at Pies and Tighs, smoke joint and fette sau are closer to what you would experience in the south than Blue Smoke etc.

                                  2. Blue smoke is quite disappointing.

                                    1. Mo Gridder's BBQ stand in the Bronx. It's incredible, a must for any NY-area BBQ lover. Not expensive, not pretentious, and definitely not hung up on atmosphere- I posted a review of it a couple of months ago. Read it and see what I mean:

                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/425673

                                      1. Being from Mississippi, I know some of the best BBQ comes from some gas station owner with a smoker and a dream, so I will try to find (or start) a thread about that type of guy up here. back to subject, Daisy May's and RUB are good, blue smoke is average. Virgil's is good but not really southern BBQ (neither is DM's for that matter). But, that's the fun thing about BBQ, its simple fare, so easy to compare, so everybody does. Adam Lang at Daisy May's seems to have a passion for smoking and those are the type of guys you want to check out.

                                        A main disadvantage to Manhattan BBQ is space. BBQ is long prep, quick turnover. If its really good, its near impossible to expand a smoker or pit fire given rents and restaurant regulations. Its hard to budget and fund a "future" great BBQ place. Too many people show and the ribs come off the rack too fast to be full flavor or they start smoking too early to beat the rush and ribs are inconsistant. I can see why the outer boroughs would have the best opportunity for truly great ribs. Time will tell, as those places become more popular.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: digsnola

                                          Dinosaur could hold up against any barbecue anywhere. Price is effected by location and I'm pretty sure rents are a lot higher in NYC than almost anywhere else.

                                          1. re: TonyO

                                            I like Dinosaur, but we're talking about 3 good bbq joints instead of 10 or 20. there should be more. I know rents are high in NY, that was my point about the state of NYC BBQ as a whole.

                                            1. re: digsnola

                                              Rents are a problem, but I think the mystique surrounding bbq is just as big a problem. If a place like RUB was located in a shack or in the back of some dive pool hall out of town, I think people would be more into it. I lived in TN for many years, and the above average places in those parts are on par or worse than the better places here (the truly great places down south, are, well, truly great and better than we have here). I know I would rather eat a cue sandwich in a screened in porch with a cold beer on a sunny, hot day than hop a subway and go into a place gussied up to look like a joint.

                                              1. re: mccan

                                                I think you are right and that is why Dinosaur works. The place just seems to have a good vibe, not to mention great food at reasonable prices.

                                                1. re: TonyO

                                                  Well, the place is also running all-wood-burning J&R Oyler pits -- four of em!. I think that helps. BS and Hill Country are using gas/wood Ole Hickory, RUB has Oylers, too, but I don't know if there's using gas assist. DM I think is all wood. I believe all-wood has an edge, but then again I have been impressed with the tenderness and deep flavor of Hill Country brisket so... who knows!! I'll just keep going back and try to figure it out HAHAHA

                                        2. I would say Daisy Mae's and Virgil's are both good. Only downside to both is their location. Another surprisingly good (and all you can eat for 2 hour ribs on Sunday) is Brother Jimmy's. Dry rub is the best.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Boss77

                                            went to blue smoke last night and it wasn't half bad. started with the chips and blue cheese/bacon app(coulda skipped that) and devilled eggs(for my wife, not me). the (marbled) briscuit was decently fall apart and fatty, topped with jalapenos. my wife had the crab blt salad, no complaints. priced well. celebrity siteing included ethan hawke...again the wife was happy...
                                            ;-)

                                            1. re: TBird

                                              Blue smoke is all about the burgers and sandwiches to me. I went once for mac & cheese & bbq and came out disappointed and since then have been very happy with burgers, cubanos, and unsingers bologna sandwiches.

                                          2. if you can i would recommend blue smoke for restaurant week. it is quite easy to get a reservation, and you get TONS for your money. plus, its a small(er) financial investment so if you don't fall in love, no real harm.

                                            that being said i went and got the chicken wings for an appetizer and the ribs for my main course with key lime pie for desert) i thought the wings were decent though not my favorite in the entire city but the plate was piled high - i believe with 15-20 wings. thats more like dinner in itself - for two! the ribs were good, once again an ample portion. they had a good fat to meat ratio and the sauce was even and rich - not globbed on or a cheap overly sugary or watery imitation of bbq sauce. they were definitely not skimping because it was restaurant week. i suspect the key lime pie was from steve's or little pie co. it was great.

                                            i was glad i went, and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. it totally hit the spot, but it was not the best bbq i have ever had. i have heard very good things about the brisket, however, so you may want to try that. though, bbq for me will always start and end with a good 1/2 rack of pork ribs.

                                            i can not emphasize enough that the portions were ENORMOUS. both my appetizer and main could have easily fed me for three days. RW at blue smoke is a super bang for your buck.

                                            at the end of the day, i'd say its worth checking out. but i definitely love dinosaur more.

                                            FYI: RW is held twice a year and in the last week of january/first week of february, and the last week of june/ the first week of july