Bar B Q South Slope - I am sorry for hating your guts - I was wrong
When I visited Bar B Q on 6th avenue and 20th street for the first time about a year ago, I wrote a review on city search that was shortly rejected for being too offensive and unbecoming - I felt the whole operation, from the food to the service were abominable and let loose as such in my review (my ire was raised because it had recently won some “best of” distinction and after my initial experience, I felt I needed to set the public straight on what was obviously some kind of padded survey). I guess what really irked me was the gap between the potential and execution and especially the service and the food quality (I had a brisket sandwich). I was also treated rudely by the bartender/waiter when asking for pickles on a my sandwich – what I thought was a reasonable request. If it were my restaurant and a customer wanted pickles, I wouldn’t be above running across the street to the bodega for a bottle of pickles, I think it was the pickle thing more than anything else that really pissed me off, I thought of bringing in my own, but what was the use, I didn’t want to come across as a jerk, I just wanted pickles.
There was also the comic book/ faux indie rock nerd vibe on part of cook and bartender and their loud obnoxious conversations bantered back and forth that seemed to attempt to alienate the few people in there – who were obviously looking for a neighborhood oasis and some inclusion in what can be a lonely strip of south park slope in terms of finding a nice place to knock a few back and eat some bar-b-qued meat, mac and cheese, sides, etc. Cheers it was not, buy why I thought, why the pretense? I had just moved from two years spent in Williamsburg and never encountered any level of unnessasary pretense remotely close to what I encountered at Bar B Q, good bye and good luck I thought... Hurmpf.
A couple of months later, friends were in town and we went on the basis of convenience and to provide myself with a opportunity to reinforce my strictly negative take, at the very least we could get some booze and not have to stumble too far home. On the second try, the food was kind of amazing. Pulled pork (no pickles still) was superb, no really, it reminded my of the Moonlight in Owensboro, Kentucky near the Blue Grass Hall of Fame, my companions all agreed and we ate and drank and felt well taken care of. With my initial vitriol blinders off, I realized the bourbon selection was astounding (cheap and well poured) and there was some fresh Six Point Bengali Tiger on tap, it was a blissful experience.
I have since been back several times, taking family and friends and although the food I have had (ribs, brisket, chicken) has been good; the pulled pork, cole slaw, mac and cheese and beverage selection (chow hounders: I must stress the pulled pork) remains something really special and worthy of an award. My first impressions were misguided in dismissing the place, all over some stupid pickles (how hard would it be to have a flipping jar of pickles, though?).
I am sorry and want to go on the record as saying I love Bar B Q. I love the slightly alienated and disjoined feeling I get when waking in, sitting at the beautifully authentic BBQ joint bar, still listening to loud and alienating conversations among the staff (which to my own horror, I now kind of find charming) and having the best pulled pork sandwich and freshest Brooklyn brewed beer that have ever existed.
I ate there with the family a few months ago. While I would have gone back, the kids didn't like it at all, and it wasn't so great that I'd force them there.
But just this past week, with the kids all at camp, I thought about it as a place to go without them. My conclusion, along with my wife's, was that it wasn't worth it. Why the plastic? Why did the staff make it feel like they were doing you a favor? It just didn't appeal to me. It wasn't as if the place was so busy either, it was basically empty. I couldn't quite figure out where they made there money, except it was early dinner and maybe they got a late crowd. They're not exactly in the middle of what's happening in the slope either.
Maybe a real BBQ joint in the south or Texas or wherever serves food this way, but this is NY.
Your points about service and (slightly less so) plastic utensils are well taken, the service issues are inexcusable - no one there is mean, just self involved and indifferent - which can make you leave with a bad taste in your mouth, no matter what you’ve eaten.
What’s frustrating is that it’s such an easy problem to correct, to be nice and concerned with your customers’ satisfaction, enough to look away from a private conversation (albeit an unnecessarily LOUD one about comic books or horror movies or some crappy band) and see that an empty glass needs to be filled. That was what initially got me so riled up - and after reading your remarks, it still does – it defies logic and it’s what made me want to flame them and see them fail.
The spirit of my initial post was that the terrible service blinded me to a really good food find, one menu item that I would endure all of this for, something kind of special, in my opinion. My love for this sandwich has made all of the other nonsense irrelevant, the pulled pork blocks out the terribleness of not only the environs but also the ultimate existential truth of humanity.
This sandwich made me understand that life is short and people being who they are don’t always have the capacity for loving their fellow person, they are blinded by their own selfishness for what could be a number of reasons. I do feel sorry for people like this, or think they’ll grow to understand what the rest of us already know. That we’re only on this Earth for a short period of time; the past is over, the future is uncertain. The present is all we have and it is for us to savor or not.
The pulled pork sandwich, fortunately and blessedly, presents no complicated human qualities. Just the delicious, chopped, slowly simmered shoulder of a former living pig on a bun. For this I am thankful. Humans will always disappoint – the pulled pork sandwich at Bar B Q will carry the torch for the remedy to all things that make our species so inherently flawed and imperfect.
I like the pork a lot. I lived in North Carolina for a while, and this pork actually is better (smokier, juicier) than some places down there, but not most. Down South, chopped pork shouldn't sit around for more than a few hours--and if it does, it's often served lukewarm. Otherwise it starts to taste, well, I know it when I taste it. Still, I think they do a pretty great rendition of Carolina pork for a New York bbq joint. The other items, brisket, and ribs, unless they've changed significantly, I do not like. I find the plasticware endearing and authentic, as well as the decor. But not the attitude.
The vibe I've experienced at the bar is exactly as you describe. This is a part of the neighborhood where I'd expect to be welcomed as a neighbor with open arms...instead, I get the feeling that I'd only be liked if I, say, went to college at Middlebury with the bartender. It is the opposite of the staff situation at Cafe Steinhof, where everyone feels love and we love them back. There is a strange energy amongst the people who have come to work at, and regularly populate the bar at, BarBQ. I never hang out there. And I can pass for somewhat of a Williamsburg type myself. Oh, and that fresh beer you're drinking (I LOVE Six Points) is available at Buttermilk for $2 less per pint.
BTW, the storefront on 19th and 6th that is undergoing renovations is only going to be a real estate office. No need to get excited. Although, the owners of Has Beans are opening up a wine bar across the street.
If this place has managed to turn around what was absolutely the worst bbq I've had outside of predictable terrible chain restaurants, it would indeed be a miracle. The ribs I had last year at this place looked and tasted like they had been boiled. There was no evidence of even fake smoke flavor and I've never seen grayer meat. I think it's going to take further positive reviews from others who've changed their minds to get me back in that joint.
One additional complaint: they don't deliver and when we call to ask this question every couple of months they are unbearably rude on the phone, as if the very idea offended them. Sometimes we suck it up and order for pick-up, sometimes we slam the phone down in frustration. But I do love their pulled pork and cole slaw.