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My Fette Sau review (Williamsburg)

I know others have chimed in, but I wanted to start a new thread and do it bulletpoint style.

- I really like the style of the place. Very homey and relaxing. Seating is first come, first eat at sturdy, wooden, family-sized picnic tables inside and on the front patio. You share tables with whoever, so it's not a place if you're shy. By the same token, the two men next to us were in deep conversation and they didn't bother us and vice-versa. No loud music, just a fake fire place (they pull it off), the wonderful smell of meat cooking and the sound of people actually participating in conversations.

- You order food from the counter and wait for it (we waited all of five minutes total, including time in line). The "meat cutter" was very affable and all of the people working at the counter were very nice when my friend and I asked silly questions and cracked stupid jokes ("This guy," I said pointing at the meat cutter, "is the most important man in my life right now."). The gentleman busing tables was also exceptionally nice.

- The menu is fairly simple: Main courses were pork ribs, pulled pork, beef ribs, pulled beef, brisket, pigs tails, pork sausage, flank steak, pork belly bacon and pulled lamb. Sides are baked beans, German potato salad, broccoli salad, sour pickles and a few other things I can't remember.

- The bar has a wonderful assortment of bourbon, rye and whiskey. Prices were about what I would expect ($6 and up) and whoever stocked the bar knows their stuff (no surprise there). They had about eight to ten beers on tap and they serve in half-pint, pint, half-gallon and gallon portions. The little ones are in mason jars and the big ones, obviously meant to be drank by a party of at least two, are in old-fashioned jugs. Pints were $4 to $6, and the selection was nice and obviously meant to go with the food. I wouldn't say that I was a big fan of a lot of the beers, but I was more than happy to knock back a few knowing that I could go across the street to Spuyten Duyvil for a nightcap. I do wish they'd can the Brooklyn Pilsner as the "cheap" option because I think Brooklyn Brewery makes some of the worst beer in America (sorry, I do!). They had a small assortment of wine, but I know nothing about grapes.

- My friend and I split a half-rack of pork ribs and half-pound of brisket, plus German potato salad, broccoli salad, sour pickles and something else I can't remember.

-- The meat was very flavorable, fell off the bone and had a nice rub. I thought it was just moist enough. And there was really not much fat on it. I know a few other people complained about the fat, so maybe those complaints were heard (of course, our meat choices didn't lend themselves to be very fatty). The barbecue sauce was spicy with a nice finish, though I think I missed out some additional sauce options.

-- The sides were actually quite disappointing. Flavorless and sort of dry. A tangy vinegar-based cole slaw would be a nice addition, and some better bread is needed (each person gets a potato roll with the food). I agree with what someone else, this place is not for vegetarians. And you know what? That's fine, because they're communists anyway (I'm just kidding!). The absence of mac-and-cheese was actually a pleasant surprise. I'm tired of that option and most places don't do it very well. I would have loved to have some green been though.

-- The dessert menu was spare and we didn't bother. I'd suggest adding a couple of nice pies and some old fashion ice cream for the summer. It is entirely possible that I actually missed some dessert options as the meat simply enthralled me.

- Excluding the beers, our dinner was $30.25 (plus the $5 tip we gave at the counter) and we had food left over. We had a total of four beers, which tacked another $24 (tip included) onto our expenses. Next time, I'll ignore the sides, except the pickles, and stick with the meat. That would knock about $8 to $10 off the total.

All in all, I was very pleased with the meal and I will definitely be returning sooner rather later. What I enjoyed most was the atmosphere, which fostered a long dining experience.

There were no waiters in your face trying to hustle you out, and no snotty employees to spoil the experience. My friend and I relaxed at the table with a beer for 20 minutes before we even bothered looking at the menu (we were high on the smell by this time). We then ate a nice pace (somewhat amazing for both of us), and finished by picking at the food and sipping our beers for about 40 minutes.

I really have to say that I appreciate people who understand the concept of service, knowledge (in terms of food and beverage) and atmosphere. Considering the owners, it's not a surprise. I felt like the people working at the restaurant wanted me to enjoy my meal and just let me be. This is something that does not happen enough in NYC.

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  1. Are you talking about the same Fette Sau that I have been to 4 time since it has opened and never had an experience like this? I find this hard to believe, I was there last Monday at 8pm and they were already out of most of the meats and when I ask if there was any more in the oven (the keep their food in an oven after it cooks, then under heat lamp) he rolled his eyes and acted if I was torturing him when he said no. To go back to the heat lamp, the food is kept under a heat lamp! It is luke warm when you get and everything I have had is either dried out or moist because its fat. The sauces there are also bland and tasteless, I would rather use Kraft Bullseye BBQ Sauce then the one they offer. I have been 4 times now, and I don't think I can bear another experience like this to see if this is true, you must have gone on bizarro night.....

    3 Replies
    1. re: JacksonR

      Obviously we had completely different experiences, and that's cool.

      As for the heat lamps, I don't know what else they can do. You can't just make pulled pork or ribs in 20 minutes (unless you want to eat at a Chili's). This is stuff that is slow-cooked. It's not like a burger joint where you can wait for someone to grill up a piece of meat real quick. Running out of certain items is par for the course for these types of places because of the nature of the cooking involved. At least that's been my experience.

      By the way... Four times!? The place has been open for like three weeks and you've been four times!? And you don't have anything nice to say!? I would not have gone back after the second visit. Are you a glutton for punishment? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

      1. re: benmeddle

        Proper BBQ protocol, in an ideal situation, is to leave the meat cooking slowly until you're ready to slice it - put it over in the far corner of the smoker, away from the fire. BBQ is a slow process, so it's not as though the meat hits a critical, ideal pont and needs to come out. That said, I thought alot of their meat was on the dry side, which means that more cooking time might be a problem for them after all. Not an ideal situation.

        I don't see myself going back for a meal unless friends instigate it and I can't turn them elsewhere, but I spend several months a year in Texas, so I'm spoiled. However, I could easily see myself going there every once in a while for a few glasses of bourbon and a helping of the barbecued belly bacon. The bacon is tremendous stuff, and a great prelude to a night of serious drinking, but I wouldn't want to consume a whole meal of it - far too rich. And the bourbon selection is quite remarkable.

      2. re: JacksonR

        i agree with jackson r. was there two weeks ago when they ran out of ribs at 6:45 on a friday night. went back last week at 6pm so the place was empty. not only did i wait 15 minutes for my order to be taken but was so dissapointed at the extremely fatty and greasy ribs. no flavor to boot. this place is not worth it. the pulled pork is usually good but last week was also greasy.

      3. i'm still suffering from a severe meat hangover and the thought of pork is bit repugnant to me at the moment, but here are my thoughts on our meal (which was overall quite good):

        - pork ribs: excellent. very flavorful and tender without being mushy.
        - lamb:great flavor but dry.
        - pork shoulder: tasty but verging on dry.
        - sausages: good but unremarkable. i'd recommend skipping unless you're on some kind of completist sausage-tasting mission.
        - pig tail: sweet and deliciously fatty. not sure i'd order again, but i'm glad i tried it.
        - broccoli salad: very tasty, but absurdly priced at $7 for what i'd guess to be a ~3oz portion.
        - pickles: guss's. awesome. how can you go wrong?
        - beans: too sweet for my liking, and the same heat lamp system that i'm assuming dried out the pulled meats meant that they were lukewarmish verging on cold.
        - sauces: we tried two. one was spicy and okay, and one was ketchupy and terrible (maybe it was ketchup?). they really need to sort this out. fortunately, our food was generally able to stand on its own without extra flavoring.
        - drinks: our gallon of chocolate lager was lovely. it's a perfect less-filling altnernative to stout. amazing whiskey lists as has been noted, but one thing really irritated me. if you want your drink with selzter or ginger ale, you have to pay $2 for a premium mixer. the club soda made with purified water and fleur de sel was nice, and i appreciate the attention to detail, but it's a bit la de da. if there was a regular alternative to the specialty sodas, the bartender didn't mention it to me.
        - decor: i have to disagree about the fake fireplace (flames on a plasma screen). i think it clashes with the rest of the carefully-done shabby chic interior and frankly is cheesy as hell.

        1. I, too, had my first visit on Friday around 7:30 p.m.:

          --Ribs were a bit pricy but definitely delicious. Would get again. One of the best things we had.
          --Bacon was good but very rich. Would get again.
          --Pulled pork. A bit bland. Not really smokey. Needs work, and might try again in a month or so.
          --Brisket. Fatty parts were good, but the rest was DRY from the steam table. Tasted really good in my fried rice the next day. Might try again down the road.
          --Sausage. Really nice snappy skin, moist and tasty. Did not have any smoke flavor. Did they even smoke it?
          --Beans. Pretty good! Would get again.
          --Sauce--WEIRD. Spicy, but no salty or sweet flavor. Tasted like they screwed it up. We mixed it with the ketchup, which added saltiness and sweetness, and then it wasn't so bad.
          --Beer--I thought heavyweight stopped distributing. Was VERY excited to have it.
          --Service--not bad, the slicer was a bit slow, but we only waited about five minutes.
          --Atmosphere--I liked the fake fire. It made me laugh.

          Overall, will definitely return. I would like to wait a month or so to see if they can make any improvements, specifically on the pork, brisket and sausage. If they don't improve, then I probably wont be back.

          1. I was in heaven myself. Forgive me for piggybacking on your review, but I figured I'd stick mine in and keep this as one big thread.

            I went on Friday night, and again on Sunday afternoon (around 5ish). Both times -- fantastic.

            The pork belly: dissolves in your mouth. Heaven.

            The sausage: agreed, not a lot of smoke flavor, though you can tell it was smoked (pink ring!) -- still, really good sausage. Some of the best I've had in ages.

            Pastrami: twas okay. Not my favorite, but not the worst thing on the menu. 1/4 lb. is enough for two people, maybe a bit much for one.

            Potato salad: good, the potatoes had some crunch! The dressing seems to be olive oil and cracked black pepper, which is an interesting change -- plus, I imagine it keeps a lot longer than your standard mayo-based dressing.

            Sauerkraut: really good stuff right here. A small order is plenty for two; a little briny but it's supposed to be. It's not an overbearing brine, for lack of a better way to put it.

            Flank steak: tasty. I would get this again.

            Baby-backs: really really good. Mine were not dry; the rub was delicious and the meat was perfectly cooked. Not falling off the bone, but not tough at all.

            Pulled lamb (which I had on Sunday): delicious. 1/4 lb is a lot for one person, I thought. (Then again, I did get a lot of other food.)

            ------------

            Beers: I had a lot of the Chard, as well as the Liquid Gold. Both went very well with the barbecue. I noted that they also had Bully Hill Meat Market Red on the menu; whereas I did not have this with dinner, I've drunk plenty of it in my life. Nice addition, I thought (although a glass of it for $9, to me, was funny -- that's what it'll run you for a bottle of it up home in Rochester).

            The service was fantastic. I had the same folks wait on me as I got my chow both days, and they were very patient. I also appreciated that they didn't rush what they were doing -- the woman cutting meat concentrated on filling each order, not flying through it and potentially making a mistake. I was really impressed by everyone.

            The ambience of the place itself -- after only a few weeks of being open, both nights it was packed with people enjoying themselves. With the big communal tables, you end up talking with folks, and that really adds to the vibe of the joint. They're going to have a hell of a time once the word spreads more; they may need to buy a building next door and hook up a second smoker!

            My ONLY complaint: the hotter of the two bbq sauces. This was one of the odder sauces I've ever had, and I didn't think it went very well with the bbq. I would not bother with it -- honestly, the 'cue doesn't need it. It works so well on its own, sauce is really not necessary.

            Fette Sau is, by far, one of the best BBQ experiences I have ever had in. my. life. They're not going to be in this year's Big Apple BBQ Block Party, but if they're in next year's, they're going to have one hell of a line.

            2 Replies
            1. re: brooklyncook

              What time do they open on Sunday? My friend and I went by around 2:30 PM yesterday to grab some lunch and the restaurant was closed. A string of obscenities we launched from across the street unfortunately did not magically cause the gates and door to fly open. I was looking forward to lunch and was planning on getting some extra for lunch today!

            2. benmeddle has got it right on. I went last night and had a half rack of pork ribs. they were delicious, tender, and had no need for the uninteresting sauces provided. quite delightful. the sides are pretty atrocious -- the broccoli salad was dry and tasteless, the beans were in a thick gooey sauce, and the german potato salad basically sorry potatoes drowned in oil and vinegar. blech. BUT, the bourbon selection was truly divine and the two I tried (Kentucky Vintage and Country Creek (or something similar)) were very smooth. And it is really nice to sit outside at the picnic tables, and perhaps the owners should be concerned that the patrons will grow roots. I have no doubt that many of my summer nights are going to be whiled away at Fette Sau with pork and bourbon.

              1. Ate there last night around 10pm. It was pretty much empty and they seemed to have all the meat in stock. I went for the flank steak and pulled pork shoulder. Both were delicious and soft, so much so that I loved just eating it with my hands. I also liked the lack of sauce... it really didn't need it. Eating outside with a pint of good beer was a lovely experience.

                On the negative but who cares side of things, I thought the potato salad and beans were both underwhelming.

                3 Replies
                1. re: bhill

                  I got take-out from there last week, and I have to say, the people that work there at 6 p.m. on Thursdays are super-nice, and they werent out of anything. And the pulled pork was good, so those are the up-sides.

                  On the other hand...I tried to broccoli salad, which tasted a lot like when you mistake the bottle of vinger for oil and pour it all over your food. Nasty nasty nasty...I didnt reallt get where they were going with that. Same for one of the sauces. Those two items went straight into the trash.

                  Still, its on my way home from the subway and everything else was good, so I'll definitely be there again, hopefully to stay and eat at the picnic tables this time!

                  1. re: theworldaway

                    -Amazing brisket, juicy & delicious. It is the best I've had of all the NYC places.
                    -Pulled pork was good, on par with other places, it was very shredded, but still moist.
                    -Bean were really nice, with big chunks of pork and a thick sauce.
                    -Smoked/hot sausage was OK, wasn't impressed, wasn't disapointed.
                    -Pork ribs were a disapointment. They were dry, little, and scrawny. And we ordered a 1/2 rack, which some how ended up being just 4 ribs for $11????
                    -The sauces were good, nothing special
                    -Beers were great, nice selection.
                    I WILL be going back, there are a few meats I need to try that weren't offered that day: beef ribs and bbq'd leg of lamb, and the brisket again

                    1. re: stulofski

                      i was there 3x so far. my last time, i only ordered a slab of pork ribs and a pound of pork shoulder...those are the best things on the menu and i had a great time.

                2. I went to Fette Sau last night, and I had a terrific meal.

                  To the original poster... It's fair to say that you don't like Brooklyn Beer. But it's not fair to say they make "some of the worst beer in America" (Really? You can't be serious. Worse than Mickeys? Worse than Hamms? Worse than Miller? etc etc). Brooklyn Brewery has won international awards for some of their beer (Chocolate Stout for example) and the brewmaster there is well respected internationally. You don't like Brooklyn Beer. Fine. But calling it "some of the worst beer in America" is way over the top.

                  Fette Sau is owned by the folks who own Spuyten Duyvel. They have some beers on tap that are specially brewed just for them (according to reviews at rate beer dot com). Anyway, it's a good place to find top beers with your 'cue.

                  The three sauces are vinegar-based, straight BBQ, and catsup. The idea is to mix them to your tastes. Some folks prefer more or less vinegar in their sauce.

                  I thought the beans were terrific, meaty and smoky. I have generally not been a fan of BBQ/baked beans in the past. These are maybe the best I've had.

                  I was disappointed to see the beef brisket was not available (only 6 meats are available on any one night, according to the menu). I settled for the beef pastrami instead, and prepared for the worst. Turns out that I loved it... the pastrami spices are not overwhelming, and they made a wonderful crust. I also had the pulled pork (delicious). I ordered a half pound of each... too much food. Next time, I'll order less. The folks next to me at my table were raving about the boneless beef ribs. Also on last nights' menu was Pork Cheeks, but I decided to leave that for another time.

                  I tend to gravitate to the funky places with formaica, not linen tablecloths. I spent 15 minutes just lingering after my meal, and appreciated the lack of pressure. I will definitely be back...