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2007 Big Apple BBQ Block Party

  • j

Is it worth attending? Any tips or strategies to get the best out of it.

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  1. I found the hassle (major waits) to outweigh the food (rushed BBQ). But I'm a curmudgeon when it comes to big NYC events (and even Shake Shack and Magnolia Bakery) which I find too crowded for their value.

    6 Replies
    1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

      An absolute mob scene. Unless you get there at 11AM and are in the mood to eat BBQ that early the lines ruin the experience.

      1. re: princeofpork

        Absolutely agreed. You have to wait at least half an hour for the least popular lines, and for the popular ones like Salt Lick and Big Bob, it's like an hour wait if not more. I remember it was really hot last two years and the long waits really killed all the appetites.

        I could never figure out why people would line up for Blue Smoke when the restaurant was just a few blocks away.

        1. re: kobetobiko

          The Big Apple BBQ Block Party may have made sense the first year because of the lack of bbq in the city but these days with at least 4 credible bbq restaurants in the city I would not put up with the hassle. The bbq in the city maybe not as good some of the vendors that come up from down south but unless you are bbq starved you can't justify the hassle.

          1. re: kobetobiko

            If I was with people who were really hungry, I'd pop over to the Blue Smoke line, get one plate of food, and then go back to my friends, who'd snack on the ribs while waiting for something else.

            1. re: kobetobiko

              the only ones with chicken or any non pork option!! :(

              1. re: Zion

                If you don't eat pork...I would say don't go! The best pitmasters at the Big Apple BBQ are known for pork products: Ed Mitchell's Whole Hog, Big Bob Gibson's Pulled Pork, 17th Street Baby Back Ribs.

                There's some good brisket and sausage (Southside's sausage is beef), too, and I have heard good things about the beef ribs at Hill Country. But the real star of Big Apple BBQ is PORK.

        2. Possibly the worst place to try and eat BBQ unless you have a real love of long lines. If you are a Q-groupie, go Friday night when they are cooking. Sort of like the Wednesday night before the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

          1 Reply
          1. re: RICKO

            went last year and got those cards that allow you to skip lines (for free via a friend). with that in mind, the bbq served was in a whole other league to the stuff they serve here in the city. it made me realize that no matter how much i may like rub or dinosaur or daisy maes, nothing beats the real deal.

            watching them strip and chop up the whole hog for sandwiches brings tears to my eyes.

            the portions are on the small side though.

          2. Get the Bubba pass, it lets you bypass the amusement park length lines, it's a $100 prepaid card. If you like pulled pork, you should definitely go - it's the only good pulled pork you'll find in NYC.

            1. Get there early. They will run out of food by the end of the day.

              Get a map of the vendors ASAP when you get there.

              If they set up the beer garden around the fountain again, it will be a huge bottleneck to walk through.

              Avoid NYC vendors if you can help it but sometimes you gotta have something to nosh on while in the longer line.

              The Bubba FastPass line is better than the regular line, but both are pretty long. Last year the cashiers had to swipe your Bubba FastPass card to pay; this year they have switched to a punch card system so theoretically it will be faster.

              You can't buy the Bubba Pass online any more since it's so close to the event. You'll have to buy it on site. It's $100 for $84 worth of food/goods/seminars/etc. plus a free t-shirt. They appear to have changed the pricing structure as last year it was something like $150 for $150 worth of food.

              Last year they limited the Bubba Pass to entry for two people at a time. This may pose a problem if you're with a group.

              The 2nd day will be better than the first because it's staffed entirely by volunteers. Logistical kinks tend to get worked out on the first day.

              Weather, of course, will greatly influence the crowds. The 2nd day last year was cool and windy which meant fewer people, but the food got cold faster.

              1. not being a fan of crowds, I haven't attended it since the first year. And it got pretty crowded even then!

                1. I waited two hours in a line there last year and was astounded by how slow the servers where moving when I got to the front. They really seemed like they didn't know what they were doing and were oblivious to the fact people had been in their line for two hours. It was infuriating.

                  1. I went last year and had a great time. Yes there are HUGE lines for this event the later you go. Yes BBQ will sell out later in the day and I've seen people livid when they are told 10 from the front, after waiting 1+ hour that there's none left... I would arrive Saturday early around 10-11 am and see about getting the Bubba fast pass, you'll get that back in the food you order and the time you'll save going right to the front. If all else fails, head to the beer garden and have a few local brews while listening to blues in the park... that alone would be worth it, if you can stimie your drool over everyone else's Que...

                    1. We went last year. The lines were insane (easily over an hour), so we didn't get any food. Bought some sauces and a cookbook. Went down the street to R.U.B. to eat.

                      The funniest thing was the 20 minute long line for the special expensive pass that allows you to bypass the lines!

                      1. Agree with everyone else that the lines were pretty long. That being said, id recommend going. Ive been the past few years and had a good time, despite the lines. Go with a few friends, split up and then go to the grass and have some delicious bbq. relax, have a beer, and repeat. You will still wait on line with the Bubba Pass, but if they are doing punch cards like someone else said, it will go quicker. last year was a swipe system, and it was a disaster.

                        1. last year, the weather on the 1st day was chilly and rainy and we got there at literally 12 on the dot. we waited about 20 minutes for the food, which wasn't horrible. the lines are insane, but I think if you are really keen to go and you're fastidious about getting there early, you should be OK.

                          1. I wanted to go to this, but it looks like the long lines and wait won't be worth it since it'll be hot that day. That's too bad...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: FoodFanNYC

                              Each year they add more vendors....I think the hope is that with more on offer, the lines will be shorter. Don't know how true that is. We'll see. I'm cooking for the event this year w/ one of the restaurants, so I'm bummed to see they added the fried pies and Brunswick stew.....Hope I can get to those when I'm on a break.....

                              It seems like this is just an incredibly hard event to run, especially given the limited real estate at their disposal....but, it seems better each time. I wonder if it is just too big at this point.....

                            2. Add one more to the "not worth it" list. The first year it was okay but now it's just too crowded.

                              1. Seriously, the lines were not THAT bad today. We got there right at 11:45am and headed straight for Salt Lick. Was through the line in 15 minutes. We then divided and conquered -- 17th Street and Big Bob's. Big Bob's was another 15 minutes. 17th Street was the longest of the three at 30 minutes. With that, the trilogy (pulled pork, baby back ribs and beef brisket) was complete. We were out of there by 1:30.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: CA Transplant

                                  agree that the lines didn't seem as bad -- we got the bubba pass option, so i can't vouch fully, but we did go through our first line (my all-time favorite, Mitchell's whole hog -- with cracklins!) cash, to save bubba bucks. got through in 10-15 mins. serious aficionados should stop by the brunswick stew booth, which was sadly underattened. the stew is a must for any real carolina/SE bbq feast, and this version is excellent -- and only four bucks a pop!

                                  1. re: CA Transplant

                                    We followed bacically the same plan. Went to Salt Lick first, and after finishing eating that to take off the hunger edge, split up and went to Southside (short line), 17th St (a little longer and Ubon's which appeared to have a short line.
                                    Big mistake! I had the five orders of food food from 17th street and Southside ready to go and my friend is still waiting first in line at Ubon's. They told him they ran out of food and had to wait for more; said it would take 5 or 10 min was like half an hour. How in hell can you run out of pork shoulder at 1:30PM on opening day? All the other food got cold and it kind of ruined the day's experience.

                                    We did like the Southside brisket a little better than Salt Lick; not as dry, a little fattier and appeared to be a larger overall portion.
                                    Those fried pies were kind of tiny at $4 a pop.

                                    1. re: gnocchi

                                      I just went and the lines were not bad at all. Brunswick stew was lovely and soothing (needed hot sauce.) best brisket in my opinion was Salt Lick followed by Southside. I tried the beef ribs at Hill Country and thought they were bland - not impressed.

                                      1. re: gnocchi

                                        It's frustrating when they tell you that you have to wait, but if something has to smoke for like 16 hours beforehand, they're only doing the best they can to anticipate demand. Especially since they are putting the batches in the night before and trying to time when they're gonna need more.

                                        Because of this, I've learned not to get food from a bunch of places at the same time and try to sit down with a big group. You have to get in line, and then eat, or get in line, and eat while in another line.

                                        I liked the Southside brisket more than Salt Lick, but the Salt Lick's is good if you ask for pieces from the end ("the deckle"). And it goes well with their sauce.

                                        They started selling the fried pies for 2 for $4 today which was definitely a better deal.

                                        I had a Bubba Fast Pass split with one other person. We basically used up the whole thing after one day and paid cash the rest of the time. I visited 8 of the 9 visiting pitmasters and barely waited in any lines as we got there around noon both days and had a game plan already in place. The punch cards worked perfectly.

                                        The longest line I waited in was for baby back ribs at 17th Street -- a 20 minute line at 1 PM on Saturday. Each vendor was pretty efficient except for the Fried Pies place which ran behind a bit around 4 PM today. Because many of the pitmasters have been coming for a few years now, they appear to have really stepped up efficiency, too.

                                        A very good experience overall and I got to visit some of my favorites twice.

                                    2. since my bf had such a bad experience with endless lines and disorganization the first year of the event, we hadn't planned on going. however, since we were just a few blocks away after seeing a movie yesterday afternoon, our curiosity got the better of us. we stopped by around 4:15, and crowds were very light. the salt lick and 17th street still had lengthy lines, but most stands had done the bulk of their business for the day by that time. we cruised through the line at mitchell's in about 3 minutes and got a 2-for-1 deal from the proclamation stew crew. pulled pork from the former was sublime (really wish we'd got crackling, though), and brunswick stew from the latter was very tasty. in an ideal world we would have sampled some ribs as well, but i was really pleased at how pleasant our spontaneous visit turned out to be.

                                      1. My SO and I also shy away from crowds, but the barbecue offered at this event is absolutely worth it. Last year, we went on a whim and waited 1.5 hours for the best brisket we ever had at Salt Lick (the delicious mustard sauce really gave it an edge, so we bought a bottle of it this year).

                                        As for strategies, it's a bit late now, but try this for next year: get the Bubba Pass! If you have an American Express card, you can purchase it earlier and get your money's worth--the regular Bubba Pass is $100 for $84 worth of credit, but the Amex deal costs you $100 for $100 worth of credit (i.e., you're not paying any extra for the right to bypass the longer lines; you just have to eat up to $100 worth of food).

                                        We also saw people with large trays use their Bubba Pass cards to bypass the lines and order multiple servings. They then brought it out to their hungry friends, and groups of five or six were all able to split the card, save waiting time, and enjoy a variety of vendors.

                                        Coming from the South, I feel, IHMO, that the bbq in New York, while tasty, just doesn't compare. It's worth it if you plan ahead, go with a bbq lover, and realize that this is one of New York's more worthy outdoor festivals.

                                        Also, the lines today were ridiculously short! Seems like everyone was scared away.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Gluttonous Prime

                                          I saw this event on line and one of the Pit masters listed is Jake's Boss Barbeque from Boston. Did you see this stand? Jake's closed in Boston a few years ago and is greatly missed. (Boston is not exactly a BBQ haven).

                                          1. re: ginnyhw

                                            Yep, I had the ribs and beans from Jake's. The ribs were tender, with a good sauce, but they were cold by the time I got them, and the beans had no flavor. But the ribs would have been very good if they had been at least warm.

                                        2. How can this be a bbq festival and not one pitmaster from Memphis?

                                          6 Replies
                                            1. re: Bottom Feeding Foodie

                                              mike mills, from 17th st bbq in memphis was there, as he has been the past several years. no KC rep this year, but i think there has been one in years past...

                                              1. re: david sprague

                                                Paul Kirk was there at least twice in the past as a representative of KC 'que, even though RUB is a NYC restaurant.

                                                They really got the event moving smoothly this year-- faster lines, more space, smarter management of the traffic flow. I think the event was about 50% bigger this year and adding the stew and fried pies was a great way to add variety and, I can't believe I'm saying this, a break from just eating bbq for two straight days.....

                                                1. re: david sprague

                                                  You fell for that? Mike Mills is not from Memphis. He just uses the name. His 17th St BBQ is in Illinois. And his Memphis Championship BBQ is in Vegas. Total marketing ploy. Shameful, IMO.

                                                  1. re: Bottom Feeding Foodie

                                                    good point, the "memphis" thing is a bit of a misnomer, although Mills' place is much closer to the south than it is to, say, Chicago...an easy drive to both the kentucky and tennessee borders. and having been through that part of illinois many times, it's always struck me as more southern in tenor than midwestern per se. that said, i'm not a huge fan of his stuff, so i stuck to my pork fave (mitchell's) and finally gave in to the belief -- introduced on my last trip austin-ward -- that southside far outstrips salt lick.

                                                    1. re: Bottom Feeding Foodie

                                                      That drives me nuts, too! Sure, he's a "champion" of the "Memphis in May Barbeque Fest" but how many New Yorkers will know the distinction!?

                                                2. Great event, once again, so long as you are a patient person and plan the day accordingly. Arrived at 11 Sat to line up for the Bubba Pass and after a hour+wait finally got it and sprinted for the Q (really the only hiccup all day was them not selling the passes until 12, making everyone in line wait an hour+ for no reason). Quick note on the idea of "rushed" BBQ... most of the places cook everything overnight, same as you would anywhere.

                                                  Anyway, express lines were manageable early and late. It's really about picking your spots and good timing. Bob Gibson and Mitchell's were predictably awesome and Southside was the big surprise of the day for me. Really big plate of sausage and brisket that was comparable to salt lick with 1/4 of line/wait.

                                                  Enjoyment of this event is all about expectations... if you expect to wait in some lines and plan on doing it with friends or family it's a lot of fun. If you don't like crowds or waits then it is OBVIOUSLY not for you. Besides that, the food is what it is.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Abe Froman

                                                    Next year, buy the Fast Pass online. I ordered mine in April with my American Express card. It came in a few days. :)

                                                    1. re: kathryn

                                                      ha! trust that everyone in line was wishing they had ordered online... word was that there were only 100 passes for sale and we were nervous about our place in line, especially as more and more people joined friends ahead of us between 11 and 12. Will not make the same mistake next year!

                                                  2. I had been planning on getting the Bubba Fast Pass, but couldn't get a committment together from my friends in time. (Seriously, like herding cats).

                                                    We ended up going Sunday, arriving at about 1PM. Maybe it was the less-than-perfect weather... but the non fast pass lines were easily manageabe. Big Bob Gibson's was only about 5 minutes. All of the others were similar. It was really easy. Though another of our party showed up closer to 3 and the lines were considerably longer.

                                                    The rule: Go early. Stuff yourself. Then chill out on the lawn until the crowds die down. Then stuff yourself again with 'cue.

                                                    1. i went this past sunday, and although there was a wait at the two stands i ended up going to (salt lick and big bob's) it wasn't so bad. maybe 15-20 minutes? the line moved pretty quickly. besides, waiting in line gives your stomach more time to make some room for more bbq.

                                                      i was a little disappointed with salt lick's brisket - when i got it, it was cold, and a little tough and bland. the sausage was also unfortunately cold. i'm sure it would have been better if it was still hot.

                                                      don't miss big bob's, the pulled pork was amazing!!! so juicy and tender and flavorful, piping hot on a nice soft bun. i've included a picture below. drool. when i took my first bite i lost my powers of speech for a couple seconds.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: shirlotta

                                                        I agree... the pulled pork at Big Bob's was completely different from any other pulled pork I've ever had. Now I'm beginning to understand...