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Big Apple BBQ

Haven't been for a couple of years but going to brave it armed with my Fastpass (formerly known as the Bubba Pass). Will report back. Wish me luck.

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  1. Good luck. Good thing we have Fastpasses, otherwise it would be genuinely courageous to stand in line for who-knows-how-long in 95F+ heat.

    2 Replies
    1. re: banquo

      found it really really odd that some stalls -- salt lick, for instance -- had huge lines even in fast pass mode (seems like they released more passes this year) while other really good ones had no wait at all. much to my delight, ed mitchell's new place had ONE person on line (fast pass that is) at two pm. doggone it, he's still my all time pork purveying idol. new place promotes hormone free, natural pork, which is great. the flavor is absolutely flawless -- highly recommended.

      decided to diversify a bit this time, had the st louis ribs from bakers -- again,not much of a line (seems like the vendors on the fringes,physically, had less traffic). three good, meaty ribs and just enough sauce to set things off. didn't add more sauce 'cause i didn't think it necessary. really a good option.

      the beef rib from mr cecil was good...not great. liked the siding salad -- cukes and tomatoes -- since even a cole slaw lover like me can get sick of traversing a one-side-dish town.

      intend to try the checkered pig's pork tomorrow, as well as the crawfish stand.

      more beer choices this year was nice -- yay abita -- but it was just too darn hot to take full advantage of that....

      1. re: david sprague

        Salt Lick always has a huge line. Because they're a well known name. And because they are one of two brisket vendors. Lots of TX ex-pats live in NYC, too.

        A lot of the line management seems dictated by the batch-like nature of cooking BBQ.

        If you like Ed Mitchell you'll like Checkered Pig but not as much.

        And the "crawfish" stand is really crawfish-okra hush puppies. Not actual whole crawfish.

    2. I had a Fast Pass as well:

      The Pit - whole hog! It looks like pulled pork but is the whole hog. They'll gladly give you extra crackling if you wish. Make sure you get some of their vinegary, spicy sauce on the pork. It's really tender, melt-in-your-mouth good, but more on the subtle side in comparison to others. The slaw went well with the sauced pork, too. Really great pork flavor. Ed Mitchell is a master of the whole hog and they have a very impressive set up. Note that the register here is very close to the FastPass entrance, so it creates a little bit of a bottleneck in that corner of the park. I'll probably have another sandwich from here tomorrow. Line was about 10 minutes around 1pm.

      Big Bob Gibson - Also delicious but a very different style. I love their Championship red sauce. Meaty, nice as finely chopped as The Pit, but the flavor is more assertive, in order to stand up to the sauce. A great pulled pork sandwich. Nice big chunks, and it is a treat to see the Lilly brothers chopping up pork in front of your eyes. I could eat at least two more of these before the weekend is up. Line was about 10 minutes around 1:30pm but got longer as the day went on.

      Dinosaur BBQ - they ran out of beans for about ten minutes but we didn't care and they took $2 off. The pulled pork was nice but not as good as the others. Probably some of the best in NYC though. Line was very short around 2pm. Went here because the fiance wanted more pulled pork.

      17th Street Baby Back Ribs - great, well sauced, delicious, tender, meaty, juicy. I got BBQ sauce all over my face eating these! Super messy but worth the effort. Fatty and delicious. Some of my favorite BBQ ever. The baked beans were good but I was saving room so only had a little bit. The line was pretty long around 2pm but died down around 3pm.

      Checkered Pig - similar to Ed Mitchell's but not as good. A newcomer to BABBQ, and a friend told us it was the best thing he'd eaten that day. It was very tender, soft, silky pork, with a bit of sweetness to it. Nearly melt in your mouth but not as much as the whole hog from The Pit. I did like it, though, it just had a hard time standing up to The Pit and Big Bob. It was worth trying just because they were new, though.

      Walked past Salt Lick, skipped eating there since I've been to the Dripping Springs TX location already, but the line was long. Tried to get into the hush puppies line but the line was just as long! They looked really good and smelled amazing, though. I'll try again tomorrow.

      Eleven Madison Park beverage stand - I wanted some lemonade but they closed up shop early! They were also selling sweet tea. This is the stand outside the Bourbon Bar.

      Tabla beverage / food stand - really nice limeade with seltzer water and pomegranate syrup in it, $5, non-Fast Pass unfortunately. A friend tried their tea infused with a bunch of stuff, wasn't too impressed.

      Blue Smoke - good brownie but they were out of PB&J cupcakes! Boo. The root beer floats looked nice too.

      Shake Shack - FAILURE, both the B-line and the regular line were down just past the sand a bit, I thought I'd stop by the B-line to grab some custard, we waited about 20 minutes, the line moved about 2 people. Very, very slow. A friend thought they might be training new employees -- why, on one of the busiest days of the year?! I don't think some of the people around me even understood the B line's purpose as they were talking about ordering burgers and shakes.

      After sweating it out for 4 hours, I headed home. Tomorrow: hush puppies, the new brisket vendor from CT, maybe Big Bob and The Pit again.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        "The Pit - whole hog! It looks like pulled pork but is the whole hog. They'll gladly give you extra crackling if you wish."

        Yes, if you have the fast pass. I didn't get any skin on the regular line, so I asked if they had any; I was told that "it's only on that line" (pointing at the fast pass line). Still a great sandwich but annoying.

        1. re: craig_g

          that IS annoying.
          I got enormous pieces of crackling from the Pit last year, I had actually asked Ed because he was serving the pork when I was there. This time, I asked the kid who handed me my plate, and he had no idea what I was talking about, so I didnt press.

      2. The hush puppies are terrific-the line is slow because they are frying them fresh, looks like about 10 per basket and maybe 4-5 baskets. They give you 5 with sauce-I'm not sure how much crawdad is in it (just a hint) but they are nice and spicy and not at all dry...but they are filling, so go easy on them.
        We split up at the start (2 fast-passes)-they were letting us line up by 11:45-almost no one on the Salt Lick or Bob Gibson line. I really like the sausages at Salt Lick, a lot more than the brisket-we ended up enduring a longer wait to take some all- sausage home (I came supplied with those plastic take-out containers.) I liked the Bob Gibson, but the suprise for me and my wife and 2 friends was....
        Checkered Pig-we all liked it better-the saucing has that vinegary taste to it...maybe it reminds me of my childhood pork sandwiches, I don't know, but I really liked it. We stopped by just before we left to get some more to take home (I find pork freezes well.)
        The winner for all of us, again, is 17th Street-those are just amazing ribs, and I like the beans that go with it as well.
        Did anyone have trouble with the new style containers they were using? I got cole-slaw sauce all over me-it seemed the container had a flaw in the lower corner.
        The beer lines were out of control, so I passed on that.
        And Edy's ice cream was handing out free small cups right next to the Wildwood dessert stand.
        It was hot...but I'll brave it again tomorrow.

        3 Replies
        1. re: David W

          wow, this was the first time i ever found the beer deal workable...with a fast pass that is. less than five mins to be punched, handed a receipt that was redeemable for a beer. noticed some people loading up the pass....if the receipt was for, say, six beers, you could buy two, have the receipt 'notarized' and save the rest for later. comparatively civilized...

          1. re: david sprague

            Maybe I missed that...by the time I passed by there I may have had sunstroke! I'll take a look again tomorrow-thanks.

            1. re: David W

              lol....the weather may have impacted me too...one and a half abitas and i was kind of wasted.

              it was cool to have more than the usual supermarket beer available though

        2. Since it was also the day of the Belmont Stakes, I will analogize. At 11am I was the first horse at the gate, the gate being Ed Mitchell's The Pit-"everything but the squeal". Enjoyed talking to Ed as he supervised placing whole hogs in the smokers and adding the vinegar to the chopped pork. At 12:01 on the fast pass line I was 5 lengths ahead of the pack as I'd already consumed 2 sandwiches. Had park benches all to myself while they blasted some Albert King from the speakers placed around the park. The surprise winner this year IMHO was Ubon's pulled pork from Yazoo Miss. Great sauce. I bought a bottle. Big Bob Gibson was great as usual too. 4 pork sandwiches and it was only 12:15! Settled in to Eleven Mad's cafe which, to keep the horse theme, was serving Kentucky mint juleps. I needed babybacks, so the only local pitmaster I patronized (since I can always get Hill Country and Blue Smoke) was Rack and Soul, which I'd never been to before. Ribs were fantastic as were their beans. Brought half a rack home to Mrs. GG who devoured them. The only downer was the over hour wait even in the fastpass line for the crawfish/okra hushpuppies which they fried up fresh for each person. They were great but at 93+ degrees, it was brutal. The brewmasters were great, but after the juleps I could only do one Abita turbodog in the heat. All in all, a photo finish!

          2 Replies
          1. re: guttergourmet

            Did you try 17th Street's Baby Backs?

            1. re: kathryn

              I think 17th St is the best of all! I am a loyal fan and go to the party every year pretty much because of them.

          2. Went with 2 friends and split a Fastpass 3 ways.

            Having tried all the chopped/pulled pork except one, the 3 of us universally agreed that Ubon's was far and away the best.

            The best meat, the best sauce, the best 'slaw.

            And when combined any 2 or 3 ways -- total heaven.

            1. I was almost shocked that we were able to finish the fast pass(two of us). One that wasn't mentioned here is Mr Cecil's California Ribs. I heard alot of suprises while standing on the longest line I saw(late afternoon) that people were waiting for ribs from California. It had a bit of Asian flavor and I thought it was one of the suprises of the day. You always expect certain flavors but it was different and it worked. I am another local fan of Hill Country so I thought it would be ok to let it go- someone sitting next to me eating the beef ribs with sausage, smelled amazing. I ended up getting it, suprisingly, it tasted better than at the restaurant. 17th St did have the worst containter but I also thought it was one of the best.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mslex

                I was one of the people who was unenthusiastic about California bbq, but it was by far my favorite bite of the day! Delicious rib and link, cooked perfectly, with a hit of Asian seasoning. Can't wait to hit the restaurant next time I'm in L.A.!

                1. re: mslex

                  If I had known how long this line was going to be, Id have never gotten on it.

                  But oh, it was so so worth it. The rib was sublime, the sausage was tasty, spicy and crispy, and the side was enjoyable.

                  Hopefully theyll be back next year and with the prep kinks will be worked out.

                2. Day 2-12:01pm-open up Ubon's-the surprise winner of the festival confirmed-with 2 sandwiches. Next, the Checkered Pig for Virginia chopped pork was actually moister than The Pit's. Mr. Cecil's Californian Asian giant beef rib was interesting, the hot link not bad and the cuke salad refreshing. 17th Street Ribs were good but I have to give the edge to Rack & Soul's. Wildwood's nilla banana pudding was nice to nibble. All done at 12:40!!!

                  1. Day two with the FastPass:

                    City Grocery - smoked crawfish-okra hush puppies. These were great! Spicy and warm, crispy exteriors, and a nice spicy and tangy dipping sauce. The folks manning the station were super nice too and working quickly. Line was basically nonexistent at 12:15pm.

                    Passed by Salt Lick, huge line, skipped it. The 17th St. line was okay but got longer the more you watched. Decided to spend some time in the shade of 26th Street.

                    Ubon's - I still think I like the assertive nature of Big Bob's pulled pork better. Ubon's has more melt in your mouth quality but the flavor wasn't as good as The Pit. There was also something missing from the mouth feel - felt like it got a bit mushy by the end. Very good but not my favorite. I always wonder why the line isn't as long here. Very few people around 12:30pm.

                    Big Bob's - this time with the habanero sauce. Delicious, smoky, porky, and a delicious sweet BBQ sauce. They sold out of their bottles of sauce yesterday, the nice lady told me. Line was pretty short around 1pm.

                    A friend walked by and offered us some rib scraps from The Pit that they'd asked Ed Mitchell for. (It's the leftover parts, I guess, that they don't use in chopping up the hog). Basically very fatty, big pieces of skin.

                    Thought about brisket from Wilson's (CT) but multiple people told us it was terrible yesterday, so we skipped it.

                    Hill Country - the guy chopping beef ribs in the back was giving away the less pretty ones. Giant caveman style beef rib. Salty, spicy, and dry. Nice jalapeno sausage from Kreuz Market. My mouth was on fire towards the end, and I really wanted a drink. This was around 1:30pm.

                    Passed by the Wildwood Barbecue stand - they had cold banana pudding in pre-packed cups on ice. Looked refreshing. Smores looked good too but I was craving something cold.

                    Blue Smoke - they ran out of root beer floats ONE PERSON ahead of me. Damn. It was "temporary" they said -- probably ran out of the ice cream part or something, but I didn't feel like waiting. Yesterday the line was HUGE here but the line was much shorter, and a big faster today. They broke out the registers into two sections: FastPass vs. Cash only. The PB&J cupcakes were excellent though. Soft fluffy cupcake, intensely creamy and nutty frosting, and a delicious jelly injection in the center. Awesome.

                    Eleven Madison Park Bourbon Bar - Met up with some friends here. Some nice bourbons (my fiance partook of some rare, hard to buy bourbons) and very sweet lemonade. Ginger lemonade, I think. It was overly sweet but nice and cold. Got better after the ice melted a bit. The bourbon bar was packed and standing room only. Nice to let us use the EMP bathrooms though. We hung out until about 2pm when we couldn't stand the crowds and the heat any more.

                    Seemed like there were MUCH fewer people in the park today even though it was just as hot. I actually think it was nicer today due to the breeze. A friend thought maybe everybody was at the Porto Rican day parade? Anyway, we were almost done but for one last stop...

                    The Pit - one last taste of Ed Mitchell's BBQ. Great with a splash of sauce, and extra skin. Grabbed some fatty pieces of crackling from a tray by the sauce. So good, tender, great mouthfeel! I felt like pork fat was coming out of my pores by this part. Excellent.

                    Left the park around 2:30pm. DONE and FULL.

                    4 Replies
                        1. re: kathryn

                          Just relived it again-thanks. Mrs. GG just threw me one rib to get lost.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Couldn't make it this year (went my brother's wedding in North Carolina, but did manage a 30-minute detour to Wilber's in Goldsboro, wow, wotta sandwich! And a 1/2 dozen hush-puppies to boot, so I'm a greasy mess in my fine rental machine) but your pictures almost make up for it. Awesome. Can't wait 'til next year.

                        2. Yep, there were fewer people out today. Managed an easy beer and listened to the band mid pig-out.
                          I stocked up on 17th St for the future, and took home some Brunswick stew as well (it lwas pretty tasty, the spoonful I had.)
                          The Pit was another of my take home items...lovely.
                          I wasn't too thrilled with the Baker's Ribs-a little too charred and dry for me.
                          Ubon also delivered, but I have to give the nod to The Pit and Checkered Pig.
                          All in all, a better day for me-a little breezy and overcast, and less crowded.
                          I have to retire so I can make a BBQ trip across America.

                          1. We strolled in at 5 on Sunday to no lines -- wahoo! We got Ubon's pulled pork which I found moist, delightful and full of flavor. The sauce was outstanding. My husband went to Salt Lick just as the brisket ran out, but got the sausages which were also excellent -- smoky, smooth, juicy and rippling with flavor. This year was my fave compared to year's past, mostly due to the lack of wait. Now if I only had a bigger belly, I could actually compare. Can't wait till next year!

                            1. we stopped by around 4pm and only managed a few plates due to the heat and what seemed like fairly big lines for some of the purveyors i was interested in (city grocery's line looked brutal, for instance). pulled pork from the checkered pig and ribs from bakers were both great, but the brisket from wilson's was lousy. it reminded me of cafeteria roast beef, actually. the ginger mint lemonade and lavender sweet tea from EMP looked very tempting, but the $7 price tag struck me as ludicrous.
                              sadly, they were closing when we went to line up for ed mitchell's (i've been dreaming of that pork). to soften the blow, he let us take home a container of skin and feet. it's a bit less appealing now several hours after the fact, but it was nice of him to send us home with a doggie (piggie?) bag.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: wleatherette

                                I found Big Bob's, The Pit and 17th Street the best, but I was extremely pleased with the beef sausage from Cecil's. What a disappointment at Wilson's, dry, tasteless, overall just very poor. All the desserts I had were spot on. A great day that I covered in great detail.


                                1. re: wleatherette

                                  I always feel like the event always needs stronger brisket vendors. They always have a ton of ribs and pulled pork. Last year they hit the mark with both Salt Lick and Southside providing good examples of the genre. Unfortunately, Southside couldn't make it this year.

                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    I had 17th Street's ribs, which were as yummy as last year. The beans though- what happened? I found these to be overly sweet, drenched in sauce and a little too soft. Last year they were more firm with a vinegary taste.

                                    Also tried Dinosaur BBQ's pulled pork. Good sauce, but otherwise a little on the dry side.

                                    1. re: wanderjahr

                                      I didn't have any of the 17th Street beans - conserving stomach space - so I don't know. Sorry!

                                      Dinosaur goes good pulled pork, too, I thought, but it just didn't compare to the out of town purveyors. Oh, well.

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        I was a huge fan of the beans from 17th Street. Really liked the taste and consistency. I had them at like 12:15 on Sunday so maybe it was a different batch.


                                    2. re: kathryn

                                      My sister and I said the same thing. We had the brisket from the Fairfield, CT vendor (can't remember the name) and didn't love it. The pieces were chewy and grisly, and there really wasn't a lot in the container. Our next stop at Mr. Cecil's more than made up for it (see my above comment).

                                      1. re: Nikki NYC

                                        that brisket (from wilson's) made me think of the old joke: terrible food, and such small portions.

                                        1. re: wleatherette

                                          That brisket from Wilson's was an epic failure. It was tough, gristly and had no flavor. No wonder they had no line, while the line was so long at the Salt Lick. While I wasn;t willing to wait in their line, it seems like Salt Lick was the only vendor who brought edible brisket to the festival.

                                          1. re: wleatherette

                                            the brisket wasn't cooked long enough. It had a nice smoke ring (only on one side mind you), but it was too tough and dry. My only regret of the day was going there and not Hill Country for Brisket (I was trying to keep away from the NY vendors since we can always go there). I feel bad though, I'm sure Wilson's is pretty good if they got invited to the festival, but just didn't have a good weekend. More below -


                                    3. It was one helluva hot day, but the bbq made it worthwhile! Dinosaur's sandwich was killer and their beans rocked. Wildwood BBQ's banana pudding was out of this world.


                                      1. I was there on Saturday and I posted this to Eater already. But the City Grocery fiasco needs to be repeated here:
                                        I was on the line for City Grocery's Smoked Crawfish and Hushpuppies. I went with someone who doesn't eat pork or beef, so we wanted to get some smoked crawfish and hushpuppies so she can eat something. We waited 1.5-2 hours and was like 6 people from ordering when one of the BBQ fest people said they weren't selling anymore b/c the batter or something was messed up. We were so po-ed, since they still had some food on trays and weren't selling it and that no one said anything earlier and wasted everyone's time. The chef was also acting so nonchalant about it, if this happened anywhere else people would have torn the stand apart.

                                        Aside from this fiasco, everything else was fine. The lines were expected and none of them were too horrible except for City Grocery's and The Salt Lick's. I could only manage to eat one plate of meat since U-Bon's plate was like 1/4 lb of pulled pork and it was delicious. My friend didn't like the meat from the Connecticut place also. Lots of samples from corporate sponsors too, the free Snapple and Edy's Ice Cream was much appreciated. Definitely will get the Fast Pass next year and split it b/t a few people.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: halokiti

                                          On Saturday, they were frying hush puppies to order and couldn't keep up with demand. I heard from some friends that they were unfortunately undercooking them (yuck) in some cases -- that might have been the food you saw just sitting around.

                                          On Sunday, they appeared to be batching them, or at least making enough in advance to anticipate demand. They were making a giant pile of them when I was there on Sunday just after noon.

                                          Sorry you had such a disappointing experience, halokiti. Also, the menu item description was confusing. It should have been described as crawfish-okra hush puppies, so people didn't think it was two items (crawfish in addition to hush puppies).