Big Apple BBQ- Fastpasses...are they worth it?
Having gone last year w/o a pass, I would ABSOLUTELY get one if I were you. They are very worth it, especially for lines at places like Dinosaur and Salt Lick. Having a pass literally lets you cut to the front of the line, and yes, you can get more than one plate/visit.
I agree with LeahBaila that they're worth it, but as someone who had a fast pass last year, I'd add a clarification. It isn't (or at least it wasn't last year) that you get to cut to the front of the line (that is, walk past the teeming no-fastpass masses, elbow aside the poor passless person at the front who's been waiting for an hour for some pulled pork and get immediate service). At least where I was, there were two separate lines. Think of the booths like a donut. The passless people had to line up around the outside of the donut, while there was a separate fastpass path around the inside of the donut with plenty of lines at the booths. Having the fastpass doesn't make you immune from standing in line or waiting if they run low on something--at two of the more popular booths, I waited ten minutes or more. That said, this was nothing compared to the full scale chaos I glimpsed around the outer donut--some of the "lines" had what looked like more than a hundred people in them. I definitely thought the pass was worth it (plus it offers slightly more convenient access to the inner park area--you're already right up against the border of the park, rather than having to try to push your way through the crowds around the outer doughnut to get to the park entrances). Finally, I don't think any of the booths give much of a hoot how many plates you buy--every piece of food is priced, and they punch out the price charged off of your pass, which has a limited amount on it (though I never tried to buy, like five plates at a time, so I don't know)...
I've gone a few years in a row now. I always have gotten a FastPass and shared with at least one other person. (You can only bring one other person with you inside the FastPass area).
The lines aren't bad at ALL on the FastPass side. The FastPass is the inner line where the benches are (yay places to sit) and get served from a different table and register at each booth. The lines last year were 15-20 minutes tops for me. And I only did the out of town pitmasters.
Get there 12p-1pm if you're impatient. I've gone a few years now and that's the best time to go, IMO. Weather also dictates the lines. The 1st day is always a little rough, 2nd day is always better because they've figured things out, because it's volunteer staffed.
Later in the day is always worse because BBQ a) takes hours to cook and b) is always done in batches. The vendors estimate how much to cook the night before and they don't want to have leftovers, so most vendors do run out by the end of the day. And don't get mad at them for pricing, most of them lose money but doing this. They're doing it for cred and for charity.
I share a FastPass with one other person and always use it up because we go both days and only eat BBQ all day long. Note that you can also use it to buy merchandise! Load up on BBQ sauce from out of town purveyors. It's worth it and you don't have to pay a ridiculous amount for shipping if you buy online later on.
You *must* hit up:
1. Chris Lilly, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Pulled Pork Shoulder. With the best BBQ sauce.
2. The Pit, , Ed Mitchell, for NC style Whole Hog (the entire hog is chopped up, not just the shoulder), it's very tender.
3. 17th Street Baby Back Ribs, Mike Mills. Saucy.
4. The Salt Lick, Driftwood, TX for brisket and sausage (ask for the deckle, which is the fatty part, I think their brisket is very good but not the absolute greatest, but I've been to places in hill country in Texas).
Definitely worth it. There will still be lines at places like Salt Lick but they will be minor compared the non-fast pass holders. If you go and have money left over, you can either give it to a friend or sell it to a non-fast pass holder. The pass has a bunch of dollar amounts on it that are punched out when you order, so its easy to determine how much money is left over.... plus with food that good, plus getting beer, the $100 goes pretty quick between 2 people, esp if its 95 deg like last year
agreed with the other posters--I get one every year and it is worth it to have the shorter lines. Just be forewarned that $100 is a lot of bbq so make sure to get together a good group and be prepared to attend both days (or to stock up on bbq sauce and t-shirts). I'm missing it this year to go to a wedding so if you have any leftovers feel free to pack 'em up and save them for me for my return!