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Jun 8, 2009 03:40 PM

Big Apple BBQ Suggestions

Hello All,

I'm a (relatively) new transplant to NYC. I wasn't here for last year's Big Apple BBQ, but am soo looking forward to it. If you attended last year and had a particularly good offering from one of the pitmasters, please share. I hear the lines can be crazy, so I'm trying to triage/limit my choices to the handful of pitmasters that have delivered consistently great food!


The BABBQ website lists those pitmasters who are participating this year:

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  1. Just go to Blue Smoke a couple blocks away.

    The Big Apple BBQ has grown way too big for Madison Sq. Park, not worth the congestion, especially if its a hot one.

    1. Yes, the lines have become incredible these past couple of years. Add to that the noise, the crush of people, the heat and the wafting scent of bbq and you have -- a classic NYC good time.

      We have had some excellent plates at the BABBQ. Can't say the same for Blue Smoke, except for their mac and cheese.

      Go and have fun. Expect a wait and skip bkfst that day.

      1. Search is your friend! All you need to know is here:

        In short:

        Get there around noon, bring a friend, split up. You *must* hit up these out of town pitmasters:
        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. Almost melts in your mouth. Nice vinegary sauce.
        3. 17th Street Baby Back Ribs, Mike Mills. Saucy and sweet.
        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).
        5. Skip all NYC vendors. Don't eat a big breakfast. Eat some salad for dinner, if you actually get hungry later.

        Lines are HIGHLY dependent upon who we're talking about (Salt Lick and 17th Street are perenially long) weather and time of day (earlier is better). Sunday is always more smooth than Saturday since it's volunteer staffed.

        10 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          I almost completely agree with Kathryn's post, and I would even put it in about that order!
          Bib Bob is A MUST! the best pulled pork/Slaw combo money can buy in NYC, at least for two days a year ..
          17th St Ribs are close 2nd, Salt lick is Slammin and Ed Mitchell (if and when he has Cracklin Available!! ) is solid. There will be some new entries this year and I cannot wait.The Fast Pass works best on Sunday and on the earlier side ( 30-40 minutes before it even opens perhaps) to get a map, peek at a few and send one or two friends off to find a place in the different lines, meet on the grass and GORGE! Save the NY stuff for their locations, don't fill up on too much beer and waste space,. And as I like to do for a good cool down, albeit at a higher cost, I head to Eleven Madison for live tunes, a nice comfy seat in the shade and icy cold Mint Juleps sponsored by Pappy Van Winkle Family Bourbon !

          1. re: goodtimeguy

            How does Big Bob's BBQ sauce differ from The Pit?

            1. re: AimeeD

              The PIT is NC style BBQ. Vinegary sauce with a little bit of spice and a bit of pucker, and kind of dissolves into the chopped up meat. They also chop their stuff pretty finely and some complain it's too soft although they do chop up the crackling into the mass of chopped whole hog.

              Big Bob's sauce (actually they have several) is great. The Championship Red is bright red, sweet, and tomato based, and coats the meat really well and doesn't get absorbed. He tends to chop his meat a bit more coarsely. I think it makes it more attractive, and more fun to eat.

          2. re: kathryn

            Kathryn, your list is spot on. I usually end up at Ubon's every year since their line is often shorter (probably because they ended up being on the streetside of the cookout instead of on Madison) and fear I will have to do so again if too many people take your advice and line up for the festival with your list in hand. I would gladly skip Salt Lick's sausage, though. I have ruined shirts two years running with the hot juice from those succulent sausages!

            1. re: kathryn

              How long are the waits? I would assume that the lines are extremely long but move pretty fast. Well.... I am hoping lolol.

              1. re: steakrules85

                Waits are highly variable on competing events, which vendor, time of day, FastPass vs. regular line, and WEATHER!

                If it's super humid and looks like it's going to rain, a lot of people will stay at home.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Well what would be the typical wait if you didn't have a fastpass on a nice day?

                  1. re: steakrules85

                    It's not like Shake Shack where you can predict how long it's going to be.

                    Every year has been different in my experience, from "the registers just went down and nobody knows what to do" to "oops, we just ran out of food, can you wait for the next batch?" to "the lady in front of me just bought 12 plates of BBQ!" to "something went wrong with this batch of hush puppies and we need to all start over." It really depends on how organized each individual vendor is.

                    I've never waited in the normal lines. But 17th Street and Salt Lick have really long lines most of the day, in my experience. 90+ minutes I'd guess?

                    1. re: kathryn

                      How early can people start lining up?
                      I've avoided this festival in the past, but I'm pregnant this year and *need* to have some pulled pork.

                      1. re: AimeeD

                        It's 11am-7pm both days! Not sure when you can start lining up, probably right around 11?

            2. Two words are all you need to know: SALT LICK


              1. Bakers Ribs. Best ribs at the festival (at least last year that is).