Tried it tonight. Surprised there's not more discussion here.
First, I'm sorry that I'm not knowledgable enough about BBQ techniques to be able to analyze the roots of the problems. But, empirically, the brisket has a fat, cushy (not crusty) layer of what seems to be pretty much just crushed black peppercorns. And so the aroma, flavor, and aftertaste is pretty much just that: black peppercorn. Much more so than beef, smoke, or any other aspect. You'd better really really like black peppercorns if you're going to eat here. Did I mention that it's really all about black peppercorns? Even now, hours later, I'm exhaling black peppercorns. Lots of black peppercorns. Black peppercorns.
The brisket itself is well past the tender point and devolving into mushiness. One could easily gum this meat, and that's not proper Texas 'cue. That's the brisket. The ribs are worse: flavorless and ho-hum; much, much less appealing than the brisket. My companion and I tried the ribs, then competed for the remaining brisket. Plenty of black peppercorn in the ribs, though. The black peppercorn thing is a constant. Did I mention black peppercorns?
Sides are charming but amateurish. Slaw is honest, clearly hand-chopped, but pretty much flat-lines the deliciometer. Same for potato salad.
I tried the apple custard pie, and it was pretty good. But a small $5 slice of pretty good pie is not much of a draw. It's not pie you'd buy twice in a bakery.
I'm assuming the dude who sliced my meet was Delaney. He seems to be preemptively staking out a larger-than-life, arrogant persona for himself. Healthy ego, cart before horse, etc.. And that's accptable; there are guys in Austin doing likewise. But if the meat doesn't stand up, and it's really really expensive, then the whole thing starts feeling faux.
I'm not saying it's bad. It's nearly decent. But the value's low, and the precious vibe seems a graft-on. Pie-baking cashier woman seems really nice and sincere, though. I wish her baking was better.
I, too, went to one of the Brisketlab popups. It was held in a fairly spacious bar, had live music. There was a wait to get the brisket, but there was a system in place to call up people in groupings to get the food; in the meantime you could stake out seating, get a round, hang out, listen to music, etc. The brisket I had then was pretty good--tender, not mushy. Peppery, but I like pepper, so maybe I have a higher tolerance of something being generally over-peppered. All in all a good time.
When we heard they were opening a restaurant, we reserved some brisket so we could check out the new space. We hear it's BYOB, which isn't ideal (considering the whiskey/bourbon/beer choices you get at Fette Sau or trashy-fun margaritas at Hill Country), but we brought along some wine that was supposed to pair well with beef & BBQ, so no problem.
We heard they'd been selling out, so we get there at opening time and have to wait outside for about 10 minutes. Then we enter a space that's about coffee-shop size, see there's no next room, and like the rest of the first customers decide to take off our jackets, claim a seat, maybe get a drink ready while we wait. Ah, but the "host" guy informs us that that's not allowed and that we're meant to all line up in the line that extends past the bar and out the door, get food and then seats.
Fine. So people in line ask him about glasses/corkscrews/bottle openers/ice to enjoy a drink while they wait. Small plastic cups they have, but the rest, not so much. Huh. That's not very thought out.
There are about 8-10 parties ahead of us in line (maybe 18 people?). It took a good half hour before we were up. I think they had to be doing it deliberately slow to space the diners out--there are only like 30 seats--otherwise why would you have Daniel Delaney conversationally cutting the brisket, marking off the meat reservations vs. walk-ins, all kinds of inefficiencies like that.
We pay (we added ribs, sides, and pie to our reserved brisket so we could try & share everything) and sit down something like 45 minutes after we got there. The seating is very cramped, like 2 inches between tables so you have to really move that table out to sit down and pile your stuff on your neighbor's (or if you are less fortunate, be a bit sat upon by your neighbor, heh).
I thought the brisket was great, but I wasn't sold on the rest. The ribs we had were really inconsistent. One or two were fall-off-the-bone tender, the other two or three needed more serious gnawing. The slaw was pretty good, the potato salad OK, the pie was fine, although maybe the crust was a bit overdone. Not worth their prices, though. Over all, not bad, not necessarily worth the trip for us, though, since we don't live nearby. Atmosphere and service-wise, we knew not to expect much because it's a BBQ joint, but agree there are some kinks to be worked out. We clear our plates and pour the last of our wine so we can finish up and move on.
Before we can do that, though, the host/herder came by to basically remind us to get the fuck out. (We'd been seated 25-30 mins tops, there were a few empty tables, and the line had died down.) He "invited" us to hang out at the bar to finish our drinks (which, remember, basically becomes part of the food line, and has no stools, ice, or openers in addition to the expected lack of booze). Obviously turning tables in the space is key, but they need to find a way to accomplish that that is less disingenuous and ungracious. Based on that, I don't think we'd ever go back, except to pick up some brisket and eat it elsewhere.
Yeah, we got herded out toot sweet as well. I don't mind it. First, it's a bbq joint, for god's sake. Second, it's small capacity and people are waiting. Really, I felt like the bad guy (not the herder) for not being more considerate.
Re: the flow issues, he's imitating the Franklin BBQ guys in Austin. "Yeah, we're white-hot and great and crowded and stressed, but check out how cool and down to earth I am, deigning to spend this personal time with you. This is because I am, at heart, all about the quality."
Problem is, the quality ain't there. At least to my taste. And, let me note, I LIKE black pepper (the neo-hipster 'cue guys in Austin use a lot too, but you can ALSO taste meat and smoke under the pepper).
re: Jim Leff
I'm well aware of capacity/"it's just BBQ" issues. Getting in/out/moving on or to the bar has never been an issue with us at Fette Sau, for example (true that it's bigger, but it's usually super-busy when we've gone). I just generally don't think much thought was put into BrisketTown's general operation outside of having brisket recipe.
I was a "Brisketlab" subscriber, BBQ connoisseur and Texas traveller. Yes the first round was really mushy but in subsequent samplings, it got a little better. Not sure I would travel to Briskettown if not already in the hood.
I feel best brisket is NYC is undoubtably Hill Country's. Mile End also does a great (and different) one, but I feel with the recent price increase they are really sticking it to their customers -- as it is MORE expensive than Hill Country's!
I have had more than a few meals in Lockhart and the surrounding Austin area that were comprised of spice coating meat. Kruetz's is the biggest offender. Salt and pepper with a meat chaser. It doesn't make it right though. But aside from that, I have never had a meal in one of those places that I wasn't happy to finish. Not so in NY.
I never minded the black pepper torrent style down there. I'd notice it, but the whole - the gestalt - was always way more than simply "geez, that was a whole lotta peppercorns..."
For instance, there was meat flavor. And smoke flavor.
Not just a mouthful of peppercorns.
before this get punted over to the outer boroughs thread, you say that it is not proper Texas 'cue, does it even stand up to Texas 'cue places like anywhere in Lockhart, Franklins or something? I was just wondering because ive been excited to try this out and wondering how it compares.
Ouch, didn't realize we're on the wrong board. I came here on a search....it was the only active thread I could find here.
It's clearly aiming to be in Austin tradition (more hipster neo-que than Luling/Lockhart, though....ala Franklin). But it's missing the mark widely IMO. OTOH people seem to love it, so what the hell do I know.
Please post your notes if you try it.