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Sep 8, 2013 04:21 PM

Alchemy, Texas dunzo

Appears to be the case based on its FB page.
It's a shame really, the barbecue was really good at its best and I liked how they kept trying to experiment with new items.
Prices were definitely high for the area, though on average cheaper than say, Hill County in Manhattan.

I never really got around to writing a full post. I knew it would probably last to the end of the year at best, but didn't expect such an abrupt end. I hope Andrew, who was always there and put out excellent barbecue, ends up somewhere nice.

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  1. 'I can't say I'm surprised.
    I agree wholeheartedly about the quality of the food and their willingness to experiment (the leftover lamb belly made good sandwiches one day).
    But the tone of this on their FB was a little offputting -- "We had a pop up lease and were just kind of having fun. Lease is up and it just isn't a tenable spot long term. We thank everyone of you who came out and perhaps Alchemy, TX will return to your planet."
    Well, then. If it was just a pop-up to "kind of have fun", that explains a whole lot of issues that were never addressed, such as the promised delivery and credit card compatibility never arrived, lack of push (would have been helpful to get word out about specials) and some other things.
    I rather enjoyed the place when we went there, as it was within walking distance (a plus). But given their statement and what it seems to reveal about the place's issues, it's easy to feel like the operators didn't feel the same about the neighborhood or the customers within.

    10 Replies
    1. re: FlyoverFran

      I used to go to Alchemy back when it was still Pearson's(?) and it just was not good location, the composition of the neighborhood just does not support American bbq, they barely ever had any customers and without sufficient turnover, the quality of the food suffers and of they struggle to survive.

      1. re: Pookipichu

        pearsons had plenty of customers in the 90s.both lic and jackson hts.

      2. re: FlyoverFran

        I'd known a while back that they were not likely to renew the lease. I just didn't expect the lease to have been so short. I think they tried to make the lease work, but It was a weird situation. I think there was some tension that all beverages had to go through the bar. The bar wouldn't let Alchemy serve any drinks, not even water.

        Lack of push was certainly a big issue, especially given its location. When they first opened they took Mon and Tues off. Towards the end they were open 7 days, but they were still not doing enough business on Mondays, and I told them it was probably because noone even knew they were open on Mondays!

        Josh was there to start, but soon after I only ever saw Andrew there.

        1. re: fooder

          exactly. no effort. no outreach. no interest in letting anyone know they existed. 'cue was among the best i've had in NY but the disdain for the neighborhood and the blase attitude spelled doom. josh is smart enough to treat customers well at john brown's, but decided we weren't worth it in JH.

          1. re: debinqueens

            In Josh's defense, he's not an "outreach" person. He's very low key and laid back, maybe to a fault. When he first opened John Brown's Smokehouse, we stumbled upon his restaurant by accident and told him he should do press, he should do this and that. He's just not a marketer, he's passionate about his bbq and loves experimenting and is doing his thing. John Brown's Smokehouse's press is a result of people passionate about his food not because of his efforts to get out the word. When they moved, the phone number wasn't working, there was no timeline for when the new place would be open, there was a dearth of communication. When they opened, I used to tell them they should turn the lights on under the awning so people would know they exist, that they're open. His blase attitude is not about Jackson Heights, it's pretty much just how he is in general. I don't think he approached Alchemy differently than John Brown, only Alchemy was never meant to be permanent.

            Most importantly though, I'm not sure Jackson Heights can support an American bbq restaurant, especially that location. The bar smells and it's just not a nice bar. There are have been two bbq restaurants in the spot where Alchemy was and they were both walking dead, barely any customers.

            1. re: Pookipichu

              well, pearsons made it work for years, great reviews, great crowds. bars can smell bad. because they are bars. in the south, west, midwest and mid-south, barbecue places also smell. the nature of non-rarefied dining.

              and if he intended alchemy to be a temporary playhouse for his buddies, he should have said so. he'd never have gotten away with that snottiness in missouri.

              1. re: debinqueens

                I used to live in Jackson Heights, and I used to go to Pearsons, I don't mean to be contradictory, but it was pretty empty every time I went and same for the bbq place before it. Pearsons wouldn't have moved if they had great crowds. After the initial buzz died down from their press blitz, very few people in the neighborhood were eating there.I LOVE American (TX, KS, NC, SC, TN, you name it) bbq but it just wasn't supported by the neighborhood and I'm not sure the composition of the neighborhood has changed enough to support it. I can understand your frustration with Josh's "way", but I really don't think he could have made it work regardless.

                1. re: debinqueens

                  I know the general "Eh, whatevs" attitude comes across as extended middle fingers to the customers here.
                  He can be as passionate about his food as he wants, but if he has that attitude towards customers, then frankly, he can "just kind of play around" by himself without them, imo.
                  The whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth and, frankly eradicated any desire to go to John Brown or any future endeavors he might have.

                  1. re: FlyoverFran

                    after wanting to get over to alchemy since it opened, we stopped by sunday evening, unaware that it was its last night in business. very few of the menu items were in stock and we were told it was because there hadn't been adequate deliveries by suppliers due to the increased regional demand that goes along with football season. it seemed a slightly implausible excuse, but we were still happy to grab the last order of pork ribs and were ecstatic when we realized that we were chowing on the best pork ribs we'd ever tasted in nyc. who knew it was the last order that would ever cross the counter. and even if the staff had been instructed by management not to be completely honest with the patrons, the service was friendly and helpful and very, very sweet.

                    yes, it seems like the management wasn't completely upfront about their commitment to the neighborhood, even on their last day in business. maybe they just did the pop up thing because it meant access to the great on-premises smoker in the back. but without the drinks concession and without a slightly homier space, the venue will always have a tough go of it. and even on a night when the bar was crowded with football fans, few of those fans were eating bbq. it seems that without a lot of very skilled pr and outreach work, a bbq place on a sleepy stretch of 35th ave in jackson heights is never going to work as well as it will in a more gentrified hipster neighborhood like williamsburg or astoria, which is why the rent there is likely far less than in the more hip and booming areas of queens. and i'm not sure comparing the numbers of alchemy's clients to pearson's is fair, esp since the demographic of neighborhood has changed significantly in the last 10 or so years. it's now a predominantly bangladeshi and southeasat asian neighborhood and the place def wasn't serving up halal bbq. and if pearson's was doing so well, why'd they close? sure, the place might be a success if the bbq concession got a cut of the bar, if they served halal bbq and if the place got a serious makeover on the inside. but that's all pretty unlikely to happen.

                    sadly, it seems like the understandably bad after taste for alchemy's local fans could have been avoided if the management had just been a bit more forthcoming from the get go. unfortunately, alchemy did seem to forget that eateries do best when they treat their customers with real respect and gratitude and honesty, which sadly is becoming a practice less and less common these days as restaurants often hope to hit it big and quick by courting the most superficial aspects of the recent foodie craze.

                    but none of that changes the fact that that plate of ribs we had on sunday night was hands down the best plate of pork ribs we'd ever eaten in nyc, even as compared to the grub at john brown's. we'll miss that smoker being run by someone who really knew how to cook bbq.

                    1. re: yussdov

                      Pearson's wasn't doing well. I followed them from Queens to Manhattan and they just weren't doing well in their Queens location. I've lived in and around JH for a long time, it's less Southeast Asian and has become increasingly South American, Central American and Mexican. This is reflected in the restaurants and what does well in the neighborhood. When I used to go to Pearsons and the place before it (forgot the name of it, it was terrible) there'd be some Latino clientele at the bar, some middle-aged white men, one or two of them would buy some bbq, but otherwise, empty, no groups of families like you would see at Pio Pio or crowds of off-shift workers like at Coatzingo or crowds like at Pollos Brasas Marion on a Friday night. Even the Southeast Asian restaurants on the 74th Street strip struggle for diners.

        2. they posted a very blithe note on facebook saying that this was a pop up, and never intended to be permanent. they knew from the start that it was there for a few months, and, to those in the area who liked it, oh well..... the tone put a taste in my mouth that was bitter enough to counteract the deliciousness of the food they served up.

          1. By the way, I was under the impression that they'd been in talks to get a lease at a different place with a comparable smoker for at least a month+, so it's possible that they got that lease and are preparing for a relaunch, and that's why they let Alchemy in JH just kind of die off with little fanfare.