I noticed tonight, on the way home from work, that a doomed restaurant site on Greenwich Avenue (three different restaurants have failed there in the last few years) is about to re-launch itself as a barbecue joint--called, in a somewhat tone-deaf stab at Red State authenticity, "Bone Lick Park Barbecue." (There is, of course, an actual Big Bone Lick Park
in Kentucky--the "Birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology"--but in my neighborhood
, "Bone Lick" is liable to conjure up some non-vertebrate-paleontology-related
images, not to put too fine a point on it.)
I don't expect much. The cutesy name screams "faux-be-cue" to me.
Interestingly, there has been a huge fad for quasi-authentic barbecue restaurants in New York City in the last several years. Now, I was born and raised in North Carolina, and my wife grew up in Kansas City. Believe me, we know from barbecue. We have sampled most of what the city has to offer, barbecue-wise, and found it wanting (though we are very eager to sample the fare at the new Harlem outpost of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
, which we've heard good things about from people we trust.)
Here are a few observations on the NYC barbecue fad, from a note I sent to (Raleigh, NC) News and Observer
columnist Dennis Rogers
after he ran a couple of columns about New Yorkers on barbecue pilgrimages to the Southeast
I have been living and working in NYC for about ten years now, and it may interest you to learn that there has been, in the last few years, a real vogue for "authentic" barbecue in Manhattan.
Several would-be barbecue joints have opened up in town, despite logistical obstacles like emission control laws that make operating an old-school barbecue pit nearly impossible, with quality ranging from so-awful-it-will-stunt-your-growth to actually pretty good.
None of them can hold a candle to a gastronomic temple like Allen and Son, of course, but up here, barbecue-wise, you take what you can get.
In fact, at the end of June, there was a two-day Barbecue Block Party in Madison Square Park, at which pitmasters from around the country (NC, Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City) came to ply their trade and feed hungry Manhattanites. Ed Mitchell of Mitchell's Barbecue represented North Carolina, and by general consensus was the big hit of the weekend. People waited in line up to two hours for a plate of his barbecue, and despite his best planning efforts he ran out of pig early, both days.
Even though I am now surrounded by barbecue-cooking wannabees in my adopted hometown, every time I visit family and friends back in North Carolina I bring an empty Coleman cooler with me... and on the return trip, it's groaning with 'cue. My foodie friends in the city always clamor for dinner invitations when they know I'm coming back from a Carolina run...