When you finally decide to start exploring the limits of the city beyond Manhattan, Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook should be one of the first stops. With a festive, vibrant atmosphere and a ton of meat for a carnivorous party, it is the perfect restaurant for those looking for a little adventure. But yes, it’s okay if you take an Uber to get there.
Sometimes, it can be hard to love New York. It can be hard to love the sweltering heat of the subway in the summer, the mountains of black sludgy snow in the winter, the feeling of getting hip checked by Elmo in Times Square, the claustrophobia of the dank, underground corridors of Penn Station. It can be hard to love a city where there is always someone in the room with more money or more power, where a 50-year old walk-up apartment can sell for $1,000 per square foot, and where a 1-mile cab trip can cost $20 in traffic.
Yes, New York can be really hard to love. But if there is just one lovable thing to take away from the city, it is that New York has an uncanny ability to be everything to everyone all at once, and that itself is a little magical.
Deep in the post-industrial neighborhood of Red Hook at Hometown Bar-B-Que, New York can be Texas, Kansas City, an old barnyard, or your grandfather’s garage. Here, with barbecue that upholds the essence of that local culinary culture, New York can fulfill your Southern fantasies and satisfy your nostalgia for country, all while providing pounds of juicy, tender ribbons of meat.
Indeed, led by New York-raised Bill Durney who trained with some of the great pitmasters from around the country, Hometown Bar-B-Que has created the barbecue of the city.
The Beef Ribs are the unanimous star, with lightly smoked meat coated with a thick layer of dark, cracked peppercorns that falls apart under its own tender weight, though the Brisket, also cooked roughly Texas-style, is a close second. The beef brisket has a classic layer of thick "bark," the crunchy, sweet, caramelized crust that seems to bind all the juices of the meat together while it is smoked. The effect of the smoke is subtle, just one flavor of the complex, beefy experience, but it marries perfectly with the house "Sticky" sauce, whose tomato-based Kansas City influences are evident.
While the cow is the most beloved animal on the menu in this massive, 4,500 square foot space, the Jerk Chicken is also a casual success - soft, slightly spicy, and not the least bit dull. Most people won’t write home about the sides, but at a recent work dinner in one of the two spacious dining rooms, the coleslaw was praised for its freshness and crunch, and the dense, moist cornbread was finished ravenously.
Because of its size, Hometown Bar-B-Que has become a great place for groups, particularly large parties of 15 or more people who can be served family style with a pre-selected menu. For just an ordinary night with friends, however, regular service is at the counter through the bar and pit area. Here an American flag mural covers a large wall, string lights decorate the wood beam ceiling, and live music plays on Friday and Saturday nights for a charming and authentic effect that makes every guest from Bushwick to the Bronx feel that they are suddenly down home in New York.
With such gorgeously prepared meat, Hometown Bar-B-Que would be a good restaurant even if it was in the heart of the barbecue belt. But because of the way it has occupied New York’s conscious, it is now a great restaurant. It is barbecue for New York, whatever we want that to mean.
It may be easy to hate New York, but Hometown Bar-B-Que will make anyone fall in love with it, if only for a night.