New York Is Boston, Boston is New York
Major league baseball's playoffs are underway, and for the first time in Derek Jeter's career, the Yankees are mere spectators. The Red Sox, despite a litany of injuries that have plagued them all season, are in for the fifth time in six years and have already taken home field advantage away from the overrated Angels.
The Yankees have yet to win it all this century. The Red Sox are the reigning champions and have won it all two of the last four years. Probably three out of the last five years were it not for two steroid-fueled blasts by Jason Giambi in the heartbreaking game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. But those heartbreaks are behind us. It hardly matters that the Yankees swept the Red Sox in this season's final series; the Red Sox are finally the Yankees' daddy. The Red Sox are the Yankees. The Yankees are the Red Sox.
In barbecue, there's been a similar reversal of fortune. It wasn't that long ago that you could take any of about ten metro Boston BBQ joints, plop it down in Manhattan, and it would probably be one of the city's top three. Those days are gone.
In the two years and two months since I launched this site, New York has upgraded its roster of barbecue joints much more effectively than George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have upgraded the Yankees. Comparing the additions to the New York BBQ scene with their counterparts in Boston is as lopsided as comparing Jon Lester to Phil Hughes. In that time, Manhattan added Hill Country, Southern Hospitality, Georgia's Eastside, Smokin' Q and Wildwood, plus another outpost of Brother Jimmy's. Brooklyn added Smoke Joint and Fette Sau, among others. Outside the city, notable additions include Big W's (Wingdale) and Swingbelly's (Long Beach, LI).
Who did Boston add? Smoken Joe's in Brighton, in the shadows of St Elizabeth's. That hospital served as the inspiration for the 1980s NBC series St Elsewhere, which is why I call Smoken Joe's "Eat Elsewhere." More recently, there's Roadhouse in Brookline, which is still finding its way. If I were to rank all 12 aforementioned joints, Boston's two entries would both be somewhere in the bottom four. A little further outside I-495, Texas BBQ Company (Northboro MA) is the only newcomer I'd rank above the 50th percentile, but they're no match for superior newcomers Hill Country or Wildwood. SoulFire (Allston) certainly is, but their opening predated the 26-month window I'm examining here. Rick's Roadhouse (Providence RI) is basically Brother Jimmy's.
Both New York and Boston lost some pretty good joints just before my site's launch: for Boston, it was Rouge and Jake's Boss BBQ; for New York, it was Pearson's. I never made it to Pearson's, but I have to think Boston suffered the greater loss.
Both cities are struggling with consistency at even the tried and true joints. I've had really good meals and some disappointing ones at even my favorites (all of my favorites, actually) in both New York and Boston. There are no sure things in either area, but right now, there are more good chances for a great barbecue meal in New York than Boston. New York is Boston. Boston is New York.
In the competition world, unless your name was Robbie Richter or Adam Perry Lang, a New Yorker didn't enter a barbecue contest with any expectation of winning, but that's changed too. The eastern New England teams (I Smell Smoke, IQue, Transformer BBQ, Lakeside Smokers, Dirty Dick, Lunchmeat) are still dominant, but the New York teams are no longer the pushovers they once were. Smoke In Da Eye took this year's Grillin' on the Bay and is no stranger to the podium in barbecue contests these days. The BBQ Brethren are the only team to finish in the top three at both Harpoon and Hudson Valley, and are on their way to the American Royal now. R2BQ took the grand championship last month at Westport and will be headed to the Jack next year. Swamp Pit BBQ is a team on the rise, with two recent top-5 finishes against tough fields.
As a Bostonian, how do I look at this? I think it's great.
Follow-up: Boston/NY BBQ Comparisons