Post Date: 10/08/15
Visit Dates: 07/26/15
Ok, here's the premise: although this July Sunday crawl to four spots in Brooklyn and Queens was fully intended to yield at least two reviews, circumstances got in the way. So rather than do separate reviews (which, as you'll see, makes no sense), I'll just recount the day and describe what we saw and what had. The "we" in this case is Carnivorous Long Island Cousin, who can match me bite for bite, and Young Bride, who only eats vegetarian bites and gets full after three of them.
I'll also experiment with the format a little, foregoing the column of photos down the right and instead placing multiple photos with the text to allow more of a narrative.
Stop 1: Slide BBQ, Queens (Maspeth)
I confirmed the night before that this (relatively) recently-opened Queens joint would open at 11:00 AM, then arrived with Young Bride in tow for an 11:30 lunch meeting with Carnivorous Long Island Cousin. We chose this as the meeting point both for its geographic location (on the way in for us, easy to get back home for him) and the vegetarian options that would be key for YB. Parking turned out to be surprisingly tough, even though (or perhaps because) it's mostly a residential neighborhood. That may explain why they have valet parking nightly. I suspect that most of their regular clientele are locals who walk in rather than drive. After seeing nothing but darkness in the dining room and no signs of life outside, I called the main number and learned that they now planned to open at 12:30. Advance to Plan B. And remember, Plan B needed to have vegetarian options.
Stop 2: Dinosaur BBQ, Brooklyn (Gowanus)
People were getting hungrier by the minute, so luckily we managed to snag a parking spot right in front. It was our second visit to this location.
Wings: This was a must for several reasons, chiefly 1) that I had an upcoming wings roundup for which I wanted recent data, and 2) Dinosaur makes very good wings. We chose the honey barbecue sauce because the more popular Wango Tango had been chosen so many times before. The wings came out very large, firm on the outside but a little short of full fledged crisp. Inside, the meat was tender and not short at all of full fledged juicy. The sweet sauce and grill finish gave these wings a mostly backyard barbecue feel, but some fragrant smoke was also recognizable further in. Temperature was a little lower than optimal, but nothing serious. Overall, these were some very enjoyable wings that would rank somewhere in the top 20% or so, but on this visit closer to good than great.
Fried Green Tomatoes: We went with an order of five of the deluxe version, or whatever it is they're calling it, that includes a chowchow over a thin coating of pimento cheese. The tomatoes themselves were cut a little thinner than I like, and weren't as tart as I like. The breadcrumb crust was crisp and not too thick. The chowchow wasn't that spicy, and had a more refreshing flavor.
Brisket Sandwich: We ordered the basic version, and it arrived with a light saucing and more of that chowchow that lent a hotdog relish feel. The brisket had strong beef flavor and strong smoke, but was weak in the moisture department. Not only was it not juicy, it was flat out dry. The bun was a plus, either a Martin's potato roll in a full-size version or something very similar, lightly toasted.
Stop 3: Pig Beach, Brooklyn (Gowanus)
This summer pop-up is an oasis of a patio with several bars, covered picnic seating, ample room to walk around with drinks and—oh, yeah—barbecue. It's an over-the-counter situation where you see the posted offerings and order at one end, observe the Ole Hickory smoker behind the line, pay at the other end, grab sauces further down, then hunt down a shady spot to eat. On this day, tables were overrated, as the ones with cover were taken; the smarter move was a ledge counter against a fence that provided shade. Manning the pits was journeyman pitmaster Bob Devine.
Sausage: Billed as red hot, this link was closer to gray cold, at least as far as color and spice level went. It was mild enough for a baby. The gray color was interrupted briefly by some vegetable inclusion, possibly peppers, but there wasn't enough to really tell. The casings got zero crispness but the interior compensated with very good moisture and a tender consistency throughout. If only flavor compensated too.
Ribs: These are baby backs, served by the half rack and rack. Knowing that we would be pacing ourselves, we went with a half rack even though all of the other meats were still unavailable. These were thin but fairly long, bearing a crust lightly glazed with barbecue sauce and more heavily covered with rub. The consistency was tough to describe: I can easily imagine someone calling them very moist and I can also easily imagine someone calling them fairly dry. I thought they were right down the middle and at least got the job done. They were far more moist than the photos I saw in an early online review that trashed the place. Flavor was very good, with the rub doing most of the heavy lifting. The combination of sweet with light heat worked very well.
Pineapple Cole Slaw: I like the idea, but the execution fell a little short, at least as far as the pineapple presence (or lack thereof). The rest was fairly standard.
Corn: Available by the ear in a Mexican street corn variety, this got some good seasoning and a drippy saucing that I didn't try, but it looked decent.
Sauces: The house sauces is dark, spicy and sweet with good complexity; it's among the better ones around town for sure. A vinegar sauce was also good.
Many of the customers were irate over much of the menu not being available, but I have mixed feelings on this. If a place runs out at the end of the night, the customer should look at this as a good thing: they're not cooking huge batches to guarantee availability with the downside of serving leftovers the next day. If they are serving leftovers the next day, that is cause for gripe. Not being ready yet at the early part of the shift falls somewhere in between. On the plus side, they're not serving undercooked food before it's ready just to make a buck. On the downside, there's always the chance that the reason they're not ready is because they were asleep at the wheel (the night before for pastrami and pork shoulder; that morning for turkey) and didn't get their ass in gear on time. I'm not saying this is the case here, just that it's a possibility. I'm more inclined to give kudos for prioritizing quality over the dollar, but not having more than two items ready at 1:30 PM is inexcuseable.
I smelled none of the stench that some earlier reports claimed came from the nearby canal.
Based on the winning space and the quality of the ribs and sauce, I'm still optimistic.
Stop 4: The Shop, Brooklyn (Bushwick)
Announced a couple years earlier, The Shop finally opened in mid summer 2015 in a former garage, bringing a motorcycle theme, dim lighting, a bad ass vibe and a catchy slogan: "Cook Slow, Ride Fast."
Motorcycles and smokers are both used as decor; the smoker on duty in the kitchen is a J&R. A wall display toward the rear pays homage to some famous pitmasters in Texas.
We arrived around 2:15 PM to this joint that opens at 2:00. Many meats are listed on the menu, but only two were available: pork ribs and beef sausage. We tried both.
Ribs: Three racks on the cutting board looked very impressive with their cut (full spares), size (both long and thick) and exterior (good color, dense rub, thick crust). We ordered four ribs. The color on the cross-sections was just as impressive, with a prominent smoke ring and pink color throughout. They were extremely moist and tender to the point that lifting one up left the bone in my hand and the meat in the boat. So depending on your preference, that's either a good thing or a bad thing; I'll leave the judgment to you. Flavor was porky, slightly sweet and more black peppery. Overall, not bad at all, and if this were all they had available next time, I'd go back for this alone.
Sausage: As soft as the ribs were, the sausage was tough, with a difficult casing to bite through. Flavor was pleasantly smoky and somewhat spicy; the moisture was strong both outside and in. Pickle chips, sliced pickled onion and cole slaw were all enjoyable.
Stop 5: Slide BBQ, Queens (Maspeth)
The crawl concluded where it began, for two reasons: 1) we had to bring CLIC back to his car, and 2) we were still hungry, not having had much at the previous stops with partial menus. The interior had a long bar and some classy looking tables in the same room. If I dropped you in here blindfolded, took the blindfold off and asked you to tell me what kind of restaurant it was, you'd never guess barbecue. A place for linguini with clam sauce, maybe, but not barbecue.
Fried Pickles: Never have I seen this dish presented so elegantly, as if by a fine dining chef. Thick pickle slices with a beer batter rested on a bed of some aoli concoction that was creamy and slightly tart. The thickness was a bit unusual, allowing the juices to be retained but allowing too much of the pickle crunch to also be retained. The batter didn't even approach crispy.
Bacon Wrapped Bacon: A cube of pork belly with bacon wrapped around it like a belt was by far the highlight of the visit. The doneness was perfect, supplying a thick crunch on top and a moist, just-fatty-enough, caramelly interior. A slice of jalapeño was a nice addition to cut the fat.
Wings: A small order gives you eight smoked-then-fried wings of good size. The methodology insured moist interiors, but the exterior seemed breaded, like General Gao's chicken. Smoke was nowhere to be found. I kept getting a frozen dinner vibe, both from the batter (Weaver) and the saucing (Lean Cuisine). While they may not have been served cold, they wound up cold, because we waited a good ten minutes for our server to bring plates that should have been on the table ahead of time. Disappointing all around.
Burnt Ends Sliders: Small cubes would have been better in a larger format. Little to no saucing, little to no crust, little to no smoke, little to no flavor. Great rolls, though: similar to challah and buttered too. Pickled onions were also a nice touch, so while the burnt ends may have fallen short as barbecue, the complete composition was a success.
Service was S-L-O-W. Really slow. We were the only ones in the joint at around 3:00 PM and everything still took at least a half hour, with awkward server disappearances.
Overall, Slide underwhelmed, but without trying the ribs or hitting them at a busier period, I'm as hesitant to write them off as I am hesitant to revisit. That pork belly, though.