Today I went to the 1st Annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party with penchantnyc, R, and djstorm. I took a bunch of pictures, and was thinking of posting some, but I'm too damn lazy.
It was raining out, on and off, and it certainly dampened peoples hair and clothes, but happily didn't seem to dampen any spirits. People were happily and hungrily waiting in lines, dancing to the music, and tasting the bbq.
The Block Party was started by Blue Smoke, the (in)famous barbecue restaurant created by (overrated) New York restauranteur Danny Meyer*. Meyer is apparently in love with barbecue, and started Blue Smoke since there weren't any great bbq restaurants in NYC. The problem is, by all reports and experiences, there still aren't.
Anyways, the Block Party was a lot of fun, despite the rain. They brought a bunch of out-of-state bbq joints in to bring some authentic bbq to NYC (they came from Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Nevada, and Alabama). J tried three dishes - the baby back ribs w/ baked beans from Memphis Championship Barbecue, the smoked chicken (I think) w/ potato salad and cookies from Blue Smoke, and the whole hog w/ coleslaw from Mitchell's Ribs, Chicken & BBQ. R had the ribs, the chicken, and the pork shoulder w/ baked beans from Big Bob Gibson BBQ (I think). I had two orders of the ribs, as did H.
Everyone thought the ribs were very good. The rest varied, none of it was bad, but none of it was great either. The baked beans (that came with the ribs) were great - probably the best thing there that I tried, although the ribs were very good. The food was a little inconsistant, or at least the ribs were - the first portion I had was nearly perfect, the second a little too salty and not quite as tasty.
The music was weak, but not terrible. The crowd was decent - pretty large, but not overwhelming. I'd hate to see the size of it had it not been raining almost the entire time. Still, it was nice because you knew everyone there - including the women - were enthusiastic about food and about eating, and no one was trying to be prissy and dignified. How can you be when there's smoke blowing by you, you're wet and dripping, and your hands and mouth are covered with barbecue sauce? As J mentioned, there's something surprisingly appealing about a woman who's a real eater, someone who isn't scared of getting a little messy or undignified in pursuit of a good meal. Even better, there were quite a lot of very shapely women there too - dunno how they eat like that and manage to keep their weight down. God bless gym memberships I guess.
After we had eaten our full we went to Chez Le Chef for dessert, a cute little cafe right near Kalustyan's. (Incidentally, Citysearch categorized Chez as a grocery and Kalustyan's as a gift store. Idiots.) The owner/chef, upon being asked, told us that he had every kind of tea. I asked "chrysanthemum?" and he said yes. When I later ordered it after sitting down, he then told me (in an annoyed tone) that they didn't have it and that's why he had brought over the tea menu. If he didn't have it, why the fuck did he say he did? Dick. The pastries were pretty good, though.
The cafe was pretty amusing (unintentionally). The owner is apparently anal and a control freak, every surface was covered with little signs, and only half of them were about the food and pastries. The rest were warnings, advisories, and rules, like "Don't flush toilet with feet thanks!". The sign in the decorative fishtank (no water, no fish) in the bathroom warned to lock both doors (since the bathroom opens directly into the kitchen) and requests that you unlock both on the way out. You get the idea.
Anyways, I had a fun day, and it was great to try some decent bbq. I thought BBQ's (and Texas BBQ's, a spin-off I guess) was bad before eating this; now the thought of it's almost appalling. Ah well. It was worth it. ;)
* Meyer's restaurants - the Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke, Eleven Madison Park, Grammercy Tavern, and Tabla - are (at least from what I've experienced) expensive and with good service but mediocre food. Service is important in a restaurant, but only if it's in the service of great food, and his restaurants just don't cut it, IMNSHO.