This past Saturday, I attended the thirteenth annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in Madison Square Park. As I sat in the VIP section (which cost me a not-cheap $275), I was able to eat an enormous amount of BBQ and drink a lot of William Wolf Bourbon. On Sunday morning, I could hardly get out of bed, but it was worth it.
I tried every Block Party item, which were served by 17 different pitmasters from around the U.S. Pitmasters included local heroes like Hometown BBQ's Billy Durney and Dinosaur BBQ's John Stage and national mainstays such as Mike Mills and Scott Roberts. Sometimes I would go for seconds. Sometimes I would just take a few bites.
Here are seven standout items I tried at the Block Party and that I can't wait to try again down the road.
1. Pappy's Smokehouse Baby Back Ribs
Pappy's Smokehouse baby back ribs were one of the first items I had Saturday, and they became the item I would inadvertently compare everything else to. I kept asking, "Is this better than Pappy's baby backs?" and every time, I would say "close" or "no way." At the end of the day, I was extremely happy with the tender, smokey, and flavorful pork that Pappy (Mike Emerson, ahem) cooked up and there wasn't anything else that made me as intensely happy.
2. The Woodshed Smokehouse Lamb Brisket
While I'm a lover of lamb meat, I had never tried lamb brisket before the Block Party. Perhaps it was the unique and memorable taste or how it was perfectly cooked, but Tim Love and The Woodshed Smokehouse crafted a masterful lamb brisket that stayed with me till the end. It had the distinct taste of lamb but it was more subtle than I expected.
3. Louie Mueller Barbecue Beef Rib
I love a good beef rib and Louie Mueller Barbecue delivered. An insanely peppery rub coated the outside, while the inside was soft, juicy, and melt-in-your-mouth good. I've heard not-so-great things about Mueller's pork ribs, so it's a good thing the BBQ team brought this amazing beef instead. If I ever find myself near Taylor, Texas, I will be stopping in.
4. Jim N Nick's Hot Links and Pimento Cheese on Crackers
It feels slightly weird that a cheese, sausage, and crackers mix would rank so highly on this list, but Jim N Nick's BBQ packed a satisfying punch. This was the last menu item I ate on Saturday and despite being about-to-blow full, I continued to stuff my face with more crackers with perfectly smoked hot links and delightful pimento cheese.
5. The Shed's Pulled Whole Hog
Instead of getting a sandwich, the group I was with instead asked for a giant plate of pulled whole hog from The Shed. And boy were we glad we did. While we were already quite full, this was the whole hog we'd been waiting for all day. It didn't taste like whole hog that had been chopped up at random. It felt purposeful and magical.
6. Dinosaur BBQ Brisket
I asked for a slice of brisket straight from Dinosaur BBQ founder John Stage, rather than get the brisket chopped and served on bread. That worked to my favor for both a better photo and a larger piece of brisket, which I happily devoured. This was mighty fine brisket, well smoked with plenty of salt and pepper. Color me surprised but Stage still has some serious talent for brisket, even if his chain of BBQ restaurants doesn't always quite hit these highs.
7. Salt Lick BBQ Sausage
The Salt Lick BBQ from Driftwood/Austin is well known and drew one of the longest lines at the Block Party. It was serving up beef brisket and pork sausage, but sadly, the brisket was dry and tough. Thankfully, Scott Roberts and the Salt Lick crew brought along some wonderful sausage that was satisfyingly chewy and peppery. I ate all of mine despite being extraordinarily full.
What was your favorite item at the Block Party? Let me know in the comments below!