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If you’ve ever been to Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, there’s a good chance you’ve come across Carnal. Over the past few years, Carnal founders Aaron Saurer and James Zamory have attracted attention by cooking at events in five different cities while also perfecting a beef short rib that has become the food version of an Instagram star. (See here or here or here…)
But now the duo have their eyes set on a full-fledged restaurant in North Brooklyn, where they can plan rotating menus that are seasonal and experimental. To accomplish this, the duo recently launched a GoFundMe, an unusual move for a team starting a restaurant. But Zamory says it was done mostly to attract attention from media and “spark a fire” under the investors they are currently talking with.
“Smorgasburg was really just a way to create a brand, create awareness, and create a reputation for ourselves from nothing,” Zamory told NYC BBQ. “We’ve created a following over the last four years and in doing so, created demand for a restaurant. … We are over the strictly food tent setup and I think we’ve graduated into something more substantial.”
The Carnal team is currently looking at several locations for the restaurant, with their preference to be located Greenpoint or Williamsburg. For the restaurant, Zamory said the team wants to serve a rotating menu with all kinds of items, including beef ribs and vegetables.
“We want to provide a casual fine-dining experience,” Zamory said. “So you’re getting the short rib, but it’s not on a tray with parchment paper like you’d get at Hometown. It would be cut and portioned perfectly and you’d have the flavors of barbecue, but it would be packaged more elegantly with wine, cocktails, and all that.”
While Carnal’s beef rib is the item the team is best known for, it’s not a guarantee they’ll have it on the menu all the time. They don’t want people to think that’s all they can do and want to explore new ideas as well.
“We kind of created a monster with it and we figured out how to make it perfect,” Zamory said. “If there is a ‘where is it?’ kind of demand, we will have to keep it on the menu. But we’re creative and technical and we have an array of skills to show people.”
Once it is up and running, Zamory believes the restaurant will earn a Michelin star. And he thinks it will be the first restaurant coming from Smorgasburg to do so.
“I know that sounds lofty and too much for some people, but given our background and our standards, it might be an inevitable consequence of the brick-and-mortar,” Zamory said. “It sounds insane, but if we did get that star on the wall, I don’t even know what I would do in that moment.”
Zamory notes that because of the restaurant talks, Carnal can’t yet commit to being at Smorgasburg next spring. If they can find some way to still do both, they will. But it’s up in the air for the next few months.
“Given the current model of how we produce things [at Smorgasburg] when it’s just myself and Aaron, it mentally and physically beats us down,” Zamory said. “It all depends on how these conversations go. I don’t want to throw the towel in but I just see this as a do-or-die situation. We didn’t enter the game to just be a food stand.”
As for other endeavors, most recently the Carnal duo participated in the Smorgasburg Night Market in Williamsburg, where they sold a special short rib burger cooked in bone marrow fat. I wasn’t able to try it, but I heard from others that the burger was outstanding.
It’s unclear what will happen next with the Carnal team, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on their next moves. We wish them luck with getting the restaurant off the ground.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Here are the top BBQ and food stories in New York area this week:
The highly anticipated openings of Red Hook Tavern and Hometown Deli, from Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que, have been pushed back and are now slated to open ‘by March,’ Hometown confirmed to NYC BBQ.
Blue Smoke’s original location in Flatiron will be closed until the end of January for renovations and changes. The restaurant says it will “offer a speedier and more convenient service style at lunch” and hospitality will now be included, meaning no more tipping at the restaurant for lunch or dinner, at the bar, and downstairs at Jazz Standard.
Eater New York’s updated list of 38 best New York restaurants includes Hometown Bar-B-Que, along with other top meat destinations including Katz's Delicatessen, Cote Korean Steakhouse, The Grill, Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken, Peter Luger Steak House, and Peppa’s Jerk Chicken.
New Jersey food guru Peter Genovese wrote up his favorite bites he had in NJ in 2018, and several of those included barbecue. His picks include the BBQ sauces at Smoke, the dry-rub ribs at Lumpy's BBQ, the twice fried Korean wings at Mama Chicken, the fried chicken at Chicken Magician and Chicken Galore, jerk chicken at Amazing Taste, and the roast pork sandwich at Jake's Steaks.
DaddyO's BBQ, located in Tompkinsville in Staten Island, has announced that its long-delayed location in Richmond Valley should open by early March, according to SILive.com. The new location will have an arcade, 80-car parking lot and 6,000-square-foot backyard.
January 15: Prolific food influencers Gotham Burger Social Club will be hosting a high-end event called Calling All Carnivores! at the James Beard House. Local chefs Matt Abdoo, Paul Denamiel, Dominick Pepe, Jerome Dihui, Harold Moore will be serving up special meat-centric dishes. Reserve a table here.
January 26: The eighth annual Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival takes place on the west side of Manhattan. It will feature two sessions, with the first (The Bacon and The Beast) happening from 12 to 4 p.m. and the second (The Whole Hog Pickin’ Session) happening from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. More than 60 beers, 40 bourbons, and several BBQ vendors will be available. Buy tickets here.
January 26: The third annual Best of Brooklyn Food & Beer Festivalwill take place in Industry City, Brooklyn. It will feature a collection of Brooklyn's best craft brews, food tastings from more than 20 top chefs, music from curated DJs, and more. Buy tickets here.
January 26: The 11th Annual Cassoulet Cookoff will take place at Biba in Williamsburg, Brooklyn from 1 to 4 p.m. Cassoulet is the ultimate winter dish. Typically it is a slow-cooked casserole containing meat, pork skin, and white beans, but here it will be made in many different ways. The event will include 10+ cassoulets and a wide selection of cider, craft beer, wine, and whiskey. Buy tickets here.
February 1: Enjoy a wide selection of whiskeys and spirits at the Jersey City Whiskey and Spirits Festival, held at the Harborside Atrium. It will include beautiful skyline views, live music, games, and food for purchase. Buy tickets here.
February 2: Get warmed up in Brooklyn with unlimited seasonal craft beers, spiked drinks, and delicious food at the NYC Winter Warmer, held at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Food vendors include Memphis Seoul, Empanada Papa, Brooklyn Baked & Fried, Angry Archie’s, and more. Buy tickets here.