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This past week was a tough one in the world of New York barbecue. Last Saturday, relatively new Williamsburg joint Cash Only BBQ closed its doors abruptly. And on Wednesday, West Village joint Pig Bleecker announced it would be closing on Sunday, February 24.
Both restaurants had different reasons for closing and both operations have futures ahead, yet it was still a shock to see two stars in our vibrant barbecue scene close so quickly.
Cash Only BBQ opened this past summer in a small location in South Williamsburg, where pitmaster Corey Cash offered a mix of well-made staples like buffalo wings and BBQ street corn and fun creations like brisket melts and Cuban sandwiches.
But, according to Cash, the landlord wanted to drastically change the restaurant's lease agreement. After re-signing, the landlord wanted six months rent upfront as a deposit and would not accept a more reasonable counter offer, so Cash quickly walked away.
“I bled for this place for six months straight and literally only took two days off that whole time,” Cash said. “It’s like leaving your child. No one wants to do that. A lot of memories here, good and bad, but mostly good. I'm still blown away by the response from the neighborhood. We were welcomed with open arms and became a local favorite. ... I look forward to what’s to come and not what I’m leaving behind.”
Dan Davies, a regular customer at Cash Only BBQ, was there on closing night with some of his friends and said he was sad to see it go.
“I walk by it five times a day and it was the first meal I ate in my apartment,” Davies said. “This is the thing about New York — there are relationships I’ve had an easier time getting over than restaurant closures because some of them are near and dear. This is a marker of my first time living in Brooklyn.”
While the Saturday night closing was abrupt, Cash has plans to be back in Brooklyn soon. First, Cash is in discussions to open a vegan BBQ stall at Smorgasburg. Secondly, Cash said he has plans to open a 200-person-capacity BBQ beer garden this summer in Williamsburg.
“We want to expand our offerings from barbecue street food to what New York and Brooklyn are more conditioned to — by the pound meats, collard greens, baked beans, the whole nine,” Cash said. “We’ve got financial backers that want to help me make this happen as well, so we’re going to do that. We’re going to keep the dream alive.”
Pig Bleecker, in contrast to Cash Only BBQ’s short life, has been a staple in the West Village for more than two years and had built a reputation for experimenting with American barbecue and taking it in new, upscale directions. Some of the dishes included brisket ravioli, BBQ duck lasagna, and smoked prime rib. (If you want to try Pig Bleecker before it closes Sunday, you can make a reservation here.)
Despite this boundary pushing, Pig Bleecker and Pig Beach chef/pitmaster Matt Abdoo said weekends were jam-packed but Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights didn’t draw enough people. On top of this, high rent in the West Village also played a factor in the closing.
“We had a great go of it over there,” Abdoo said. “We had a lot of happy people and we did a lot things people hadn’t done before, taking barbecue and trying to refine it into something more seated and service-oriented. Sadly we couldn’t make the numbers work and it breaks my heart.”
While Pig Bleecker will be no more, the highly successful Pig Beach in Brooklyn will live on and you’ll be able to get some of the best Pig Bleecker items (like the burger) there. Adboo also said new Pig Beach locations may be coming soon. He thinks the brand can easily expand in “New York and beyond,” and I have no doubt we’ll see an announcement in the next few months.
Both closures show, in part, just how hard it is for restaurants to make it New York. On top of ever-increasing rents, a recent minimum wage hike has also pushed businesses to make hard choices in order to make their budgets work.
I’m seriously bummed to see both of these great restaurants go, but I’m also looking forward to what Cash and Abdoo have planned for the future. Here’s hoping for a successful larger location of Cash Only BBQ and more Pig Beach locations in New York.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
If you love burgers, New York has a lot of delicious choices. Eater NY has updated their list of the 25 best burgers in NYC, including the classic bar burger at Donovan's Pub, quintessential diner burger at Joe Junior, the fancy Black Label burger from Minetta Tavern, and new school gourmet burger at Emily.
Mothership Meat Company, the next venture from Josh Bowen of John Brown Smokehouse, has finally been approved for opening in the near future. Mothership will serve Texas-style barbecue and inventive cocktails. No opening date is set yet.
Eater NY editor Robert Sietsema says Au Jus, a small Upper East Side carryout that partly specializes in Oklahoma-style barbecue, serves great smoked sausage that “comes on two small rolls with melted cheese and chicharrones for crunch.” He writes that Au Jus also carries corned beef, pulled pork, and roast beef and lamb.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro area:
February 23: Join a variety of chefs this Saturday in Queens for Charcuterie Masters 2019, which will take place at Flushing Town Hall. You’ll be able to try bites from chef Stephen Yen of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, Pitmaster Josh Bowen of John Brown Smokehouse, and Alfonso Zhicay of Casa del Chef Bistro. Buy tickets here.
February 23: The 2019 NYC Beer Week Opening Bash will take place at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint. 75+ of the best breweries in the U.S. will offer up beer, plus lots of food vendors to help you soak it up. Buy tickets here.
March 9: Indulge in all the things you’re supposed to have in moderation at the Brooklyn Chocolate, Wine & Whiskey Festival at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint. Enjoy free craft chocolate and liquor samples and much more. Buy tickets here.
March 23: Go wild on mac ‘n’ cheese at the Hoboken Mac & Cheese Festival just across the river in New Jersey. More than 10 vendors will be there, including House of 'Que and The Ainsworth. Tickets are sold out but you can join the waitlist. Join the waitlist here.
April 10: The awesome Brisket King event will be returning to Brooklyn on April 10. Hosted at Biba of Williamsburg, the all-inclusive event will feature 20 chefs and pitmasters serving their brisket creations. It will also feature a selection of beer, cider, wine, and spirits to enjoy. Early bird ticket sales end on March 15, so don’t delay. Buy tickets here.
April 13 & 14: Enjoy hot sauce samples from makers all over the world at the 7th annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint. On top of samples, beer and BBQ will be available for purchase and there will be spicy food eating competitions to watch as well. Buy tickets here.
May 18: Mark your calendars for The World’s Fare 2019 at Citi Field in Queens. More than 100 vendors will come together and unite through authentic food, drink and music curated by the city’s leading culinary advocates. Buy tickets here.