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When Sruli “Izzy” Eidelman opened Izzy’s Brooklyn Smokehouse in mid-2015, the idea of kosher barbecue was still a relatively new concept and it was uncertain if it could be successful. Kosher barbecue costs more because kosher meat is more expensive, has more culinary limitations (no pork and no dairy), and the joint can’t even be open on Saturdays, the biggest day of the week for most barbecue joints.
But less than a year after opening, Eidelman and his restaurant were written up and praised by none other than Texas Monthly’s Daniel Vaughn, the top barbecue writer in the country. Izzy kept at it and won the title of Brisket King of NYC in 2017, the year after pitmaster Ari White won with his own kosher brisket. His barbecue joint remains popular, but now he’s making a bold new bet — this time on kosher barbecue tacos.
Eidelman has just opened Izzy’s Taqueria, a kosher barbecue taco joint. This is a first-of-its-kind restaurant for NYC and thankfully for fans of Izzy’s Brooklyn Smokehouse, it’s right next door. “I like to cook stuff that I eat, and I like eating tacos, so why not let other people eat it as well?” Eidelman said.
To execute on his vision, Eidelman has worked closely with Chef Jose Soto to develop a great Tex-Mex menu with tacos, bowls, nachos, empanadas, and desserts. Soto, a Honduran chef who previously worked at well-regarded restaurants like Le Barricou, Maison Premiere, and Marlow & Sons, brings a wide array of culinary experience and authenticity. “I am more of the visionary type with dreams and visions, and [Soto] brings them to reality,” Eidelman said. “He’s phenomenal with that. His experience in the industry speaks for itself.”
Eidelman and Soto’s visions blend together in some regards. Some of the meats used in the food are smoked next door at the barbecue restaurant, including brisket, lamb, and pastrami. But some of the meats, including grilled chicken and carne asada steak, are prepared at the Taqueria. Corn tortillas and salsas are made fresh at the Taqueria as well. “When I do something, it has to be legit and authentic,” Eidelman said.
Eidelman’s decision to pursue barbecue tacos as his second venture makes sense, given that they are increasingly becoming popular around the country. You can find fantastic barbecue tacos all over the country now, whether it’s in Brooklyn at Hometown Bar-B-Que, in Kansas City at Scott’s Kitchen, or in Austin at Valentina’s Tex-Mex. And this trend is likely to keep expanding.
“I think the world of barbecue generally has evolved, whether it’s ramen infused with barbecue or people taking tacos to the next level,” Eidelman said. “This is constantly changing and evolving, and people are wanting more.”
I am happy to confirm all the food I tried at Izzy’s Taqueria was exceptional. Everything from the tacos to the bowls to the empanadas were flavorful and well-conceived. Chef Soto has spent a lot of time making sure every element works perfectly. I was particularly impressed with the fish tempura tacos and the brisket empanada. When pressed, Eidelman said his two favorite items on the menu are lamb rice bowl and the skirt steak tacos.
You’ll probably notice that the prices are higher than average for tacos and Tex-Mex, but the kosher ingredients once again are twice as expensive than the non-kosher version and many ingredients are being made daily, so this makes sense. Think it as an elevated Tex-Mex experience in a down-to-earth location.
Izzy’s Taqueria is now open from 5 to 11 p.m. but Eidelman hopes to open it for lunch “in the next few weeks.” Eidelman’s next big plan is to open Izzy’s Fried Chicken, a kosher fried chicken joint and beer garden in Crown Heights a half mile from the Smokehouse and Taqueria. He hopes to open it this summer, and I can't wait to check it out.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Here are the top BBQ and food stories in New York area this week:
Billy Durney, owner and pitmaster at Brooklyn’s Hometown Bar-B-Que, was named a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Awardsunder the category “Best Chef: New York City.” Other barbecue-focused semifinalists included Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ BBQ in Atlanta and Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa in Philadelphia.
Tyson Ho, owner and pitmaster of Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn, was interviewed recently for an episode of “Beards, Booze, and Bacon: The Manual Podcast.” In it, Ho talks about his restaurant, Carolina-style barbecue, how they prepare whole hog, and why NYC BBQ scene is so exciting.
Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse, NY came under fire earlier this week for joking about New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “This week only stop into the Syracuse Dinosaur to get a ‘Robert Kraft’ aka the Jerked and Pulled Chicken Sandwich,” the restaurant’s official Facebook and Twitter pages wrote. They have since deleted the posts after some backlash.
Popular Chinese barbecue restaurants Friendship BBQ and Grill Master are venturing into Manhattan and Brooklyn soon after success in Flushing, Queens. Friendship BBQ, which specializes in Chinese skewers, is heading to Chinatown in Manhattan. Grill Master, which offers Chongqing-style grilled fish, is heading to Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
Readers of the Poughkeepsie Journal shared some of their favorite sandwiches in the Hudson Valley, with the El Cubano at Billy Bob's BBQ and the hot chicken sandwich at Lola's Cafe & Gourmet Catering earning high praise.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro area:
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 15: The Smorgasburg X Vice Night Market is back with food, drinks, music, and more at the Villain space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. If you go, be sure to try Carnal’s short rib burger or other great vendor items. RSVP for free 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 7: At The Bloody Mary Festival in Brooklyn, you’ll be able to try some of the craftiest and most creative Bloody Marys in all of NYC for 2 hours. It also includes a Brooklyn bagel bar, cheese station, and more. Buy tickets here.
April 10: The awesome Brisket King NYC 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.