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Mothership Meat Company, a new barbecue joint at the northern edge of Long Island City, has been a long time coming. Co-owner and pitmaster Josh Bowen originally had the idea to open Mothership as a way to continue the legacy of Alchemy, Texas, an acclaimed barbecue popup he created in Queens in 2013.
"If we were in Texas, we probably would have opened three years ago," Bowen said. "But with all the filings we had to do with our smoker and all the extra equipment we had to buy ... it took the city of New York three years to approve this place."
Like Alchemy, Mothership will feature Texas-style barbecue with an eye for experimentation. "As we go along, we will have specials like we did at Alchemy," Bowen said. "We will probably have frog legs and short rib pastrami and things like that. ... This is our lab in a way."
As it stands now, the Mothership menu prominently features brisket, smoked ham, sausage, and pork spare ribs. Sides include cheesy corn, potato salad, and pork and beans. The most recent addition to the menu is smoked pork belly, which was not available when I visited a week ago.
Bowen thinks "Texas-style" is a fair description, but he wavers on that frequently. "I don't even know anymore," Bowen said. "It's alien barbecue dude." (Maybe that should be Mothership's official tagline.)
No matter what you call it, the food I tried was intensely smoky and flavorful all around. The standout items for me were the smoked sausage, the giant peppery spare ribs, and the delectable cheesy corn. Just keep in mind that if you like barbecue with heavy smoke, you'll be happy to get some bites at Mothership.
You can attribute the smokiness to the restaurant's expensive J&R Oyler Pit smoker, which runs exclusively on oak and has no gas assist like many commercial smokers. The downside of this equipment is that the city of New York was extra hard on the restaurant and delayed its opening again and again over making sure the smoke was heavily restricted.
"With all the filings and how New York is so business unfriendly with this kind of smoker, I'll never do one of these again," Bowen said. "We might make another John Brown Smokehouse at some point because we use electric smokers, and we've been doing it for eight years."
The opening of Mothership coincides with Bowen making headlines this year for his pro-Amazon stance. Bowen fiercely supported Amazon in its pursuit to bring its "HQ2" to Long Island City, and he got more attention after the HQ2 deal fell through. The events eventually led to him suing City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer for defamation, and a falling out with many Queens politicians he was previously friendly with.
"I'm a lefty, and I thought these people were on my side," Bowen said. "I want healthcare for all. I want legal weed. I want free college. ... These idiots are whiny Twitter communists."
Bowen had previously hosted events in support of multiple anti-IDC candidates for New York State Senate, including new Senator Jessica Ramos. But after the Amazon incident and the "disappointing" recent New York State budget, he says he has now checked out and will step back from supporting candidates.
"I'm out the game," Bowen said. "I'm like Ron Swanson now. I don't want anything to do with them. But I'm definitely not clicking the R. That's gross.”
Regardless of Bowen's eccentricities and activism, the food he makes is typically excellent. I've been a fan of John Brown Smokehouse for years (especially the mouth-watering burnt ends), and Mothership Meat Company has the potential to become a staple for New York barbecue fans looking for experimentation.
The joint also has a very nice outdoor space that I expect will attract large crowds when the weather is nice. Bowen said he will continue to expand the bar and the craft beer selection. "The beer garden is rockin’," he said.
Mothership Meat Company is currently open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to midnight. I'm looking forward to going again next week to eat my way through more of the ever-evolving menu.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Here are the top BBQ and food stories in the New York area this week:
Long Island City will be getting even more barbecue joints soon. Not only have we heard rumors of Pig Beach NYC opening an LIC location, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque has signed a deal with franchisees Michael and Paula Dolan “to open four locations in and around Queens, with the first to open this year in Long Island City,” according to QSR.
Thrillist is out with a list of the best chicken wings in NYC, including the Brooklyn Wing House in Crown Heights and Lansdowne Road in Hell’s Kitchen. (Personally, I’d add Blue Smoke’s Alabama white wings to this list.)
Business Insider has profiled the legendary Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem for its famous soul food, including chicken and waffles, ribs, and mac ‘n’ cheese, and its ability to attract celebrities.
A new video from Eater’s Prime Time series features chef Robb Finn, who makes a head-spinning oyster-smoked brisket sandwich at BackBar in Hudson, New York.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro area:
April 27-28: This weekend, Pig Beach NYC will host its Second Annual Crawfish Boil with “BBQ Ninja” Craig Verhage from Ubon’s Barbeque and Danny Beck from Pearl’s Southern Comfort from Chicago. The party will be both days, but rumor has it they are smoking an alligator on Sunday. Buy tickets here.
April 27: If you’re looking for fun in Bushwick, you won’t want to miss Pig Out at Bunker. At celebrity chef Jimmy Tu's Bushwick restaurant Bunker, you’ll find a party with a whole roasted Heritage Berkshire hog, locally sourced beers and cocktails, great music, and more. Buy tickets here.
May 6: Hill Country in Manhattan will be hosting the authors of Tacos of Texas, Jarod Neece & Mando Rayo, for Taco Sessions. The evening will consist of a screening of Jarod & Mando’s newly released seven-part docuseries that explores iconic tacos across Texas. You’ll also get to eat some Texas-style barbecue tacos too. Use the promo code “migas” for $10 off! Buy tickets here.
May 18: The World’s Fare 2019 at Citi Field in Queens will be taking place again in mid-May. 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.
May 18-19: Harlem's food and the people who make it are waiting for your taste buds during The Harlem Stroll. This ticket gives you access to an unlimited walk around tasting of 20+ of the best restaurants in Harlem, including Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken. Buy tickets here.
May 30: Don’t miss Rib King NYC 2019, the first barbecue event curated by NYC BBQ. This event in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is produced by Food Karma Events and will be a celebration of ribs and rib creations with more than 10 pitmasters and chefs from NYC. Early bird ticket sales end on May 1, so don’t delay. Buy tickets here.
June 8: The NYC Bacon and Beer Classic 2019 will take place at the Brooklyn Mirage and will celebrate two of the best things in life: bacon and beer. Over 50 local restaurants will be serving bacon-inspired dishes, and local breweries will be pouring over 100 top craft beers. Early bird tickets are on sale now. Buy tickets here.