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Biscuit N Brisket is perhaps the most unassuming new barbecue joint to open in New York in recent years. It's a small, easy-to-miss storefront near 44th Street and 3rd Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, and it has no seating. Despite its relative smallness, it's possible BNB will become a large draw during all hours due to the food and personality of pitmaster Nestor Laracuente, aka the Brooklyn Pit Rat.
Laracuente has worked in barbecue for more than 15 years and worked at many Northeast joints including Hometown Bar-B-Que, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Harley's Smokeshack, Hoodoo Brown BBQ, Beast of Bourbon, and more. His years of working pits and opening restaurants has garnered him a large social media following and a lot of confidence.
"Really, in all of Manhattan, we have have no competition, not to sound too obnoxious or conceited or arrogant," Laracuente said on Wednesday, BNB's opening day. "There's a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Arrogance is thinking you're good. Confidence is knowing you're good."
Is Laracuente right to be so confident in the product and himself? From my first tasting of the brisket, pork ribs, baked beans, mac n cheese, and coleslaw, I would say yes. For having just opening, this is high-quality barbecue with rich flavors and it is clear this is being done by someone experienced.
Unfortunately, for Wednesday's soft open lunch, the menu was limited and sadly there were no biscuits available yet. But the menu will expand quickly and soon they will be serving barbecue-based breakfast, lunch, and dinner, something rarely seen in New York. One of the biggest ticket items, naturally, will be the brisket biscuit.
BNB's placement in Midtown is unique for a barbecue joint, and there aren't that many joints to compete with it. The business partners behind the new joint had originally conceived BNB opening in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. But talks for the new joint broke down and this small store in Midtown became available. So the team went for it and made a bet on the Brooklyn Pit Rat brand.
"I've been working with my business partners outside of barbecue and they were like, 'Let's open up a barbecue place," Laracuente said. "They've thrown my brand all over it, and it's basically the first place where my brand is the restaurant."
While Laracuente does have some bluster to his talk, he does seem to genuinely care about the product and did share just before opening on Wednesday that he still gets nervous despite all his experience.
"I feel like I'm gonna throw up," Laracuente said just before he starting serving customers. "My biggest fear is that I talk all that smack on Instagram and nobody shows up. It's all in jest. It's nervous excitement and I'm just happy to be here."
To make sure day one went well, Laracuente said he slept all night at the restaurant so he could keep an eye on the smoker. It paid off and on day one, BNB sold out at 1:30 p.m. On day two, BNB sold out at 3 p.m. and I expect more sell outs ahead.
Laracuente says if BNB becomes popular enough, he anticipates quickly opening a full sit-down restaurant. I'll certainly be keeping tabs on the joint as it evolves, and I can't wait to get my hands on a brisket biscuit.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Here are the top BBQ and food stories in the New York area this week:
Pete Genovese, the daring food reporter at NJ.com, has traveled high and low to compile a list of the top 31 barbecue spots in New Jersey. He reports that, “There are certainly more BBQ spots in New Jersey than, say, 10 years ago. Unfortunately, too many are average or subpar, churning out underwhelming, overcooked, oversauced, overhyped barbecue.” Thankfully he has picked many of the best to try, including some of my favorites Big Papa Smoke’m, Kimchi Smoke and Red, White, and Que Smokehouse.
Juicy Lucy BBQ, which stunned the barbecue community by winning Brisket King 2019, will open soon on Staten Island. The Staten Island Advance has a new preview that shows off the interior and reveals a few new menu items. Juicy Lucy most likely will open in the next month but no date is set.
Mothership Meat Company in Long Island City has been named to Eater’s new list of the hottest restaurants in Queens. If you go, be sure to try the brisket and ribs. Once the weather is reliably warm, I expect Mothership’s outdoor seating and beer garden to be extremely popular.
Mike Wollschlager of Connecticut Magazine has high praise for Hamden’s TexiKo Tequila Bar, which offers both high-end barbecue and Tex-Mex. His only complaint? “The portions are a little too big.”
Want to know the best barbecue joints in Central Pennsylvania? Food critic Mimi Brodeur of PennLive has 11 picks that include food trucks, storefronts, and even church lots.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro area:
May 30: Don’t miss Rib King NYC 2019, the first barbecue event curated by NYC BBQ. This all-inclusive event in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is produced by Food Karma Events and will be a celebration of beef and pork ribs with more than 10 pitmasters and chefs from NYC, including Cash Only BBQ, Hill Country, Izzy’s, Kimchi Smoke, Mable’s, Morgan’s, Pig Beach, and more. 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 craft beers. Buy tickets here.
June 21-23: The Saratoga Balloon and BBQ Festival will take place in, you guessed it, Saratoga, New York. The event will feature BBQ from six national vendors, and there will also be draft beers from New Belgium Brewery, spirits from Black Button Distilling, and more. In addition to BBQ, there will be hot air balloon launches, live entertainment, a kids zone, a festival marketplace, and more. More info here.
July 5-7: Just after the fourth of July, the I Love BBQ and Music Festival 2019 will be revving up in Lake Placid, New York. This is a large event that attracts barbecue enthusiasts from all around the Tri-state area. Not only are there Kansas City Barbeque Society competitions happening on-site, but there are also lots of food and drink vendors for the public to eat and drink well while watching lots of live music. More info here.
July 12-14: The New Jersey State Barbecue Championship will not only be about competition, but will also have live cooking demonstrations and music throughout the weekend. Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the NJ champ will have the opportunity to compete at the American Royal in Kansas City later this year. Details about the weekend here.