Despite torrential rain and stormy weather, hundreds of barbecue fans gathered Thursday in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a night of rib creations and plentiful spirits at Rib King NYC 2019. 10 pitmasters and chefs brought their smoky and delicious beef, pork, and lamb ribs for all to try, but only one was crowned the winner.
The Rib King crown (and rib trophy) was awarded to Sruli “Izzy” Eidelman of Izzy’s Brooklyn Smokehouse, a previous winner of Brisket King NYC. Eidelman served kosher Asian beef back ribs, something not seen on the menu at his restaurant. Ironically enough, the rib king trophy resembled pork ribs, which Eidelman doesn’t cook and can’t eat because they aren’t kosher.
For People’s Choice, the award went to Gentle Giant Brewing Company’s Matt Worgul and Alex Recchia from Rockland County, New York. They served traditional beef ribs that were juicy, perfectly prepared, and clearly connected with the audience because it won by a landslide.
Runner up honors, which were called “Bad to the Bone,” went to Robert Austin Cho of Kimchi Smoke in Westwood, New Jersey. Cho served Chinese-style pork ribs, which were a little different from his best-known Korean-style ribs that he serves at his restaurant. Cho was recently named the People’s Choice at Brisket King NYC 2019, showing he is a force to be reckoned with at any competition.
The award for “Best Traditional” at the event went to Mable’s Smokehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which served St. Louis-style pork ribs that were topped with homemade barbecue sauce. The award for “Most Creative” went to Pig Beach NYC for its Lebanese-style pork spare ribs topped with white sauce that is inspired by the kind you might find at The Halal Guys. The award for “Best Presentation” went to the Rub It Til It Smokes team from New Jersey, which served pork ribs with Al Pastor seasonings with a side of pineapple, pickle, and micro corn muffin. All winners took home free Prime 6 Charcoal, Pig’s Nose Whisky, and Just Add Beer Sauce.
Other great dishes at the event included traditional St. Louis style ribs from Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue and Hill Country Barbecue Market, pork spare ribs with jalapeno and honey BBQ sauce from Cash Only BBQ, and the kosher sticky lamb rib banh mi from Wandering Que’s Ari White. All of the rib options were mostly unique, but the trend of the night was that beef won over more judges and attendees than pork and lamb.
Alcoholic drinks served at the event included Jack Daniels Barrel Select custom cocktails, Alewife Brewing Co., Alementary Brewing Co., Barrika Basque Cider, Romilly Cidre, Austin Eastciders, Leyenda Mezcal, Pelotón de la Muerte Mezcal, and The Long Drink. Non-alcoholic beverages included Sweet Leaf Tea, Hubert’s Lemonade, and Essentia Water.
Judges at the event included Ed Randolph, the owner of Handsome Devil BBQ and the author of the new book Smoked; Dara Pollak (Skinny Pig NYC), a professional writer and eater; Adam Poch, a food judge, bacon enthusiast, and former contestant on CBS’ Big Brother; Regina Varolli, the founder and editor-in-chief of CulEpi; and Leiti Hsu, the co-founder of Journy and food show host who started @wordofmouth out of the Heritage Radio Network.
The winners of the event were announced by the final judge, Jean-Paul Bourgeois, the former executive chef and pitmaster at Blue Smoke in New York. Bourgeois told me that the judging was an intense process and that it was an extremely close call between the winner and runner up.
On a final note, it was an honor for me to curate the event and work closely on it with Jimmy Carbone from Food Karma Projects. With the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party not happening this summer, we thought it made sense to bring in more barbecue focused events to the New York metro and hope to do more down the road.
If you are looking for more information on barbecue news and events like Rib King, Brisket King, or the Big Apple Barbecue, you can sign up for the free NYC BBQ Weekly newsletter here.
More photos from Rib King NYC 2019 can be viewed below.