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Red Hook Tavern, the follow-up restaurant from Hometown Bar-B-Que’s Billy Durney, has been a very long time coming. Several years back, the space was supposed to be called Hometown Fried Chicken, but eventually Durney landed on the concept of a tavern inspired by classic New York spots like Corner Bistro and McSorley’s Old Ale House. He was finally able to open the restaurant last week.
Because Durney is one of the biggest names in barbecue in the New York area (if not the biggest), Red Hook Tavern has naturally been highly anticipated. Currently, there's been enough buzz that the next few weeks are fully booked at dinner time. (If you want to visit Red Hook Tavern in the near future, I’d recommend making a reservation on Resy ASAP.)
This past Sunday, I was lucky to get a table for a few friends and I on its fourth day of operation. We were satisfied across the board with both the food and the service.
While Durney developed the menu and space, Brooklyn chef Allison Plumer runs the kitchen and is making sure everything is up to high standards. Plumer has delivered, and every item we tried was well cooked.
At the heart of the menu and the item I was most looking forward to eating is the Peter Luger-inspired 45-day dry-aged burger. I'm happy to report the medium-rare burger I ordered was immensely flavorful and among the best burgers I've had in New York. It was cooked exactly how I ordered, and its simple seasoning that let the meat shine. Burger expert George Motz told me last week that it is one of his "favorite new burgers" in the NYC area.
My friend Matt ordered a medium burger for himself and he liked my medium rare burger's flavor more than his, so keep that in mind when you are ordering. If Hometown Bar-B-Que ever served a burger (and I wish they did), this would be a close approximation. (Although, I don't expect Hometown's burger would cost $22.)
Other items we tried included the romaine wedge salad topped with applewood-smoked bacon, blue cheese, and buttermilk herb dressing; grilled head-on spot prawns that are covered in garlic, chili, and herbs; and roasted corn that you scoop up and place into Radicchio leaves.
My friends and I thought that the roasted corn was actually the standout, despite it being a relatively light dish. I love corn and this blew me away. The bacon on the salad was also fantastic and something I'd happily order separate if I could.
Additionally, the restaurant has an extensive alcohol menu, featuring a large selection of natural wines and a light and dark ale inspired by McSorley's. We tried the dark ale, and it was well-balanced and tasty.
My only issue with the restaurant as is stands is cost. The $22 burger, $49 New York strip steak, $28 half chicken, $24 prawns, $16 corn, $16 romaine wedge salad, $16 cocktails, and $14 crispy potatoes are a little pricey.
I understand that good food costs money (that's something I have to remind people of in the barbecue world) but for what you're paying, I simply wish I was getting more. Keep in mind this is a small ding relative to the experience.
I would like to return in the future to try a few more items, including the bone-in 45-day dry-aged New York strip steak, pan roasted half chicken, and the country ham croquettes. All of these items looked great but we didn't have room to try them.
All in all, Red Hook Tavern is a worthy follow-up to Hometown Bar-B-Que and a great addition to the Red Hook area. It’s an extremely different experience from old fashioned barbecue, but as long as you know that going in, it's worth a visit.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Here are the top BBQ and food stories in the New York area this week:
While Juicy Lucy BBQ on Staten Island has been attracting attention for having simply outstanding barbecue, the joint was featured on CBS New York for a different reason this week: co-owner Andrew Plaitis performed the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of a choking elderly man. “I went behind the guy, he was a bigger guy, older man, I just picked him up, gave him one shot and the food came out,” Plaitis told CBS.
Eater has a new roundup out of the 16 best restaurants in Northeast Philadelphia, and a few barbecue joints made the cut including Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse and the barbecue at the Dutch Country Farmers Market.
When it comes to barbecue in Massachusetts, I haven’t heard many recommendations. But Bon Appétit says that every person on a road trip through New England must make a stop at B.T.’s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.
Finally, in perhaps this week’s strangest news, a perfect In-N-Out burger from California showed up on the street in Queens and now there’s a tall tale that explains how the crazy episode unfolded.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro and the Tri-State area:
August 15: The Thrillist Savor the Summer event will feature BBQ and other joints from around NYC at Pier A Harbor House on Thursday, August 15. You can come and judge some of NYC’s best bites, sip on drinks, see live music and more. Vendors include Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue, The Nugget Spot, Black Iron Burger, Ho’Brah Tacos, and Schaller's Stube Sausage Bar. Buy tickets here.
August 16-18: When it comes to barbecue festivals north of New York, Hudson Valley Ribfest 2019 is one of the top events. RibFest will be held at the Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz and it will feature family activities, live music, and more. More info here.
August 24: One of the last summer barbecue events held in NYC is the Hudson River Park Blues BBQ Festival, which is held annually at Pier 97 at Hudson River Park on the west side of Manhattan. Admission is free and there will be five different blues acts throughout the day and BBQ vendors selling grub. More info here.
September 7: For those that love all things pork and barbecue, the 10th annual Pig Island NYC will be a can’t-miss affair. Held outdoors at beautiful Erie Basin Park in Red Hook, Brooklyn, this all-inclusive event will feature a ton of great food, beer, cider, and liquor. I’m already hungry for it all. Buy early bird tickets here.
September 7: The USA TODAY Wine & Food Experience will be taking place on September 7 at LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park. Attendees will be able to taste, savor, and explore the Brooklyn culinary scene, from local trends to regional traditions. Chefs and speakers include Antoni Porowski (Queer Eye), Alex Guarnaschelli (Chopped), and Dom De Marco (Di Fara Pizza). Buy tickets here.
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