Once-Promising Midtown BBQ Joint Biscuit N Brisket Quietly Closes
This week, the once-promising Midtown barbecue joint Biscuit N Brisket quietly closed. The restaurant opened in May with the promise of barbecue biscuit sandwiches served up by pitmaster personality Nestor Laracuente, aka the Brooklyn Pit Rat. But alas, it didn't pan out.
"Biscuit N Brisket is permanently closed," the owners said on Instagram on Thursday. "Thank you for your business, love, and support. ... What an amazing time we had in Midtown Manhattan perfecting BnB! Stay tuned because we may just open up a full-size/service location soon enough!"
While the Instagram message is positive, Laracuente said he was actually let go by the restaurant without notice in the last weekend of June. And even before that, he said there were warning signs things were not right with the restaurant.
"The place was all smoke and mirrors from the beginning," Laracuente said. "I did my best to hide from the employees and the public what was going on. By the third week of being open, they were trying to cut corners and doing things I’ve seen failing restaurants do like cut hours and use cheaper products. They even tried using cheaper briskets with little to no fat content. Then, the final blow was when they were served court papers from the landlord. The papers stated they were six months late on the rent." (Laracuente showed me documents that verify the restaurant was late on rent.)
BNB owners James Spence and Marc Bernstein could not immediately be reached for comment on what happened to the restaurant. In a strange twist, Spence and Bernstein are keeping the location that occupied BNB and will soon open a teriyaki chicken restaurant there.
Even with all this, several fans of the restaurant commented that they were sad to see the fast closure. "Thank you for that coffee and tour of the kitchen while I was waiting for the Jitney, and thank you for that delicious brisket I snuck in and grabbed the following week," Reed Lightfoot wrote on Instagram. "Come to Astoria! You have one customer already!"
2019 has been a hard year for barbecue joints in New York City. BNB is another in a noticeable string of closures, including the losses of Southern Hospitality, Hill Country Food Park, Cash Only BBQ, and Pig Bleecker.
Each restaurant had its own specific reasons for closing but the biggest thing that connects them all was financial hardship. Most restaurant owners I've spoken with say that the costs of running a restaurant now are generally too high, with rents going up and a higher minimum wage in place. These factors, along with a city government that makes it difficult to open and maintain barbecue restaurants, are putting strain on these businesses.
Laracuente said he personally does not see this a bad sign for barbecue in New York. "Certain BBQ joints will continue to thrive, and restaurants that think buying a smoker, throwing meat in and think they are making BBQ, will meet the same fate Biscuit N Brisket did," Laracuente said. "May they rest in peace in the graveyard of rusted smokers."
In fact, I'm aware of several new barbecue joints in the works as well. This year, we will likely see new restaurants in the Bronx and Queens. In the Bronx, Hudson Smokehouse is expected to open in the next few months. In Queens, both Pig Beach and Mighty Quinn's are expected to open new locations in Long Island City later this year or early next year.
If I had to add my own two cents, Biscuit N Brisket had an exceptionally difficult business model to make work. Offering authentic barbecue and biscuits between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday is challenging given how much time needs to go into smoking the brisket and other meats. Most barbecue places that are open that early don't serve dinner and close around 3 p.m., focusing just on breakfast and lunch.
I will continue looking into this story and will, of course, let all of you know about any major new BBQ openings or closings happening the New York area.
Founder, NYC BBQ
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Here are the top BBQ and food stories in the New York area this week:
While backyard space comes at a premium in New York, there are quite a few backyards and many of them have fire pits and grills. The New York Times published an important Q&A this week on fire safety rules and backyard barbecues, which are good to review given that “barbecue grills on residential properties cause 1,500 structural fires and 4,200 outdoor fires a year, according to the New York City Fire Department.” You can read the NYPD’s rules and tips directly here as well.
This weekend through August 18, several restaurants in Harlem will be adding Memphis-inspired dishes (including barbecue!) to their menus in honor of the Memphis bicentennial. Harlem restaurants including Sylvia’s, Melba’s, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Lucille’s, and Shake Shack will be highlighting Memphis chefs and inspired dishes.
Addy's Barbeque in Teaneck, New Jersey has closed, reports NorthJersey.com. The restaurant was known for Halal-fusion cuisine and plates of barbecued mishkaki, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. Its sister location in Astoria, Queens will remain open. Owner Adnan Khan also plans to sue the Addy's BBQ in Elmont, New York for illegal use of its name.
More than 50 restaurants in the Park Slope area will offer deals between August 19 and 30 for the second annual “Dine in Park Slope” event. A small number of barbecue joints will be participating including neighborhood favorite Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue. Morgan’s will offer “a complimentary order of Morgan’s Cornbread when you order a one pound portion from their Smoked Meat selections, Monday through Friday, lunch and dinner.”
Finally, the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia is about to have an intriguing new barbecue option. Darling Nikki's BBQ (which participated at the 2019 Brisket King event in Brooklyn earlier this year) will be partnering with Tavern on Ridge to offer barbecue out of its popular bar. "Darling Nikki's BBQ is leaving our commissary kitchen in South Philly to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Roxborough," Darling Nikki's BBQ said on its Facebook page. "We are partnering with The Tavern On Ridge to bring our tasty BBQ back to our own hood!"
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro and the Tri-State area:
August 16-18: When it comes to barbecue festivals north of New York, this weekend’s 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. Read a preview of the event here and visit the official site 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.
September 20-21: The Greenwich Wine and Food Festival 2019 will take place September 20 and 21 in Greenwich, Connecticut, offering a grand tasting with more than 150 restaurants; a bartender showdown, lawn games, and live music from acts like Little Big Town.
September 20-22: The Oinktoberfest 2019 event in Clarence, New York (outside of Buffalo) is the longest continuously running barbecue competition and festival in New York State. It attracts many competition teams and also features music and food for families who want to hang out. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is $8/person. More info here.
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