Murray Hill/Gramercy, NY
Review by Diana, SuSu, Wraith6, Jools, dieFliedermaus, mostlyIrish
We couldn't get a reservation between 6:15 and 9:30pm when we phoned -- a good sign for popularity -- but the very nice hostess on the phone assured us that a number of tables were always set aside for walk-ins. If we got there about half an hour earlier than we intended to eat, she was very very sure she could seat us. Thus emboldened, we made plans to meet, with a couple of us showing up early to get on the waiting list in advance. But to our surprised and delight, we only had to wait till the remainder of the party showed up (thankfully promptly), and then we were seated immediately. Like many restaurants in former industrial and warehouse areas, there are high ceilings, and mezzanines/balconies with wrought-iron bannisters are nearly always used for seating. (We imagine this was where the owners and shift bosses watched the factory work going on below?) That area was very warm, testament to the crowd of humanity below, as well as the presence of pit smokers and cookers -- the smell of hickory smoke permeated the air, and we were all really, really hopeful. Plus, it was like 17°F (about -8°C for you metric types) and windy, so warm was good!
We ordered a LOT of food. The servers were nice without being personal (always a mistake to try to be friends with waiters -- they are there to serve, not to like you), they timed things well, and when they botched up an order, it was to bring MORE stuff than we ordered, which they were happy to wrap up for us to take home. When the food came out, we were so overwhelmed with its deliciousness that we promptly ate most of it, rather than taking photographs. (The ones you see were taken when we were too stuffed and in our cups, and the place was dark ...) It was so good, and they provided nice, thick, large-sized "moist towelettes" rather than those tiny things you get at lobster shacks -- made clean-up in front of others pleasurable (one of the uncouth types said he felt better after his "restaurant shower"). Even the barbeque-bitch in our group was impressed, and she crossed off yet another reason why her mama might be right that she needs to go home to whatever southern place she is from. In contrast to Pearson's, this place has ambiance -- it's not a cafeteria stuffed in the back of a bar -- and there is a jazz club below-stairs, which was voted Best Jazz Club by New York Magazine last year. The place is just two years old now, and they are hot!
What was good? We tried to order a spread of things:
Appetizers: 3-sausage sampler, peel and eat shrimp (good with the shells either on or off), chipotle mussels in a hot, briny broth
For the Table: frybread with chipotle butter, hushpuppies, cornbread, peanuts
Meals: Kansas-city Ribs ["messy"] -- ribs and sparerib racks); Rib Sampler (including St. Louis Spareribs ["marbled"], Kansas City Spareribs, Texas-style Beef Ribs); Texas-style Beef Brisket; Braised shortribs. These were accompanied by horseradish mashed potatoes, fried onions, bacon brussels sprouts.
Dessert: The Sampler, which included small pieces of key lime pie, banana cream pie, sticky toffee pudding, brioche bread pudding, chocolate fudge cake.
We took a LOT home. Unlike most "traditional" barbecue places in America, this place is an actual NYC calibre restaurant, with selection and prices to match. But the service, atmosphere and quality of food are actualy excellent enough to justify it's prices, plus with large portions, you get leftovers to take home. Not a place you'd go for your weekly dinner maybe, but maybe monthly!
If your date won't allow you to carry out leftovers, dump the date ... Blue Smoke is a far better date than any twit who doesn't understand the value of good barbecue. It's slow-cooked, pit-smoked (they have a real pit, and the hickory logs make a nice display), meaning it can't be made "to order." There is sauce and "magic dust" on the table; you can buy any of the condiments as gifts if you wish.
A great place, and we will need to go on different days of the week -- in the tradition of the diner places barbecue places tend to be, there are daily specials. The next day's special was lamb! Anyone want to meet me there tomorrow night?? Oh, they do have a take-out menu, and they even have 'set pieces' categorized by the number of people you want to feed. Includes cole slaw, cornbread, pickles, baked beans, as well as a selection of ribs, pulled pork, and smoked chicken. We intend to order the "feeds 50" for $655 someday ... it'd be a good wedding feast! AND the guests can freshen up with the nearly big-enough moist towelettes!
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