Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Murray Hill, New York, NY
Review by SuSu, MaceVindaloo, Diasala
Blue Smoke is one of New York City's premier barbecue restaurants, as odd as that sounds. We've imbibed many times and have enjoyed it every time. They have a great pitmaster in Kenny Callaghan, and Mike Mills was consulted to get their menu right. They sponsor New York's Big Apple BBQ on Madison Park every June; for those of us residing north of the Mason-Dizon line, they're hard core!
Of course, in a restaurant, one can control the experience very well, from plating, to the servers making suggestions, the music, the atmosphere, etc. But what happens when that food is carried away and eaten in the relative non-funkiness that is home?
Actually, we decided on take-out because though Blue Smoke does not book out more than half their tables via reservation (meaning there are tables available for walk-ins), if you're unlucky, it can take about an hour to wait for a table. Other times, we've only had to wait a few minutes. So we opted for a drink at the bar and take-out because it was kind of late and we had a long day planned, starting early tomorrow morning.
There is a different counter for take-out, staffed by two women who were very helpful. They recommended that instead of "platters" that we order full racks of ribs. We'd decided on ribs and pulled pork; we did decide on the pulled pork platter because they came with baked beans, which we wanted to try, to compare it to the Hut's own effort. As for sides, the one thing that one of us craves is fry bread, so we got a double order of that.
We ran it home immediately via cab and settled in around the coffee table. We pulled out the hotbags, even enduring the leaks in the bag. The smells were awesome, and we found little capped cups of pickles, barbecue sauce (two types), and jalopeno butter labeled "for fry bread." We had ordered St. Louis and Kansas City style ribs, to determine the difference (for those of us who didn't know). And because it's something that some of us never would have thought to order, we ordered the Texas salt-and-pepper beef ribs, just to be excessive this was seen as a bold and brave move.
The St. Louis ribs describe the way the ribs are trimmed for sale. The gristly, meaty end bits which are commonly called "rib tips" and the "skirt/flap" are cut off, so that the rib rack is a rectangular, making them more even-cooking and some say easier to eat. In the trade, they are referred to as "three-down" meaning they normally weight three pounds or a bit less. The cut off bits are fattier and have a lot of cartilege, but some people like that. The point is that these different bits have different properties, and so it makes sense to divide them up for different lengths and methods of cooking.
However, in Kansas City, these bits are apparently left on, but the real mark of distinction is the sauce, which combines the thin vinegar of the Carolinas, the spice of Texas, and tomatoes of the Midwest for a thick, goopy sauce. This sauce is cooked onto the ribs at the end, a process called "finishing." At the Big Apple BBQ, Blue Smoke grilled their ribs to char and caramelize the sauce onto the ribs. (Memphis style is apparently rubbed with a dry spice mix before smoking, mopped with a thin sauce during cooking, and never sauced except on the table.)
Blue Smoke opted not to sauce either the KC or SL ribs, and instead put them on the side. We tried the pork ribs without sauce. The verdict? Both stand up without the sauce; in fact, the sauce detracts from the meat. Blue Smoke actually does a great job wood-smoking their ribs, so do try without the sauce. Many barbecue places will pre-sauce your meat, and this does make us wonder what they're hiding? The main difference was kind of textural, in the that the KC ribs had the rib tips intact. So if you're a gristle-gnawer, you'll like these, but ask them to hold the sauce.
The Texas salt-and-pepper appear to be dry and the membrane on the bone-side is papery. But the flavor is amazing deep, beefy, with the right chewiness, kind of like a moist jerky. There is no sweetness to these ribs at all, just salt and pepper, and this may be beef at it's most fundamental. Certainly, it's kind of scary to watch someone gnaw on these big Flintstone-like bones, but the look of euphoria in their eyes should let you know what this is all about! One of us ALWAYS orders these when at Blue Smoke.
The pulled pork was quite fine, a safe bet for anyone who is afraid to ruin their dental work. It was served with a slice of white bread beneath a mound of chopped meat, which we took to be a blotter of grease, but it wasn't. The meat is relatively grease-free, and it simply just made for a nice sandwich. Frybread makes for a very nice bread to eat with this try hollowing out a bit and stuffing it with pulled pork, yummy! It was presented in a divided take-out container, and on the other side were ketchupy baked beans. They were firm enough to indicate that they were made "from scratch" from dried beans, rather than from canned beans. Unfortunately, we love the 'Hut's beans, and this version was declared "spaghetti sauce." Honestly, it's not that bad, they are mighty fine ... just not the best we'd eaten before. The sliced dill pickles which came with the pork were excellent, eaten on their own.
Another verdict at home, you can eat with big, wet towels to wipe up the grease and sauce. It's a shame, however, to watch TV while you're eating these, since they do require your attention. No, they deserve you undivided attention! And we saved the take-out containers for recycled use later, a bonus!
Disclaimer: The opinions and observations noted are the property of the author. Neither Wookieehut nor any associates makes any claims or lucre from the posting of this report or review. This webpage is presented by Wookieehut.com. Enjoy!