John Brown Smokehouse
We've been meaning to hit up John Brown Smokehouse for a while, partially because people speak quite highly of the BBQ (see recent Village Voice award), but also because their bearded logo is pretty awesome. We have to say though, that while we enjoyed our time with John Brown, we didn't quite go crazy over the BBQ the way others have.
You know us. We're always down to tackle a full spread of assorted smoked meats, but nothing we ate here had us thinking best BBQ in NYC. Part of that may be because they were out of their best and most celebrated meat, the brisket burnt ends. We were there early too, at like 7pm, so we can only imagine that being out of the ends is a regular occurrence. We loved the lamb sausage and pulled pork, but the brisket definitely wasn't incredible, and the ribs and sides were kind of a bummer. We did, however, really like the overall vibe of this place. The Smokehouse recently re-located from a small Astoria space to a larger hub in Long Island City, complete with a big boy beer garden, a live music stage, picnic tables, and copious amounts of hangout space. It's gonna be a prime candidate for the Summer Guide 2K13. Unfortunately, they haven't updated their Google Maps location to LIC, yet and we were moments away from taking an incorrect train to the wrong spot. A word to the wise - make sure you know where you're going, and don't trust the map on your phone. If it's Apple Maps, you're probably f*cked either way.
At the end of the day, if you and your crew appreciate trays full of BBQ and massive bootfuls of beer, John Brown should be on the radar. Just temper expectations, and pray for burnt ends.
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John Brown Ruben
We loved this house cured pastrami - it had tons of flavor. It worked better on this sandwich though than it did independently, so definitely order up the ruben. It's tasty, but you might also be wishing for some more Russian dressing. There's a lot of meat there, and they go a little too easy on the fixins.
This is a solid sandwich with pork belly, tomato, lettuce and mayo. You're best bet is gonna be to just load this thing up with BBQ sauce though. That sauce makes everything better.
8 out of 10 - this is some excellent pulled pork. It's all kinds of moist, and has tons of flavor.
4 out of 10 - maybe we got a bad cut or something, but our belly was ridiculously fatty (even for pork belly) and even the prime pieces just weren't as soft and tender as we would have hoped.
9 out of 10 - flavor is the key at John Brown. Some dishes have lots of it, others don't. The tips have tons. Aside from the lamb sausage, this was our favorite meat of the night. Charred, thick, and meaty, these beef triangles must be on your tray.
6 out of 10 - a little dry and not that exciting. We ate it all, but we also didn't freak out over it.
10 out of 10? - Most likely, but we just don't know. Clearly, these are in high demand and since there are only so many brisket ends, but being that they routinely run out of their best dish is devastating. We came all the way from Manhattan (not really that far, but still) and wound up leaving without tasting John Brown's best dish.
Home Cured Pastrami
7 out of 10 - as we discussed above, it's delicious, but fares better on a sandwich than it does on its own.
10 out of 10 - the lamb sausage is crazy delicious and crazy flavorful. This was the best thing we tasted at John Brown.
5 out of 10 - not much to see here. The ribs were average. They were a little dry, with little meat on the bones and they required tons of BBQ sauce..
Generally unimpressive. Mac 'n cheese, cole slaw, collard greens...none of it was anything we'd want to eat twice. The fries were our favorite side, which doesn't say much.
10 out of 10 - any restaurant that serves a glass boot full of sixty ounces of beer earns bonus points from Immaculate Infatuation.