A New York Polyphony fan doesn’t have to look far on the internet to learn about our gastronomic adventures. Whether we’re on the road or home in NYC, it’s quite clear: we love to eat.
Besides the best local breakfast (which is usually Craig and Geoff’s quest in a new town), we’re always on the lookout for the best local Bar-B-Que. We’ve made at least 10 stops in the past two touring seasons from Carolina whole hog and Brunswick Stew to KC’s best offerings. Texas for brisket and links and even the rare “nouveau” barbecue in Canada and California.
Discussing barbecue is like bringing up religion or politics in a conversation. We’re always a bit wary of mentioning our favorites from stage for fear of starting a fistfight! So with an assurance that there will be plenty of naysayers, herewith is the best BBQ NYP has enjoyed on our travels.
10. Hannah’s BBQ – Claremont, NC. I had dreams of a creamy, well blended Brunswick Stew as soon as we passed this place en route to Boone, NC to sing at Craig’s alma mater, Appalachian State University last February. We made a special stop on the way back to the airport, we left early so we could stop here! Sadly while a memorable locale with a history as a drive-in, this wasn’t the remarkable Carolina BBQ we were hoping for. Still, the sides were exceptional. The slaw was especially good as were the hush-puppies. The Brunswick Stew wasn’t as great as a batch we had at New York’s Big Apple BBQ in ’08. Where do we go for the best? Suggestions welcome!
9. Chris has made two stops in the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky region, first with us in December ’10 to Montgomery Inn Boathouse on the Ohio River on his birthday and another stop for pulled pork sandwich on a cross-country trip with his brother and sister. Poor Chris grew up in Connecticut, so we’re trying to convince him that this may not be the best the country has to offer but he’s remained firm thus far. Don’t get me wrong– the Montgomery Inn’s ribs are quite good. But too far from traditional (whatever that means) to be in the running.
8. Sonny Bryan’s – Dallas, TX (near the Texas School Book Depository). After a sobering visit to the site of JFK’s assassination – which incidentally occurred on November 22nd, GW’s birthday – Chris, Geoffrey Silver, and I went to Sonny Bryan’s at the recommendation of NYP superfans from (where else?) Omaha. While a fine establishment with a respectable selection and admirable preparation, the Texas brisket was dry and the links weren’t particularly well spiced. Would I go back? Sure, it’s BBQ!
7. Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City. Frequented by the McCain/Palin campaign in ’08 – don’t hold it against these folks. Geoff thinks these burnt ends are the best ever though our visit in December ’12 was a bit disappointing. His first visit in ’09 was much better so a third visit may be in order. Don’t forget to order the red soda!
6. While it’s not a Barbeque joint, I have to include my favorite ribs in New York City. Maggie’s Place is an Irish Bar but not in the ironic or satirical sense. My wife and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner here. The ribs are not to be missed. No, really. GET THE RIBS! And the Speckled Hen is served in a proper Imperial pint here and at the right temperature. Many many band meetings have occurred here, not least of which the one when we sat around the table with our great friend and adviser, Malcolm Bruno to agree 7 years ago that “Hey, this sounds pretty good! Let’s give this thing a try.” (“This doesn’t count!” says NYP’s CP.)
5. Sonny Boy’s – Cedar City, UT. After a long day flying from JFK to Salt Lake City then on a VERY small plane to Cedar City (where the people couldn’t be nicer!), we were fortunate that Sonny’s is just down the street from the hotel, oh and next door to the concert venue. Great BBQ chicken and brisket. Decent sides, especially the beans and the hush-puppies but perhaps the best treat was the owner who was kind enough to allow us to bring in a case of Pabst to wash this goodness down! Steve bought the t-shirt, watch out for it.
4. Fletcher’s, Brooklyn – I know I’m a bit biased because this joint opened literally downstairs from my old apartment but as NYC BBQ goes, this is as good as any other I’ve had with respect to Blue Smoke. Fletcher’s makes a well smoked (wood) rack of ribs and their char siu is divine. The best is the burnt ends, best outside of KC. If you really want to worry your physician, order the Phi Slamma Jamma – brisket and pulled pork, queso, tortilla chips, a very respectable sauce on a potato roll.
3. The Purple Daisy – just outside Chattanooga, TN. Surprise find via Urbanspoon. The purple decor was a red flag but our fears were quickly assuaged. This is worth a trip from Nashville, Atlanta, or Beijing. Seriously good, though the headstone seller across the road was, perhaps a bit foreboding as we jacked up our cholesterol levels. Believe it or not, the chili dog was one of the best I’ve ever had! (the best is at an ice cream stand in Turners Falls, Mass.)
2. Oklahoma Joe’s – Kansas City, KS September ’09. Oklahoma Joe’s is half gas station, half BBQ joint. With all due respect to our Arthur Bryant’s pilgrimage in December ’12, OK Joe’s has it hands down! Nothing fancy, just good ol’ affordable ribs and pulled pork. Best ribs outside of Memphis (see below).
1. Betty Rose’s – Abilene, TX. Best brisket and links, hands down! Nice folks too.
This list is by no means comprehensive; there have been A LOT of other BBQ adventures. The above list is my attempt at singling-out the noteworthy ones. Go ahead– FLAME AWAY!
Also ran: In April of 2008, Craig and Geoff got to experience the famous dry rubbed baby backs at Rendezvous in Memphis, TN. For the love of BBQ, we need our fans in Memphis to petition to host us for a show because the memory of those ribs have been haunting us for half a decade!
And in case you’re wondering, the title of this blog isn’t my doing. I stole it from the new song by “Taylor Swift”.