Suddenly, New York City has its own barbecue culture. Cue’ wizards from our country’s great regional orthodoxies have made their way here and in a matter of years, slow cooked brisket, smoked sausage, pulled pork, and ribs have become the subject of food blogs and the source of neighborhood buzz. Some of the best include: Fette Sau (Williamsburg), Blue Smoke (Gramercy), Hill Country Barbecue (Gramercy), Dinosaur BBQ (Harlem), BrisketTown (Williamsburg), John Brown Smokehouse (LIC), Fatty Cue (West Village).
Hugh Mangam, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten trained chef from NJ, may not have been interested in joining that list, but he certainly has with ”Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque”. In fact, many consider MQ’s to be at the top of it.
Hugh first hit the NYC cue’ scene via Smorgasburg, the open air food-lovers market on the Williamsburg waterfront. Every Saturday, he would haul in pounds of his smoked make-your-mouth-water brisket and make all of the other vendors at s’burg jealous with his long lines and giddy patrons. Not two years later, the East Village brick and mortar store was in the works.
Given Mangum’s background, its no surprise that the BBQ at MQ’s is focused on high-quality ingredients and that it does not follow any one particular style. The restaurant’s website states: “Our barbecue is the merging of two great barbecue traditions: Texas and the Carolinas”. Accordingly, the “Texalina” style shys away from thick, heavy sauces, but does lightly glaze the meat with a sweet vingear based concoction. Patrons are then given the option to add as much sauce as they would like at the table. For an extra punch of seasoning and an important textural note, the meat carvers hit all dishes with a liberal dash of Maldon sea salt flakes before they hand it over to you.
A few weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening, I was able to experience all of this in person with a visit to 102 Second Avenue with some friends. The large fast-casual style space was packed with excited people chowing down on slow cooked meat. A line wrapped the carving station where slabs of glistening ribs, juicy brisket, and sweating pork shoulder were piled. As we waited, we had a perfect line of site; watching men and women in black gloves cut, rip, and shred meat in an almost medieval fashion.
The menu has all of the BBQ staples: brisket, pulled pork, smoked sausage, spare ribs and chicken. They also feature the “brontosaurus” beef rib: a massive foot long piece of blackened meat that hangs off of of an equally large, prehistoric looking bone. If you so choose, you can add some house pickled vegetables to your dish at a nominal charge.
I felt I needed to have the full experience, so I ordered an unnecesssary amount of food. The “carver” grabbed a giant fist-full of pork and slopped it on a brioche roll, and also piled in a few huge spare ribs and some slaw. After we all received our orders, we sat down with some ice-cold beers and feasted like savages. The pulled pork sandwich was moist, fatty, and delicious- perhaps the best I have ever had. There was a good smoke taste to the ribs and they had a perfect crusty char that bursted with flavor. Friends enjoyed brisket sandwiches, burnt ends, more ribs, and sides of sweet potato casserole and burnt end baked beans. The portions were more than generous, and we all left completely satiated.
If you like BBQ, a visit to Mighty Quinn’s is a must. During the week, you will wait in a bit of a line, but the fast-casual layout makes it such that you rarely have to wait for a table. Indeed, this is some of the best tasting meat in NYC. Clearly, others agree; the success they have enjoyed over the past year already has them expanding to Battery Park City’s “Brookfield Place”- a revamp of the World Financial Center space- in 2014.