Hill Country | 30 West 26th St. (bet. 5th & 6th Aves.) | 212.255.4544 | www.hillcountryny.com

YES, IT'S THAT time of year again. The time of year most foodies prepare for summer cooking. That almost always involves all sorts and types of meat being slowly massaged or fervently licked by open flames.

Barbecue season is upon us, however, us Yankees can't claim any real BBQ tradition as we could claim having a indigenously unique and noteworthy take on sushi.

I was lucky enough to grow up with the excellent soul food and southern cooking of my mom and dad—from North Carolina and South Carolina respectively—and reappropriated many of their recipes myself, having over the years grown cynical of any "Southern-style" eateries that pop up the New York City area.

But the last few years have seen a proliferation of highly regarded BBQ joints, and though I don't expect to find or decide on a "best" (for the same reason I won't declare a best pizza or best burger), I could have some great fun doing some waist-expanding research.

So it was this afternoon as my best PHUDE partner, "Trixie", and I scheduled a lunch together at a openly homey and welcomingly southern-décored space called Hill Country, already named "Best BBQ in New York" by New York Magazine and Time Out NY, as well as "Top 10 BBQ in the U.S." by the Wall Street Journal. (Honorable pedigree indeed...!)

It's Texas style barbecue, which basically means the meat gets cooked, smoked "low and slow" and sauces are an afterthought at the diner's discretion. And in typical Texas BBQ style, your order card gets filled out as you order your meats and sides.

I ordered a quarter pound each of moist (fatty) beef brisket and pork spare rib, with a shipped-directly-from-Texas(!) Kreuz Market sausage link, adding side servings of macaroni & cheese and cold potato salad. Trixie,in fine "girl" fashion, ordered the (Bell & Evans" chicken and a side salad, though she did go strong by also ordering the sweet potato bourbon mash.

No complaints here! Everything we ate was more than serviceable (faint praise? no!). I'n my sole opinion BBQ comes out two ways: bad or excellent. A sacrilegious ideology to many, sure, but I am under no impression that I going to find the "best"—or near to it—BBQ in New York City, save what my own family, from the South, make at family get-togethers and cookouts.

But short of that, the brisket was juicy, really tender and full of beefy flavor. The ribs were served well by their peppery spice rib, letting the pork flavor eventually shine through with just enough saltiness to get all of my taste buds enjoy the fun. The sausage's taut skin happily snapped to reward me with a nicely seasoned, almost crumbly meaty interior dribbling with its own rendered fats.

Trixie's chicken—of which I only had one piece of, with Hill Country's own table perky BBQ sauce—was likewise moist, with a flavorfully smoky skin that didn't overwhelm the chicken meat's own tastes.

New York City is full of BBQ joints promising authentically cooked meats in the styles of any number of Southern states (there was another such place directly across the street!), and it seems safe to assume that folks north of the Mason Dixon aren't as picky about their barbecue as they should be. And as Trixie and I paid and walked out, I thought how lucky the city's denizens should realize they are that restaurants (others including RUB, Dinosaur, Wildwood,etc.) are starting to take their BBQ seriously.

Even in Midtown....

Bun Apple Tea!


Hill Country | 30 West 26th St. (bet. 5th & 6th Aves.) | 212.255.4544 | www.hillcountryny.com