8th Annual The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party | Madison Square Park | www.bigapplebbq.org | |

I JUST WOKE up from a well-earned nap. Having a rare Sunday off from tending bar, I was finally afforded free time enough to enjoy one of the New York City's newest but most anticipated yearly foodie events, the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.

The BABBP was on its eighth run at Madison Square Park, and by this year had become a not just a fully realized event—with live bands, Q&A sessions with nationally-known pitmasters and barbecue chefs, and expert-led seminars—but the city's most legitimate "immersion" into the nation's indigenous best nationwide barbecue culture.

I was luckier still to have my friend and fellow PHUDE-ie, Marcy, not only join me, but also donate one of the two "fast passes" for the event, which gave us access to discounted food and much shorter lines to booths. Once I met up with her, on the corner of 23rd and Madison, one couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the great smells of various meats over hot coals, the smoke rising like a beacon over the neighboring park, the various plates of food being prepped for mass consumption and being consumed by the masses pretty much everywhere we turned.

Marcy, a BABBP expert, helped me arrange my game plan for the day. Sure, plenty of the vendors were from NYC's on popular BBQ joints, from Blue Smoke, to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, to Hill Country, to Rack 'n' Soul, to Wildwood; I have the rest of the year to visit those places.

Instead, I would try 'cue from outside New York, and try a sample of every type of barbecue available.

Marcy advised me to start off at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (Decatur, Alabama), which she promised had dynamite pulled pork. She was not the only one with that opinion, I realized, once we approached the really long line for the Big Bob Gibson stand. The line was as long as some of the non-fastpass lines. Marcy and I had yet to eat—saving room for the food here—and were starving, so we figured while we waited, we would start with the brisket from three-time World Champion BBQ Team Jack's Old South (chain, Georgia).

I was so hungry, and this was so good, that I had scarfed down almost all three of these beefy, smokey strips of tender beef before I remembered that I was also here to take pictures. I had to take a picture of the two strips Marcy hadn't gotten to yet, and she ate those last two so quickly, I only had time to take the one picture.

Quickly enough, we were getting our pulled pork sandwiches from Gibson's.

Okay, let me just make this whole post a lot easier. Except where otherwise noted, everything I ate today at the BABBP was outstanding! I would use words like tasty, yummy, smokey, tender all throughout this post, and I fear their repetitiveness would only detract from the main point of me relating what an overall a "great ol' time" I had 'cueing it up in the middle of Manhattan with Marcy.

And if eating all of this good stuff wasn't enough, we were also fortunate to catch barbecue rock star (and frequent food TV special guest), Chris Lilly, pull some slow-and-low roasted pork shoulders from his pit, and use his famous knife to chop the pork up into delectable pieces [VIDEO].

As Marcy and I enjoyed our pulled pork sandwiches—with some very nice baked beans—we had found a flat-top surface next to another couple, back by the Jack's Old South stand. We watched the Jack's folks bring out another tray of brisket, and my new neighbor commented on how nice the burnt ends looked. One of the staffers for Old Jack's, overhearing his comment, offered him a nice chunk of burnt end, a portion of which he handed to me.

Heaven! Charcoal-y, beefy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth fatty, slightly sweet, peppery perfection.

Next, we made our way to the Pappy's Smokehouse tent for some very enjoyable St. Louis-style pork ribs.

As we ate those, we were sitting on a park bench right across from the stand for Moonlite Bar-B-Q, not realizing for some time that they were actually serving barbecued mutton!

Neither Marcy nor I tried the sandwich (which came with a vegetable stew-like side dish called burgoo) but did get to sample a piece each. It was, as expected, a little gamey, which I didn't mind as much as Marcy did.

Also while we were sitting, I kept seeing people walking by with paper trays containing what looked like sandwiches of barbecued chicken breast. Further research explained that it was barbecued pork steak from Manhattan's own Wildwood. Marcy and I hit the stand, deciding that our tongues were going to dictate from where and what we would eat; not geography. I was curious, but on the fence until one of the staffers told me the sandwich came topped with bourbon-fried onions. Sold!

Next we happily dined on some beef ribs from Blue Smoke (yes, again from NYC, but they were the only beef rib place!).

Now, in case you wondering how I ate all of this, the answer is: I didn't.  My BABBP expert forewarned me that I would want to show up with containers to take the foods that I couldn't finish home with me. This came in handy as we hit our planned last stop, Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q, for their homemade spiced smoked sausage with pimento cheese and Saltines.

I did have a few bites before I Gladware'd the rest, and the sausage was nicely hot and spicy. Trust me, the crackers are necessary to absorb the spicy oil off your tongue.

So as Marcy and I decided to call it a day, we walked by another long line, this time for a truck for Stubb's Bar-B-Q (Austin,TX), with people walking away from the truck's window with what at first looked like chili and sausage with bread. One of their workers soon explained to me that it was actually chopped brisket in barbecue sauce (sold!), in a roll, and served with a side of Texas sausage.

Marcy and I got on line, figuring we could muster enough appetite and enthusiasm to split one of these. Things got even better when we finally made it to the window to discover that, since they were also one of the sponsors, they were giving these away for free!

You could argue that that may have been a long line because it was free food. You'd be wrong. Very few people knew the food was free, and several who had food went back to take more home. (They even gave out free coupons and free samples of sauce!)

Being, then, done with food for the day (and having two sizable plastic containers full of what would become my dinner and part of the following morning's breakfast), it was time to remove myself from the reverie of barbecue overload. It was a beautiful day to begin with (although we didn't get a chance to stop by Ed Mitchell's The Pit for some whole hog and coleslaw!), and having a full day of some of the country's best smoked, slow-roasted, dry-rubbed, and sauced food, it all became a little unreal.

Although all the 'cueing was going on right outside Madison Square Park, there was plenty abuzz inside the park, where the concert stage and beer garden were located. Many just came to lay out on the lawns and enjoy a lazy Sunday while snacking on barbecue.

At one point I thought I might have really been dreaming, as I could've have sworn that even the traffic signs were taunting me....

Bun Apple Tea!


Wildwood Barbeque on Urbanspoon · Wildwood

Blue Smoke on Urbanspoon · Blue Smoke

8th Annual The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party | Madison Square Park | www.bigapplebbq.org | |