Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sheldon Ludnick -- sexiest man alive

The great Calvin Trillin has a really fabulous article about Texas barcecue in the New Yorker this week.

Specifically, the article is about Snow's, a joint in Lexington, Texas which Texas Monthly named the best barbecue restaurant in the state -- even though nobody had ever heard of it before. ("I felt like a People subscriber who had picked up the “Sexiest Man Alive” issue and discovered that the sexiest man alive was Sheldon Ludnick, an insurance adjuster from Terre Haute, Indiana, with Clooney as the runner-up," Trillin writes. That's the reason he's Calvin Trillin.)

Now, I am a very big barbecue fan -- but I'm no expert. I know there's a difference between Kansas City and Texas barbecue, but I couldn't begin to distinguish the two in a blind tasting. (Something having to do with the fact that Kansas City is more sauce heavy?)

But I should warn you, if you read this article you will get hungry.

There are a number of good places to sate your barbecue hunger in the city (which natives of Texas and Missouri might disagree with me on) which I would recommend; below are Max Gross' top four:

First, I like Hill Country in Chelsea.

Most Texans I know (and people who have spent time in Texas) swear by its authenticity. I take their word for it -- but authenticity aside, it's absolutely delicious. The guys working the pit cut off huge slabs of brisket that really do melt in your mouth. (They also offer the option of lean brisket, but come on! If you're spending those kinds of calories, you're already priced in.) And even though Trillin sorts of puts down side dishes in his article, the German potato salad is not to be missed. (And even though I'm not much of a mac and cheese fan, several friends of mine swear by Hill Country's.)

While you're in Chelsea, you might mosey over to Righetous Urban Barbecue -- a k a, RUB. (How did Chelsea wind up with two of the four or five best barbecue joints in the city? Beats me.)

They do the basics extremely well at RUB (particularly the pork) and the chicken wings, which are slathered in spice, are definitely worth a taste. Great ribs, great chicken, great fries. (I'm serious -- the fries are really excellent.)

If you can get a big group together, you would be crazy not to head off to Daisy May's at 11th Avenue and 46th Street and get the whole pork butt.

It costs $150 (and requires a day's notice) but split between 6 or 7 people it's fairly reasonable and it's not too much food. Moreover, this pork is beyond delicious. (The NY Post real estate team went there once in celebration of a fall preview a year or two ago, and we all licked our plates.) If you ever have any Orthodox Jewish friends you'd like to take over to the dark side, take them to Daisy May's.

My good friend and editor is a native Texan and he claims that Dinosaur Barbecue up in Harlem is no better than an Applebee's. I'll take his word for it -- but I think that speaks extremely well for Applebee's. Dinosaur has some excellent ribs (not too fatty); very decent brisket; and super hot (and delicious) wings. Plus, it's got the feel of a Texas joint. I love going to Dinosaur!

**** Now, here's my list of three places to avoid ****

Blue Smoke. As much as I personally like Danny Meyer -- and having met the man, I attest that he is a prince -- this place is way overpriced. Not bad, but the other places I mentioned are better.

Virgil's. Another case of a restaurant that is not half-bad in terms of the food, but makes you feel extremely ripped off when you get the check. They're taking advantage of their location. (Times Square. Why a tourist would come to New York to get barbecue, though, is beyond me.)

Spanky's. A couple of months ago, Spanky's might not have edged into number five on my favorite's list... and it still has a few good things going for it. It's not insanely priced. And I really like the room. But the food has really gone down hill. When I first went there a couple of years ago, I had an excellent meal, and kept going back trying to duplicate this. This hasn't happened.