Wednesday, April 18, 2012
John Brown Smokehouse - A Meat-tacular Experience
After being on our must-try list for almost 4 months, Dan, Mo and I finally got our act together and tried the BBQ at John Brown Smokehouse. We knew this place would prove to be a bit quirky, and we were all up for that, as the smokey bbq smell that permeated the 2 block radius around JBS drew us in.
Located in a still developing (as in a bit deserted) neighborhood on 37th Avenue near Crescent Street, John Brown feels a bit out of place, sandwiched between a mix of residential and commercial buildings.
The vibe inside is super chill, where it feels more like someone's dining room rather than a restaurant. Maybe the reason for that is because there's no table service, and people don't eat off of plates but large plastic trays filled with their signature bbq meats and fixins. I love the big counter up front that lists the whole menu simply on a chalkboard. It's also convenient that as you're figuring out what to get, you can get a peek at it in the glass display of meats and sides - it's all there for pure, unadulterated admiration.
Even though the menu was simple, it was extensive enough that we had a hard time deciding what to get. After some debate, we agreed on a 3 meat platter, which came with two sides; and on top of that we also ordered a half chicken. It was more than enough food, but we weren't crazy stuffed, which was good.
3 Meat Platter - We each chose a protein that caught our eye, I personally zeroing in on the burnt ends, Dan choosing the pulled pork and Mo selecting the brisket. Then came the sides of mac and cheese, which was a no brainer and the baked beans with beef. Everything was pretty tasty, and as messy as it should be, with the pulled pork and brisket really taking it home. Both were tender and full of flavor, with the perfect amount of juiciness. Even though they didn't need it, John Brown's house ghost pepper sauce enhanced these meats, giving them a little more pop through a zesty, slightly spicy flavor.
The burnt ends aren't something I'd get again, as I (and my dining companions) thought they were too dry and lacked flavor. I much rather prefer the ones at Butcher Bar, which were just excellent on their own or in a sandwich.
In terms of the sides, the baked beans dish was a clear winner, as it exuded depth of flavor, with a slight sweetness from the stewy sauce that enveloped it. I loved the chunks of beef that were interspersed throughout, elevating it to so much more than a side.
1/2 Chicken - I couldn't believe how yummy the chicken was, boasting a slightly crispy, well-done skin and perfect chunks of tender, juicy white meat (I never thought that combination was actually possible). The meat was tasty on its own but once again, improved further when dressed with the ghost pepper sauce. As we dug into the chicken with our bare hands, some of us ate it without anything else, while others sandwiched it in between a piece of soft white Wonder Bread. Deep South-style!
Service and Cost:
Even though I don't have any serious complaints, the service was a tad odd - at first, our food was served just lukewarm, which should've been noticed. We asked to have it heated up again, which they did graciously and the whole thing was way better, but it just seemed like something elementary that should've been taken care of from the get-go. Again, not a deal breaker, just noted.
Costs are affordable, and I also love that this place is a BYOB. The entire dinner set us back about $30 with tax.
John Brown Smokehouse - 25-08 37th Avenue, Long Island City NY 11101
N/Q Train to 36th Avenue