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Wildwood Barbecue


LPShanet
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This topic has been started to discuss Wildwood Barbecue, the new barbecue venture from Steve Hanson (in the space that previously housed Park Avalon and Barca).

Although I would normally not bother to discuss most Hanson ventures (Fiamma excepted), barbecue seems like the kind of cooking that ought to be accomplishable by someone with his background. The man behind the grill is a former Hill Country pit person, which lends some credibility. The fact that they're serving multiple styles of barbecue from various regions seems like it would draw scorn from the serious afficionados.

Based on only one visit, however, early signs are surprisingly good. At the risk of compromising my foodie credibility, I have to say I really liked our meal there. All the meats were well prepared, the house sauces were excellent (if a bit on the sweet side for purists), the sides were better than any I can remember having in NY barbecue establishments, and they had an exemplary beer list. Our meat choices included two kinds of ribs (pork spare ribs and baby back), brisket, pulled pork, barbecue chicken and sausage. All were at least good, and the pulled pork and brisket better than good. Sides included kettle cooked burnt ends with bacon baked beans (very good), mac and cheese (very serviceable), onion rings (excellent, sweet and crisp, while not overly heavy or greasy), creamed spinach (very nice), sweet potato fries (good tasting but could have been crisper) and mashed potatoes. We also had bottle caps to start (deep fried jalapeno disks), which were first rate of their kind, and chili, which was also very good (another item that was on the sweet side).

The beer list is even more appealing because it features about 10 drafts that are available in three sizes each (9oz. small mugs,20 oz. pints and 64 oz. pitchers) alongside the numerous bottles. The draft choices, in various weights and darknesses, are all excellent companions for barbecue.

Maybe BR Guest has finally found a formula that they can execute decently, and that will help them keep alive in a space that has been seemingly cursed. The overall flavors will appeal most to those who like a healthy dose of sweet with their savory.

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I was pretty fond of Wildwood, though my enthusiasm was not nearly so unalloyed as yours.

I thought the brisket, queen-cut short rib, and sides were excellent. The chicken was good, although I can pretty much always skip that item (except at Dinosaur, oddly enough). Roughly on a level with HC's beer can chicken.

The pork ribs were pretty terrible, especially by comparison with the ones at Hill Country (a bit on the dry side and not nearly as perfect a mix of fat, meat and smoke). We found the sausages bland and a bit on the wet side given their otherwise strong resemblance to Texas links. Beer selection was pretty good, though not great (they won't be stealing any accolades from Blue Smoke in this regard, for example).

The Memphis baby back ribs struck me as being about as "fake barbecue" as one can get, largely due to the assertively-sweet sauce. That may be an issue of taste, though (I'm rarely a fan of heavily-sauced BBQ that's not KC-style).

The other problem I had were the prices. Wildwood is *not* cheap, and for this money, I expected better than Hill Country, not even the same or worse.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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Why does NYC BBQ need to be so goddamn expensive... because it can be? I assume

That's part of the reason I'm so fond of Daisy Mae's, it's not cheap but not expensive, you don't feel like you're eating a $13 bowl of ramen or anything ;-)

I feel like the pricey ones in Gramercy and Chelsea are there for out-of-town or expat Southerners

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I expected better than Hill Country, not even the same or worse.

I expected less than Hill Country for two reasons:

1. Stephen.

2. Hanson.

My expectations were met. Not terrible, but certainly not a patch on Hill Country. Review here.

Ouch!

I do have to disagree with you on the brisket, though it may have been the particular evening in question. My TX BBQ buddy and I were both hugely impressed.

I meant the prices and the fact that they'd poached Lou away, really. I'm also clearly too much of a restaurant optimist; I keep thinking that even the Hanson crowd has become educated enough by now that they spurn the crappy-food places. But I can always be wrong; heck, I think people have learned about cocktails by now, and I'm surprised each week by the vodka-and-soda orderers at D&Co!

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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Why does NYC BBQ need to be so goddamn expensive... because it can be? I assume

That's part of the reason I'm so fond of Daisy Mae's, it's not cheap but not expensive, you don't feel like you're eating a $13 bowl of ramen or anything ;-)

I feel like the pricey ones in Gramercy and Chelsea are there for out-of-town or expat Southerners

I like Daisy Mae's just fine for their whole pig, butt, and lamb, but I will say that HC or even Blue Smoke are worth the money and not even all that insanely expensive when all's said and done. I spend a fair amount of time at HC with friends from TX and OK who are quite serious about their barbecue.

There's always Fette Sau, which IMO is a) a whole lot cheaper than HC and b) even better on the beef 'cue, even though they don't have decent ribs and there are no sides to speak of. They do have an absolutely amazing beer selection and a kickass spirits lineup, though (and who wouldn't love a bar that has Laird's bonded, Vya dry and sweet, Junipero, and a decent bitters selection?).

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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I thought raji might have been throwing Blue Smoke and HC into that category as well, though. Both of those clearly spent a fair chunk of change on decor, and the fact is that good beef, especially, simply is not that cheap. But yes, in terms of paying for space and decor (and, sadly, NOT for food), Wildwood is on another level.

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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I was. I assume Dinosaur and Daisy Mae's are able to do because they got cheap space on the west side, which you need for those big cookers and smokers. Good barbeque, wherever, is always destination dining - it's always on the outskirts of town somewhere at some dump, it's almost never in the center of town. I enjoy Blue Smoke but I think that's mostly due to the Danny Meyer influence, and the standard is great

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I expected better than Hill Country, not even the same or worse.

I expected less than Hill Country for two reasons:

1. Stephen.

2. Hanson.

My expectations were met. Not terrible, but certainly not a patch on Hill Country. Review here.

Ouch!

I do have to disagree with you on the brisket, though it may have been the particular evening in question. My TX BBQ buddy and I were both hugely impressed.

I meant the prices and the fact that they'd poached Lou away, really. I'm also clearly too much of a restaurant optimist; I keep thinking that even the Hanson crowd has become educated enough by now that they spurn the crappy-food places. But I can always be wrong; heck, I think people have learned about cocktails by now, and I'm surprised each week by the vodka-and-soda orderers at D&Co!

To be fair, I've heard so many widely differing reviews that I'd have to chalk things up to either differences in taste, the inconsistency that comes with being only 2 weeks old, or both. I've now heard a few "cue experts" rave about a few of Wildwood's items and feel lukewarm about others. And it's rarely the same ones. For that reason, I'd put Wildwood in the "worth a try" category.

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To be fair, I've heard so many widely differing reviews that I'd have to chalk things up to either differences in taste, the inconsistency that comes with being only 2 weeks old, or both.  I've now heard a few "cue experts" rave about a few of Wildwood's items and feel lukewarm about others.  And it's rarely the same ones.  For that reason, I'd put Wildwood in the "worth a try" category.

Even though my own review was mixed, I totally agree with you: it's worth a visit. In fact, I will probably go again, as some out-of-town acquaintances have expressed an interest in visiting the next time they're in town.
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I would imagine that just like with Blue Smoke when they opened, it will take a while for the "pitmaster" to learn the intricacies of their particular smoker, the venting, location, the break-in period, etc.

And that hopefully, over time, the bbq will not only get better but be much more consistent. My bigger question is when will New York reach the bbq saturation point - with Blue Smoke, Hill Country, RUB, and now Wildwood all rather close to each other, will one or two of them fall by the wayside? Or will they all have to step up their game, which will make it even better for bbq enthusiasts.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I would imagine that just like with Blue Smoke when they opened, it will take a while for the "pitmaster" to learn the intricacies of their particular smoker, the venting, location, the break-in period, etc.
One would like to think so. Working against it, though, is the fact that Hanson wants to open a chain of Wildwoods across the country. I think what'll happen is somewhat analogous to the BLT restaurants. If you're focused on expansion, then you're probably not focused on making your flagship restaurant better.
And that hopefully, over time, the bbq will not only get better but be much more consistent. My bigger question is when will New York reach the bbq saturation point - with Blue Smoke, Hill Country, RUB, and now Wildwood all rather close to each other, will one or two of them fall by the wayside?

I don't think we're anywhere near saturation. You'll see more BBQ in New York before you'll see less.
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