When I originally came up with the idea for my weekly feature ‘My Favorite BBQ Joints‘ I had always hoped I’d have Josh Ozersky provide his list. If you don’t know Josh, he is the executive producer and host of Ozersky.TV (you seriously have to check the videos out here, but don’t blame me if you fall behind on anything else you have to do for the day). He also writes the “Taste of America” column for Time Magazine and is the author of The Hamburger: A History and Meet Me In Manhattan: A Carnivore’s Guide to New York City. He’s a winner of the James Beard Award for food writing, was formerly the editor of New York Magazine‘s food blog, Grub Street, and the National Restaurant Editor of Citysearch. If that wasn’t enough, he writes a cooking column for Rachael Ray.com. His next book, Colonel Sanders and The American Dream, will be published next year.
Here are Josh’s favorite BBQ joints in his words:
Shorty’s BBQ – Miami FL
Shorty’s lacks all credibility as a BBQ; partially owing to its generally mediocre meat and partially to the fact that it is two blocks from Dadeland, the consummate soulless Florida mall. But it was here that I first encountered barbecue — and when Shorty’s caught on fire in 1972, learned the fear and contingency that underlay the smoky arts. I was just five years old; and I cried as it burned. The warm, peppery, tobacco-like sauce that sits in tubs of warm water still brings me pleasure when I encounter it, and I had a jar of Shorty’s sauce on my writing desk for many years.
Photo of Shorty’s BBQ courtesy of Inside Fort Lauderdale
The Pit Bar-B-Q – Miami FL
The Pit, on the other hand, was the place were I first encountered great barbecue. I can’t speak to its quality now, having not eaten there for many years; but the sauceless pungency of its sliced — not pulled — pork sandwich made me unspeakably happy. The unbearably long and featureless drive down the Tamiami Trail was almost more than my infant mind could bear, but the giddy expectation took the edge off the boredom, and the ride back was stultfied by a woozy, blissfull satiation.
Photo of the exterior of The Pit Bar-B-Q
RUB – New York, NY
I was fully formed as a barbecuer and judge when RUB opened, and thought I knew it all. Moreover, given the fact that its owner, Andrew Fishchel, was like myself a nerdy, bombastic Jewish wiseass, I was sure it would be the latest gallant but flawed effort at urban barbecue. But Andrew and his pitmaster, Scotty Smith, created something truly inventive there, and continue to make the place a workshop of all that is best and creative in barbecue. Yes, they can still make flawless KCBS style ribs. But it’s the pastrami burnt ends, the smoked pork confit, the world-class bacon, triple smoked and flash-fried in lard, that keep me intrigued and excited after lo these many years of gluttony.
Photo of RUB BBQ
Hill Country Barbecue Market – New York, NY
I was likewise present at the creation of Hill Country, and in fact my best friend was the pitmaster. I had my happiest hours of my thirties, wandering in at random, going right into the back, and taking choice little bites of salt-and-pepper brisket and plump, explosive jalapeno sausage, and even the occasional rib steak. Robbie Richter, the pitmaster, did a magnificent job running the pits on imported Texas post oak and I washed down all the magnificent fat and salt with the sweetest imaginable exlir – a “Hill Country Cooler” of Tito’s vodka, triple sec, and Tang. Good Times!
Photo of Hill Country Barbecue Market courtesy of Eater
Scott’s BBQ – Hemingway SC
My life in barbecue continues to grow and shift, and I keep learning more all the time, reminded forcefully again and again just how petty and poor my self-satisfaction is. I think I know it all — as I did at the Pit, as I did at RUB — and then I find out how little I know. I thought Carolina barbecue was a hoax until I met Rodney Scott, and tasted the meltingly tender, peppery, piquant, whole hog that he cooks in his fabled pits — and then bit the supremely crisp skin of the pigs, and then put the two together, rolled them in white bread, and washed them down with strawberry soda. I was hot and happy and glad to have been so dumb; because the surprise was almost as good as the barbecue.
Photo of Scott’s BBQ courtesy of Peter Frank Edwards / The New York Times / Redux