Writing or talking about barbecue is always fun, because even the quietest, most demure people I know have very strong feelings on the subject. Sauce or no sauce. Beef or pork. Whole hog or shoulders. Wet ribs or dry. Kansas City vs. Memphis vs. Texas vs. St. Louis vs. North Carolina ad infinitum.
As a proud Southerner, I've engaged in a little of this over the years. But I must confess that the best barbecue I've had in my entire life came from a bunch of hipsters in New York.
Fette Sau is located two stops into Brooklyn from Manhattan on the L line, three blocks from the Lorimer station — hardly the rustic digs of more glamorized places like the Salt Lick. But holy hell, it was greatness. The table of meat that greeted me was insane: pulled pork shoulder, pork cheeks, pork belly, brisket, St. Louis-style pork ribs, boneless beef ribs. It was an onslaught of heritage goodness and I struggled not to order it all.
As I made my way through the quarter-sheet full of animal — I dispensed with making space for sides — a certain depression set in. I've spent a good amount of my adulthood trying to get to some of barbecue's holiest temples, all of them south of the Mason-Dixon line. To find this level of accomplishment in New York was something that shook my Southern exceptionalism to the core. That's how good Fette Sau is.
It was a lesson to me that a lot of the tribalism that has crept up around barbecue is just preference that has metastasized into pure snobbery. In my experience, Texas and North Carolina are the worst about it, but you see it everywhere there's really good barbecue. It's pure "barba-tude" — to borrow pitmaster Carey Bringle's word — and it's probably one of the reasons I like Martin's. Pat Martin's background is pure West Tennessee, but he's not a slave to it.
What's your favorite barbecue place? Is there a particular style you love more than others?