Restaurant Review - Pearson's Texas BBQ
Pearson's Texas BBQ
170 East 81st Street
New York City, 10028
Thursday I finally had a chance to go to Pearson's for dinner. Pearson's Texas BBQ is something of a NYC legend. I don't know all the facts, but apparently Robert Pearson, who is English, opened his first BBQ place in Conneticut some 20 years ago. After that he moved it to Jackson Heights, Queens and now has moved on the the toney upper east side of Manhattan. His was the first real pit in NYC.
Pearson's Texas BBQ is a small restaurant, with an even smaller bar area. The food is served in red plastic trays with red and white checked paper liners. If you saw the old show "The Restaurant" of Rocco's you get the idea. But Pearson's is much more down scale. It's very much like Rudy's in Austin Texas. Unlike all the other BBQ joints in NY, you know you're approaching Pearson's by the smell of the pit. It permeates the surrounding neighborhood.
So, how's the food?
I started with hush puppies with a chipolte dip ($4.00). I was served 7 tablespoon sized hush puppies, with the dip in a plastic take out container. The hush puppies were awful. They were burnt and the chipolte dip had absolutely no kick to it. Don't waste your money. Virgil's has some great hush puppies.
I ordered the two meat platter of barbecued brisket and barbecued pork shoulder. ($17.95) The brisket was cooked to perfection. Tender, moist and nicely, if a bit bland, flavored. It had a nice bark and a pink smoke ring. When I was trained to judge brisket for KCBS contests, one of the tests was to pull the beef slightly, it should give a bit, like an accordion opening up. Pearson's passed with flying colors.
The pork, which was pulled, was also excellent. It had a dark bark and the meat was moist. It had just the right mouth feel, tender and a little chewy, but not mushy. The menu also had an additional choice of barbecued North Carolina style pork. I asked the waiter the difference was and he wasn't able to define either style correctly. The only thing he could say is that the NC style had a sauce on it.
The meats came with a side of coleslaw which was served in a plastic takeout container. The coleslaw was a standard NY style coleslaw, unremarkable and dull.
After trying the meats as presented, naked and without sauce, I sampled the two sauces on the table. One was "mild" and the other "spicy", but neither had much bite to them. Now in true Texas BBQ, sauces are only served grugdingly. If they serve a sauce at all, it has great flavor and a definite heat to it. Both of Pearson's sauces miss the mark.
I also ordered the sweet ice tea. Good, but not great. Go to Daisy May's if you want sweet ice tea. It's much much better.
Overall, Pearson's has the best BBQ meat I've ever had in NYC, with the exception of my own. But, the sauces, sides and appetizers were all a disappointment. Pearson's is also fairly pricey, but that's to be expected based on its location. Will I be back? - hell yeah, but I think I'll stay with the sandwiches.