BBQ Events: Wildwood BBQ Opens Tonight
What are you doing tonight? Are you in New York City? Then you have a new dinner destination; Wildwood BBQ.
Published in Notable Openings
B.R. Guest – the restaurant group behind Blue Water Grill, Dos Caminos, Ruby Foo's and many more – branches out to yet another cuisine with Wildwood Barbeque. Set to debut tomorrow in spacious Flatiron digs that manage to be both rustic and industrial-chic thanks to accents of reclaimed timber and blackened steel, this saucy newcomer doesn't limit itself to one type of 'cue but instead borrows the best techniques from each region. BBQ fans should be pleased enough that "Big Lou" Elrose, who hails from Hill Country, is the pit master t hat they'll be willing to overlook that there's vegetarian chili with smoked tofu on the menu – hey, it's New York.
225 Park Ave. So.; 212-533-2500
Back to me now...I was there last night for a pre-opening feast. Now I know that the professional food reviewers feel that a restaurant needs to be in operation for at least six months before it should be reviewed, I'm going to give you folks a sneak peek.
First - I liked this space a lot. It's designed with a sort of post industrial Adirondack lodge feel. It honors the inspiration of a barbecue joint in the country without ever succumbing to the need to build a theme park like replica.
One side of the restaurant is lined by a long bar with a great selection of beers and bourbons. The room is divided visually into a bar area and a sit down restaurant, but you can get the same food throughout. Like a lot of NYC restaurants, they pack the place with tables, a couple too many in my opinion. It's tight in there.
But what about the food? Service? The real meat and potatoes of a restaurant. (Sorry.)
Well, the kitchen has got it going on! The "Que" that Matt Fisher - aka Hampton Smoker and Big Lou Elrose are producing is pretty close to outstanding. Some of it is just plain outstanding.
The spare ribs, not trimmed but skinned were competition very high quality. I don't think I've ever had a better rib in a restaurant. I was blown away in my first bite. These ribs were pretty close to perfect. What would make them perfect? A little more sauce. I like my ribs sloppy.
The ribs were so good, that I was using Wildwood's ribs to teach my daughter how competition barbecue is judged. A RESTAURANT RIB. If you've never judged a barbecue contest, you don't understand how rare it is to get ribs of this quality in restaurants. The meat came off the bone only where bitten. The rib sweated lightly where the meat was removed. You could taste the meat and the seasonings and they actually complimented each other!
The meat chili was fantastic. I think I may have a new favorite restaurant chili. They do offer a Tofu based chili which I hear is good but we didn't order it tonight. Honestly, I don't think I'll ever try the tofu chili. Tofu ain't for me.
The pulled pork sandwich in which the pork is tossed in a sauce before serving was very good. Conversely, the pulled pork served on the piggy platter was left un-sauced and missed the mark flavor wise. It was beautifully cooked and tender, but could have used some of that sauce.
The brisket gives Hill Country (largely credited by some, such as Time Out Magazine, with having the best brisket in NYC) a run for its money. I'd give Wildwood the edge, but some preferred Hill Country's. The brisket sandwich, the name of which I forget, is great. It would make a fantastic lunch. I only say that because I rarely do sandwiches for dinner. It makes a fantastic dinner as well.
We didn't have the chicken, but we asked others about it and only heard raves. I didn't get to try the lamb ribs either, they're top of my list for my next visit.
They offer two in-house barbecue sauces. The Raspberry Chipotle is outstanding. The other is reminiscent of a vinegar thinned version of Kraft. On the table you'll also find Dirty Dick's hot sauce and an excellent in-house rub.
They have a large range of appetizers and side dishes which I'll leave you to explore. Some need some work. I did have an outstanding lettuce wedge with Texas chipotle-blue cheese dressing with sweetened pecans. I only wish I had a little more pecans and dressing on the lettuce. But that's just my opinion. Getting salad dressing right is tough. Most places over do it.
Desserts were good, with the fluffer-nutter smores being the shining star in the pack. I'm not a big dessert fan. I've never turned down another serving of chicken or left room for dessert, but if you're eating here, you should consider it.
Front of the house service was a mixed bag and you could tell that the staff is still learning. 5 or 6 servers would surround a tray of food trying to figure out what was what and where to deliver it. Inevitably they got it wrong. I would much prefer the servers asking who gets the ribs, rather then placing the wrong dishes in front of the various diners. Plates, glasses and silverware were removed between courses, which I loved, but then next course would arrive long before your next round of silverware. One of our appetizers never appeared. I know all of this will be fixed before opening. Supervisors were taking notes.
My buddy Gary over at Pigtrip got into Wildwood on Sunday. His take on the place is filled with some great pictures. You can get his review here.
So to sum this up... Wildwood has some very minor problems to work out, but trust me my loyal readers, this is the new destination barbecue in New York City. Let me change that a little bit. Wildwood is the new destination restaurant in New York City. Period.
If they're this good now, I can't wait for that magic six month review. Peace out!