TeaI've been in New York a few weeks now, and find that I miss a few things that I took for granted in the South. Sweet tea is high on my list of things that I need and good BBQ is another necessity of life that hasn't been fulfilled lately. In fact, I've been boring my friends with my complaints about the lack of fine Southern cuisine and sweet tea. Last night, a couple of us decided to satisfy my sweet tea and BBQ jones all in one fell swoop and ended up at Daisy May's on 623 11th Ave at the corner of 46th. Looking at their web site and getting many recommendations from locals and readers of my blog, we went over there, and I have to tell you that I had great anticipation. Their menu looks like a BBQ junkie's nirvana, and their advertised 32 oz mason jar of sweet tea looked very promising. We took a taxi over to Daisy May's, waited in a long line and ordered 2 racks of sticky ribs, sides of cole slaw, mashed potatoes with red eye gravy, baked peaches, collard greens, mac and cheese, creamed spinach, an order of pulled pork, and of course, the 32 oz of sweet tea. The line moved quite fast, service was good, and we had our food in a manner of minutes. When our food arrived, we were profoundly disappointed with the ribs. Although quite meaty, they were not tender, quite dry, and felt like they had been held in a warming oven for hours. They also only gave 6 small ribs for a portion which was a minor disappointment. The sauce didn't adhere to the ribs very well, had no carmelization, and a pecular granular quality, which suggested that they were applied in a last minute rush job. The taste of the sauce was billed as being sweet, but we could not detect any real sweetness, however, the sauce tasted like a mouthful of wet spice I will give them kudos for the side dishes which were quite good, although the red eye gravy wasn't real red eye gravy because real red eye gravy has either coffee or Dr. Pepper as an ingredient, and this had neither.. The sweet tea was OK, but nothing spectacular, missing a key ingredient…..ice. They also put some kind of mint leaf for flavoring in the tea, which is something no self respecting Southerner would do.

The fact that Daisy May's was standing room only, suggests that a place like Woody's, Slim's, or Sonny's BBQ would make millions of dollars in Manhattan.

The quest for the best BBQ in Manhattan needs to continue, and further scientific study is needed.

As a sidebar, in the South, one can smell a good BBQ joint for blocks, and I've noticed no such smells in New York. Is excessive government environmental regulation responsible for the dearth of BBQ places in and around Manhattan.

To me, an ideal BBQ place would have the best BBQ, good sides, a variety of sauces, and a juke box playing country music non-stop.

Marion Dreyfus says:

Apologies on behalf of NYC, Jeff.

We foodies know Daisy May's is not that good, as no locals with foodie smarts go there. (The people in the queue must have been from the suburbs or tourists altogether hunting the same elusive nirvana you seek.)

Up in Harlem you can find BBQ (not sure about the sweet tea)–but I have been to only a very few of the bars there in the company of people in the know.

A Southern (but peripatetic) professor of the art of barbeque says:

Blue SmokeThe gentleman asks for good barbecue in NYC. It’s absurd to recommend Damon’s and Famous Dave’s [as Dailyspec contributor Steve Leslie did]. Damon’s has no presence in NYC and only a minor presence in the south. It is a bland midwestern place where people go to watch football on widescreen tvs. Famous Dave’s is the Olive Garden/Red Lobster of barbecue. They have a location now near Times Square, but even NYers are barbecue-savvy enough to know to stay away.

It’s also deeply offensive to dis both Woody’s and Sonny’s. Yes, they’re chains, but they have fantastic barbecue at ridiculously cheap prices. It’s a shame that the economy has forced Sonny’s to retrench and cut back on their number of locations. The dis also has no relevance because, again, the gentleman was asking about barbecue in NYC, where Sonny’s and Woody’s have no presence.

The places to go for BBQ in NYC are:

Blue Smoke – pricey and often crowded, maybe a little too glam for ‘cue, but very good (116 E 27th St)

Hill Country (30 W 26th St)

Dinosaur – Out of the way, up in Harlem and near the West Side highway (646 W 131st St), but very good and very cheap

RUB (”Righteous Urban Barbecue”) – in Chelsea (208 W 23d)





Speak your mind

11 Comments so far

  1. Angelo on June 13, 2009 1:20 pm

    Looking for a good BBQ place in NYC. Suggestions?

  2. Steve Leslie on June 13, 2009 1:30 pm

    Living in the south for 25 years, I have become so tired of those from NY who exclaim "You can't get good pizza like we get in NY" or "You can't get good ________ like you get in NY." They want you to believe that all the good stuff goes to NY first and then they ship out the rest of the leftovers to the South. However, your anecdotal discovery may have uncovered messianic truth's.

    As reviewed here recently, the key to ribs is in the preparation. There is no substitute for low and slow. I look at rib preparation esp pork ribs like coddling an egg. You can not rush a masterpiece. I wrote on my 'house recipe" that was handed down to me from a family member who owned a Damon's Grille. To properly prepare pork ribs takes 2 hours. If you want details, send me an email at leslie278@yahoo.com and I will be honored to reply.

    It is interesting to note that long lines are not reflective of quality. I would bet most restaurants have long waiting lists in NYC depending on time of day. I think the paradox one faces as a restauranteur is choose volume over high quality and at the end of the day the bills must be paid. You and I must agree to disagree having known some franchisees Woody's I consider very average and Sonny's that is adequate but not inspiring. Hooters is surprisingly good esp the wings and some other BBQ items, I have found with respect to BBQ, family owned and operated is a distinct advantage over chains. However, I think Damon's, Famous Dave's are two franchises that give you an honest shot at a good BBQ. If you are in or around the space coast, for a shuttle launch or vacation try to get to Kay's in Cocoa on 520 near I-95 and Frankies Wings and Things. Even Charlie and Jakes can put out decent food.

    Good luck and good eats.


  3. Rocky Humbert on June 13, 2009 5:03 pm

    I respectfully disagree with Marion. I've never had the sticky sweet ribs nor the sweet tea, but believe their dry rub is the best of that genre in Manhattan for both a street address and cab fare requiring only two digits.

    Additionally, they only recently received a liquor license, and their bottle of Coors also compares favorably with Coors purveyors.

  4. Dan Costin on June 13, 2009 6:12 pm

    Did you attend the BBQ party in Madison Sq Park this weekend? May still be on tomorrow. Lots of out-of-town joints come in. http://bigapplebbq.org/

  5. jeff watson on June 14, 2009 8:47 am

    Steve, I agree with you that many franchises of Woody's and Sonny's are just adequate, and there is much better BBQ out there. However, even a mediocre Woody's would still top the #1 ranked (by Zagats) BBQ place in Manhattan. You couldn't even compare anything in Manhattan to a place like Slims in Arcadia as that would be like comparing crayon drawings to Seurat.

    What I still don't get is what's up with the lack of sweet tea. Brewed tea, simple syrup, and ice…can't get any simpler than that.


  6. Ken Drees on June 15, 2009 9:05 pm

    What is it with this Sweet Tea? McDonalds is posting billboards about their fine sweet tea all over the place. Obviously a powdered tea with high fructose corn syrup — a crowd pleaser for the masses, whose taste buds have been removed.

    Once, I gave a thirsty business associate a bottle of Lipton's unsweetened, un-lemoned, cold ice tea — it's all I had in the cooler. He hoisted the bottle and in his thirst guzzled a nice large amount and then he went completely angry.

    "What the *&*( is this *&^%?", he angerly said. Further, "I can't drink this!", and the bottle of tea was thrust back at me from a fist. I was a bit taken back and apologized that this was unsweetend tea that I liked to drink because it had a strong tes taste that refreshed.

    I now make a very "slightly" sweetened sun tea now for my family.

    Get a one gallon sun tea clear glass jar. Fill almost to the top with cold water.

    use 9 (nine only) Tetley black tea bags floated on the top of the jar and put out in the sun for at least 6 hours. 9am to 3pm is proper, in order to refrigerate for the evening.

    Take in the house, remove the tea bags and with clean hands squeeze the bags, all at once in your fist, into the jar to make sure all the tea flavor is not wasted. Add 1/3cup of cane sugar — not a lot for a gallon, and the juice of half a lemon and the slices of the other half.

    Then take a wooden spoon and stir in the sugar — it's easy to do because the liquid is warm from the sun. Put the jar in the fridge and let cool.

    Serve over ice — sprig of mint optional. Children and adults love this tea! Now that BBQ find is the next problem to solve.

  7. Christopher Tucker on June 15, 2009 11:52 pm

    Thank you Prof!

  8. Steve Leslie on June 16, 2009 9:40 am

    To Jeff. I dont drink tea but with respect to sweetened tea let me ask, why not get unsweetened tea and sweeten it yourself at the table would that not solve your problem?

    This reminds me of the scene in Slingblade where three men are trying to figure out why a lawnmower won't start. They enlist the advice of the imbecile Karl played by Billy Bob Thornton who has a particular skill in fixing two-cycle motors. Karl says "It ain't got no gas".

    Back to business. Every Monday night and Friday night The VFW allows outsiders to have dinner at the post. I attend the one in Cocoa Beach which is next door to my business. Friday night is always steak night. A 12 oz cut of New York Strip Angus Beef cooked on an open grille. Baked potato and a side salad for $12. Consistently excellent.

    Monday is something different each night. Last night was pulled pork on Texas Toast, homestyle baked beans (no store bought stuff in a can here,a little potato salad and a small dessert. $6. An Ice cold domestic beer on tap and there you have it. No flash, no zip, no waiter, just a bunch of genuine Americans who served their country in a foreign war. As good as anything I have had in any restaurant in the North South East West.

    The conversation was also highly engaging. We discussed movies, Westerns, literature including but not limited to Jack London, John Steinbeck, Hemmingway, L'Amour, McMurtry. We had all the branches represented. A few WWII vets show up, but mostly Korea on up. http://www.vfw10148.com/. See if your local post offers the same opportunity I have a great time when I visit my Vet friends.

  9. jp highland on June 16, 2009 10:13 am

    Try Wildwood. 225 Park Ave South. Excellent.

  10. jeff watson on June 16, 2009 11:33 am

    If you take unsweetened tea with ice in it and add sugar, most of the sugar won’t dissolve and you have a bunch of sugar on the bottom of the glass.

    What I do to make perfect tea at home is that I gently boil a simple syrup of equal weights of sugar and water. I brew my tea with loose tea and one of those metal contraptions, making about a quart and a half of very concentrated tea. After the tea has steeped and cooled off, I put it into a pitcher, add the simple syrup, then fill up the pitcher with cold water and refrigerate. After doing this for many years, I can accurately guesstimate the proper concentration by color. Also, this method of making tea will keep it from getting cloudy.

    For the past few years, I haven’t made much sweet tea, as Publix has a very tasty sweet tea for $2.49 per gallon, and it’s buy one get one free every three weeks or so. I drink a lot of Publix sweet tea.


  11. Joey Biden on June 16, 2009 3:14 pm

    JP–Yes, the meat at Wildwood is great. They have a bizarre sauce though with some strange fruity flavor which kind of turned me off of the place a little bit.

    Steve Leslie writes "why not get unsweetened tea and sweeten it yourself at the table". Even New Yorkers know that you have to add the sugar when the tea is hot. Sugar's more soluble at high temperature. When you cool the tea, eventually the extra sugar should condense and fall to the bottom of your glass, but that doesn't happen for a long time–the sugar remains in solution in a non-equilibrium "super-saturated" state.


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