At $35 a head, this all-you-can-eat AND all-you-can-drink deal at The Strand Smokehouse is one of the best deals I've seen all year. Also, the first 100 people will receive Astoria-themed gift bags! This is all going down from 6-9pm on Thursday 3/27. Click here to purchase tickets. I'm sure they'll sell out!
One of my favorite local blogs, WeHeartAstoria, conducts a best of Astoria survey every year (a real resource for me my first year living in Queens!). This year, they are throwing a party to celebrate the results!
Note: Don't you hate it when you start something and then get too distracted to finish it? Unfortunately that non-awesome situation happened to me with this post. It's a tad delayed but still super delicious. Enjoy!
When I think "New York," I don't usually think of "finger-lickin' good" (with the exception of an experience at Hill Country). However, for one weekend every summer, Madison Square Park becomes charcoal grilling, hickory smoking and pork 'n beans central wend the Big Apple BBQ takes over. At $8 a plate, patrons can gorge themselves with the best BBQ from across the country. All proceeds benefited the Madison Square Park Conservancy.
It was a slightly cloudy day, but that didn't stop the masses from donning their bibs and nibbling their ribs from a selection of more than 15 pitmasters, each with their own unique styles. All sorts of BBQ specialties were represented, including St. Louis Style Ribs, Pulled Pork Shoulder and Smoked Sausage.
|Yup, that's a whole hog|
We kicked off the event with a visit to the pop-up beer garden within the boundaries of the park. Goose Island was the beer sponsor, and I was a happy camper with a glass of their refreshing IPA.
After completing a once-over of all of the food options up and down Madison Avenue, we decided to try two different types of ribs. Ultimately this was decided by the which booths had the shortest lines. The smart folks had paid for an event fastpass well in advance. They were able to have special access to visit each of the booths from behind and skip all the lines and hullabaloo I had to wade through. Definitely doing that next time.
We visited the booth of the famed Gramercy joint, Blue Smoke for their Texas Salt n' Pepper Beef Ribs. Having never experience this kind of rib before, I was pleasantly surprised by how moist they were. Not only did the meat fall right off the bone, but they were full of flavor. We also tried the Baby Back Ribs from Rack & Soul, also in NYC. The sauce on these babies was out of this world, and they came with a side of BBQ beans that left me in BBQ heaven. In the end, I think the consensus was that Blue Smoke's ribs were better.
|Rack & Soul's Baby Back Ribs and BBQ Beans|
|Blue Smoke's Texas Salt n' Pepper Beef Ribs|
On West 26th Street, there's a porthole to Texas. Although the granite outcroppings and the hills of yore have been paved over with concrete and festooned with skyscrapers, Hill Country is aptly named considering the etymology of Manhattan (mana-hatta means "island of many hills" in the Native American Lenape language). Walking in, you can anticipate the yee-hawing, finger-licking, down-home fun you are about to have.
But wait! You must save room for dessert! After all it's included with the Sunday night special. Mike and I opted for two of Hill Country's signature cupcakes - German Chocolate and PB&J. They were, in a word, AWESOME. Just the right amount of gooey and not overly sweet, but still indulgent and fantabulous.
Upon being seated, a friendly hostess will explain the cafeteria like set-up, with each person receiving a meal ticket. Everything you order will be marked off on the ticket and you will use that to pay on the way out. You will find a meat station with every bbq offering known to mankind that has been rubbed and cooked for hours on end to achieve that perfect bbq essence. The ribs are honking huge as well.
After heaping monstrous packages of meat onto your tray, you move over to the sides station, where all the fixin's are served. From Cowboy Pinto Beans to gooey Mac 'n Cheese, and Confetti Cole Slaw to Sweet Potato Bourbon Mash, everyone will find one or two or ten things to happily fill the empty stomach space between the meat.
|Mac 'n Cheese|
Armed with a $50 gift certificate and a Scoutmob discount, my boyfriend Mike and I essentially had $75 to spend and had saved up our calories for the entire day to eat this meal. Sunday is definitely the best day to go because they have a $20 special - 1/4 lb. brisket, one beef rib, one pork rib, 1/4 chicken, 2 sides and a dessert. Holy majoly - that's a lot of food. We each ordered the special and sampled the Sweet Potato Bourbon Mash, Deviled Eggs, Cornbread and Mac 'n Cheese for our sides.
With money to burn, we also decided it was only appropriate to have something tasty to wash everything down with. Served in mason jars, the drinks are very creative. I tried the Texas Tornado with Firefly Sweet Tea vodka, Southern Comfort, lemonade and mint and Mike had the Rolling Thunder (they're big on weather names apparently) with Sailor Jerry's Spiced Navy rum and IBC root beer.
|I told you the ribs were ginormous!|
Even though at the end of the night Mike and I packed away a very large portion of BBQ, we still had three lunches worth of food to take home for the two of us. With a downstairs lounge and another bar, Hill Country is a great venue to catch live music most nights. They also offer weekly specials and an appealing happy hour. My only complaint was that the whole restaurant only has one restroom. But true to Texas standards, it is fairly large.
Hill Country Chicken just opened as a fried chicken outpost a few blocks away from the original BBQ joint. If it's as good as this, I might gain 1000 pounds by the end of the year. Just sayin'.