Best Barbecue Pork Ribs in Manhattan

Photograph: Jessica Leibowitz at Serious Eats

OK. I’ll wait…     Done yet?

C’mon.      Really?

OK, children settle down now. Stop the laughing. Yes – the title of this post is the “Best Barbecue Pork Ribs in Manhattan,” as in New York City. Yes, we do have multiple true barbecue restaurants in Manhattan and even more in Brooklyn. And today, we’ll talk about the “best” pork barbecue ribs in Manhattan. Are they the best in the nation? No one said that, so you Southerners. Relax. We’re not taking the crown just yet.

James Boo, Seriouseats.com NY’s budding barbecue expert invited me, my buddy Ned Berke of Sheepsheadbites.comEdible Queens blogger and ‘cue enthusiast Joe DiStefano (known in certain circles as “Joey Deckle”) and barbecue ambassador Amy Mills to join the staff and judge Manhattan’s best pork barbecue ribs and the results are surprising.

Here’s what happened, as James tells on Serious Eats…

This tasting focused on smoked pork ribs available for dine-in or take-out in Manhattan. Choices were based on our informal poll on SENY and the Barbecue Bureau’s top choices. We purchased half-racks of spare ribs to-go from each restaurant, with the exception of Rack and Soul, which only serves baby back ribs:

I’ll pick it up from here. We were led into the Serious Eats office and spread out before us was a large conference table with 7 plates of ribs lined up on one side. The only identifiable marking was a purple post-it tag with the numbers of 1 to 7 written on them. We stood around a while discussing how the judging was to take place and finally dove in.

When we sat down I thought I recognized a couple of the ribs, but as I was eating them I honestly lost my preconceived notions. I knew RUB was there. So was Daisy May, Blue Smoke and Hill Country. I saw them on the plates lined up for tasting, but by the time a rib got to my plate I had no idea which restaurant produced it. Joey Deckle was distributing the ribs to the plate and we were all sharing ribs. Trying to figure out where 1/2 a rib came from was a useless pursuit. So my dear readers, this was true blind judging.

I’m not going to re-write James’s post about the whole experience. You should read it over on Serious Eats, but here’s the winners from the panel’s perspective.

  1. Rack and Soul’s BBQ Baby Back Ribs (7.8/10)
  2. Daisy May’s BBQ’s Kansas City Sweet and Sticky Pork Ribs (7.3/10)
  3. Daisy May’s BBQ’s Memphis Dry Rub Pork Ribs(6.8/10)
  4. Hill Country New York’s Pork Spare Ribs (6.3/10)
  5. Dinosaur Barbeque Harlem’s St. Louis Bar-B-Que Spare Ribs (6.1/10)
  6. Blue Smoke’s Kansas City Spare Ribs (5.5/10)
  7. RUB’s St. Louis-Style Long End (4.5/10)

Frankly, I’m a bit surprised by these results. We all discussed our winners and losers and I didn’t leave thinking this was how it would play out. James still had to tally our written votes, with the exception of Rack and Soul being the hands down winner, every other position was still in flux.

My feelings — To me, the top two were Daisy May’s. My winner was the dry rub ribs, followed by Daisy’s sweet and sticky ribs. This really surprised me as my last visits to Daisy May’s proved so disappointing that I wrote a post pleading with Adam Perry Lang to abandon his London restaurants and take care of Daisy. Maybe he listened, but whomever is handling the cookers at Daisy May’s now is doing a great job. I need to get back there and update my comments.

My least favorite in the bunch was Blue Smoke’s Kansas City Style Spare Ribs. They were completely untrimmed, fatty and tasteless. To me, it appeared that the chef  had completely given up. There were no discernible spices, nor bark or smoke on these ribs. Huge chunks of fat dominated them and easily over powered the meat. I wouldn’t have been surprised to be given these ribs from some newlywed’s first attempt at cooking ribs in oven.

Hill Country’s ribs didn’t fare much better. While these ribs were cooked well, the salt, pepper, paprika seasoning just doesn’t cut it for pork. “Hammy” was the most frequently heard comment here. Stick with the beef boys.

As for the others, well it was a mixed bag as under cooking seemed to be the most common mistake.

I can’t wait to do it again!

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