GOOD EATS NYC 2023 (A Blanket Thread)

My discussions of the restaurants Toni and I ate in during our 30-days in August-September have been less detailed just because of the time that has passed since I got around to posting all of this. My memories have already faded.

So for my final post of our trip, I’m going to post a somewhat edited conversation I had with another Hungry Onion participant right after we’d eaten at Foxface Natural, which was before the rave reviews in the NYT and the New Yorker.

(I’d also highly recommend Robert Sietsema’s dyspeptic dissenting view in Eater.com, titled “This East Village Hype Machine Charges $28 for Two Shrimp” – https://ny.eater.com/2023/10/23/23925204/foxface-natural-east-village-review )

This exchange is lightly edited because I was frankly a bit tipsy when I wrote it in the middle of the night:

HungryOnionGuy: “Did you go to Foxface? How was it? I The owners and chef are all original CH folks and are on Mouthfulsfood.com .
If you were there, did you notice a guy with a pronounced British accent and a 20 something year old daughter dining there? He’s another CH/Mouthfulsfood person.”

Me: “We did go and had a great time, in part filled by speculation about whether the older gentleman and much younger lady were father and daughter or lovers. I bet on father/daughter, Toni favored the lovers hypothesis. To be fair to Toni, she wasn’t facing them so she couldn’t see much of their interactions.”

“We really enjoyed the meal, the people-watching, and the interactions with the owners and the employees. Overall, the experience was tremendous, but there were some nits about the food – as you’d expect when the menu is this playful and experimental.”

“The people watching was tremendous, topped by this really hunky bearded guy in a cute tennis skirt with HAWAII on the butt. The neo-punk soundtrack was a lot of fun, I kept shazaming songs to see what they were.”

“(A detour: The New York magazine review of Foxface Natural mentioned that the soundtrack the night they ate there included “I Fd Yr Mom” by Sorry Mom. Last August, Toni and I saw Sorry Mom at Elsewhere in Bushwick and Toni was standing by the lead singer’s dad when they played “I Fd Yr Mom,” which is a really good and funny neo-punk song. If you have a chance to see Sorry Mom soon, you should jump on it as they are on a Sex Pistols-esque brief meteoric flash of brilliance.)”

“The two reds by the glass were both natural, which we ordered after grumbling about how bad the natural wines we’d had in Tbilisi were – Sivan laughed and said that their natural wines were nothing like the rotgut fermented grape juice the Georgians make. They were the best natural wines we’ve ever had, but did not convert us into fans of natural wines.”

“We got the sourdough (11 dollars!), cured Boston mackerel, kangaroo tartare, girella pasta stuffed with golden tilefish, and smoked Boer goat.”

“The highlights were the superb girella pasta (our only complaint was that the server took away the plate before we’d sopped up all the sauce with the sourdough) and the pureed sweet peppers that accompanied the mackerel.”

Girella pasta:

“The kangaroo tartare was really good, probably better than most beef tartare I’ve had because it seemed lighter – maybe because it was kangaroo but maybe because it omitted the egg that makes beef tartare a little heavy. The only suggestions I would make for the tartare are (a) to reduce the generous portion size somewhat (it was Kangaroo Mountain), as almost all raw meat dishes (tartare, Ethiopian kitfo, Lebanese kibbeh nayeh) become cloying fairly quickly and (b) serve the dish with sourdough or some equally heavy bread. The flatbread that was served with the tartare was delicious, but not heavy enough to stand up to the richness of the meat.”

“The only clear miss of the meal was the jet-black eggplant puree that accompanied the tartare. It was visually striking but bland to the point of near tastelessness. I suspect Sivan was aware of issues with the eggplant as she emphasized to us when she served the tartare that we should first taste it on its own, with no accompaniments.”

“The mackerel was superb and the little bits of pickled vegetables that accompanied it were even better.”

“Our reaction to the smoked Boer goat was, I think, purely a function of expectations.”

“I am a serious fan of barbecue.”

“Toni and I take barbecue vacations – our ‘second honeymoon’ this spring (to celebrate our 50th) included meals at seven of the most famous Eastern Carolina barbecue places (this followed recent trips to Austin and the Rio Grande Valley to eat barbecue).”

"And, though I’m not very good at it, I’ve spent a fair amount of time making backyard barbecue (my daughter told me she once wrote a post-grad essay on her favorite food memory, which was of me awake at 2 am, sipping bourbon, and cursing the difficulty of keeping the fire steady). "

“I have spent scores if not hundreds of hours on a barbecue spreadsheet covering more than 1000 restaurants that aggregates the opinions of every knowledgeable barbecue critic I’m aware of.”

“I know and like barbecue.”

“The menu description of the Boer goat at Foxface sounds like barbecue – ‘smoked low and slow.’ When I asked our server for more details, she brought over the chef, who patiently described the whole cooking process (under my cross-examination) - cooked for 16 hours over cherry and apple, in a gas-assisted Old Hickory smoker (which Sivan said was the largest NYC permits for indoor cooking), pure smoke for at least 3-4 hours (or more depending on the fattiness of the goat), then wrapped to avoid oversmoking. He even showed us photos of what Boer goats look like.”

“So Toni and I were psyched for some heavily smoked barbecue.”

“That’s not what we got. Instead, we got a very lightly smoked plate of roasted goat, with some delicious new potatoes and a delicate tomato sauce.”

“I’m sure it was tremendous, but it was such a mismatch with our expectations that we did not fully appreciate it. To make things worse, we’d finally caught longtime Bed-Stuy neighborhood favorite Royal Rib actually open the day before and it was surprisingly good barbecue pork and ribs. By our standards it was very lightly smoked, but it was delicious, solid A-minus barbecue. I’d actually had leftover Royal Rib pork on white sandwich bread for lunch the very day we ate at Foxface Natural.”

"So, measured against what I was expecting for the smoked Boer goat at Foxface Natural, my reaction was, ‘This isn’t even the best barbecue I’ve had today.’ "

“That wasn’t fair, I’m sure. The goat was delicious, but it didn’t fit the taste profile of American barbecue that was imprinted on my brain. If it had been described as ‘roast’ goat without using language that evoked classic American barbecue, I’m sure I would have found it delicious (and we have leftovers that I plan to re-taste).”

“I don’t mean to end on a negative note. The meal at Foxface was memorable, inventive, and fun. I’ve already recommended it to our friends with whom we come to NYC every January to eat. But I do think recasting the description of the Boer goat dish is advisable.”

An update to this semi-drunken late night review: We saved the leftover roast Boer goat for our lunch on our bus ride back to northern Virginia. Shorn of any expectations as to its being “barbecue,” the goat was sensational, even as leftovers balanced on my lap on a bus bouncing southward down I-95.

I’m sure Foxface Natural is not the same now, given all the publicity. But the meal we had there is one we’ll remember for years.

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So, have you been there yet? It’s not a great food neighborhood, at least when compared to the surrounding ones, but there’s been good stuff there on and off over the years. I grew up only blocks away in Midwood but hardly ever had occasion to be there for anything. Except, of course, to visit one of my grandmothers in Washington Cemetery.

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We’re starting to plan our next trip south and always make a bbq stop going and coming, which six eastern nc bbq joints did you visit and what did u like?

Last trip home, after a ten year absence, we stopped at honey monk’s, the coarse chop with outside brown was as good as I remembered, the hush puppies better than I remembered but I was taken aback by the size of the lunchtime crowd. I had a client in clt and I’d alternate btw prices chicken coop and lex bbq, never saw a crowd like that.

Fried chicken and bbq on the client’s $, those were the days!

No. Probably never will, to be honest.

I only went to FDR high school there, worked for Dominoes on ave I and Mcdonald for years through school, spent tons of time in that neighborhood including the cemetery. And only discovered its called Mapleton last year when I tried to figure out where Chveni Cafe belonged

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offtopic for this post but im wondering, did you write here on HO or elsewhere your eating in the RGV? I had some very good food out there, staying in Harlingen and Alamo (and some not so super) but am wondering what BBQ places you liked.

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Steve - Mapleton isn’t even on my personal listing of NYC neighborhoods. I’m still in the (long) process of incorporating the NYT detailed map of NYC neighborhoods, which I’m sure will pick it up.

I have a note that suggests that at least part of the neighborhood is also considered part of Borough Park, which I have been to.

Chito Grvito: A friend and I had dinner at a Georgian restaurant on 3rd Ave and 16th St. that has been open for three years without me noticing. The food is quite good, but very small and pricey (I showed a Ukrainian friend the menu and she was scandalized). We split the beetroot tartare, the aubergine roll-ups, and a khachapuri, which should have been a filling meal and was not. I loved my orange wine, though.



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I remember those days. One of my proudest legal accomplishments as a young associate at a big DC firm was that on a three-day client trip to the Muscle Shoals/Florence area of Alabama, I managed to convince him to eat barbecue for every meal except breakfast.

We’re planning a trip to North Carolina within the next 2-3 weeks, so I’ll have some updated recommendations after that. Daniel Vaughn of the Texas Monthly just put out a long piece on the invasion of Texas-style brisket places into North Carolina and Toni and I want to give some of those a try.

On our most recent trip to North Carolina, our two favorites were B’s in Greenville and Sid’s Catering in Beulavile (Saturdays only). Beulaville is way off I-95, so that’s probably out. B’s is only about 45 minutes off I-95, a much more reasonable detour. Wilbur’s in Goldsboro and Grady’s (“in” Dudley, which is so small that there’s really no there there).

If you want more detailed information on the reviews of major barbecue critics (plus me) on nationwide barbecue places, go here for my obsessive barbecue spreadsheet, which is continually being updated.

If you or anyone else has trouble accessing it with this link, I’d appreciate a heads up so I can figure out what the problem is. You will probably need access to Google Sheets (which is free, I think) to be able to view it.

thanks, yes, unfortunately, Beulavile is too far off I95, I’ve been to B’s and wilbur’s many times though not to wilburs since it was shut down and re-opened with a new owner and a pared-down menu.

the only place that’s left on my nc bucket list is the skylight inn but I’m always on the hunt for new places, thanks for the link to your spreadsheet, I’ll take a look, I’m sure I’ll find some interesting, new places.

As for brisket joints in nc, I dunno, I feel like it’s sorta like going to rome and eating spanish food, I’m sure there’s very good brisket to be had in nc but I’d rather eat brisket in texas and bbq in nc.

best,

Oh, shoot, I don’t know how I forgot Skylight Inn. We did visit there on our latest trip and it was wonderful, probably a touch behind B’s and Sid’s and a touch ahead of the reborn Wilbur’s. The experience makes the trip even more worthwhile. Highly recommended.

Jen -

I did some writing on my Facebook page about the Rio Grande Valley trip. Most of my Facebook posts aren’t public but sometimes I’ll make the restaurant posts public. In any event, if you’re on Facebook I’m happy to make you (and others here) friends. I’m under my real name Doug Herbert.

John Tanner’s Barbecue Blog picked up my review of the culinary high point of the trip, Vera’s Barbecue in Brownsville. Vera’s serves traditional barbacoa (smoked cow’s head) cooked the traditional way by burying it along with coals. It’s the only place left in Texas that cooks this way, as it’s been grandfathered in by the health authorities. There are still plenty of home-cooked places that sell it illegally on Sunday mornings, however.

Here’s the like to the review in John’s blog:

This is the place we were all supposed to go to when we switched at the last second to Hakka —how did you miss it :joy:

Food was good? I still haven’t made it there.

wow, that is a masterwork bbq list! Are you thinking you’re going to make it to all those places? or even half?

@johntannerbbq and I have exchanged bon mots on shulers vs mccabes, I prefer mccabes, john shulers but his recent posts left me wondering if he may have moved toward mccabes. we’ll stop once on this trip to get a sense if anything has changed since the owner passed.

best,

I was replying to “theGforceNY” with my Mapleton comment, but I cant think of any non-NY’er other than you who would do that exploration. When you return, let’s take a look.

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Oh! I have a memory like a sieve - I thought we were going to Chama Mama that time? Maybe not.

Anyway, the food - the three things we had, anyway - was fine. Not as good as Oda House, where I think I had almost the same meal. Very nice staff, and a comfortable homey place. But that khachapuri was a single serving, and I have not encountered such a thing before.

Maybe I’ll skip it and try Ubani. Or Chama Mama which is probably the closest of my options.

That sounds good, I’m always up for a new neighborhood.

No, there’s no way I’ll make it to even a quarter of the places on that list. But I like to have a reference handy when I’m traveling somewhere to know what the options are.

We’ve never made it to South Carolina for barbecue other than the mass produced stuff at the famous Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, which isn’t bad at all. It’s high on our to-do list.

If you want to see my ranking of my personal favorites, go to the tab at the bottom labeled “Doug Herbert Rankings.” Right now there are a dozen places that get my top grade of “Outstanding-Plus”:

  • B. Cooper - Austin TX
  • Bridges Barbecue Lodge - Shelby NC
  • City Market - Luling TX
  • Frankliln - Austin TX
  • Helen’s - Brownsville TN
  • Hometown - Brooklyn (Red Hook) NY
  • Joe’s - Kansas City KS
  • Lexington Barbecue (Honey Monk’s) - Lexington NC
  • Little Miss, Phoenix AZ
  • The Ridgewood - Bluff City TN
  • Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue - Tomball TX
  • ZZQ - Richmond VA

If you haven’t eaten at ZZQ, it’s well worth a stop on your next trip southward. It would violate your rule of eating Texas-style barbecue only in Texas though.

Unless there’s something on the menu you think you can’t get elsewhere, it’s pretty skippable.