I'll admit I got a hoot out of the recent internet furor over the Vice piece about Brooklyn BBQ "taking over the world." The Washington Post had a particularly fun and snarky piece riffing on people's outrage that Brooklyn should be given international acclaim for a genre perfected by so many other places of America. The Brooklyn hate is strong!
I get that regional pride when it comes to barbecue – especially when you have distinct traditions as deeply cured as they are in Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas City, and Texas. In truth, Brooklyn is a modern 'Q mecca in its own right: I just had an amazing meal at Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook. Also, the picture attached to the Vice story that stoked so much "prison tray" mockery was taken at Fette Sau in Williamsburg – whose Fishtown Fette Sau branch is one of Philly's best spots, where the coffee-rubbed smoked short rib is one of my frequent happy-birthday-to-me indulgences.
I've long complained that our BBQ scene is otherwise not as deep as I'd like. But we do have some longstanding classics. Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse in Northeast Philly is one of our best all-around destinations, and I'm particularly fond of its Carolina-style pulled pork (with vinegar sauce) and also the chickens.
Henri's Hotts in Folsom, South Jersey, is one of my regular stops on the way back from the Shore for the ribs, the smoked jerked chicken, and the brisket, but also for an incredible weekend buffet that's one of the greatest soul food displays in the region (owner Doug Henri would make my Top 10 fried chicken list, too).
In the Pennsylvania suburbs, try the smoked baby backs at Uncle B's in Phoenixville. I'd also like to get back to the Lucky Well in Ambler, which is planning a city branch on Spring Garden soon. In fact, I am detecting a sudden resurgence in exciting, new city-based smokehouses. Prime among them is the new Mike's BBQ near East Passyunk in the former South Philly Barbacoa space, where Mike Strauss is making a full range of legit smoked meats (including house-made sausages); he also makes a smoked brisket cheesesteak that's one of the city's new must-eat sandwiches. (I still need to try the Manayunk version of this sandwich from Deke's Bar-B-Que.)
Meanwhile, I am looking forward to yet another promising barbecue destination, the South Philly Smökhaus, a pop-up slated to open permanently this spring in the Bok Building on South Ninth Street. Pitmaster Eric Daelhousen was giving away samples of his smoked wings at a recent farmers' market there, and … well, I took one deeply smoked bite and had a vision that South Philly barbecue was about to take over the world.