Friday, August 03, 2007


Finally made it to Hill Country, yet another attempt by Yanks to recreate the singular experience of southern barbecue. While a BBQ joint in Brooklyn attempted such a thing (Fette Sau on Metropolitan Ave.), the layer of gristle comprising my beef rib and the sarsaparilla bottled a few blocks away, not to mention the "Southern Pride" convection oven that served as their "smoker," was an abject failure, Hill Country does mimic the green green grass of home. It helps that they base it on the venerated Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, which means that the mark is set so high that even falling well short still counts as a success of sorts. Seriously, how do you compete with a place that posts a manifesto like this at the door?

As I approach the Flatiron hotbed, I must admit the scent of smoke is comforting. And the pits in use here are cute indeed (even if they are 1/150th the size of deployed at Kreuz). Piled atop a saltine cracker, the Hill Country-smoked "moist" brisket is about as evocative of my uncle's smoke pit as I can find in the 212 area code.

My dining companion then asks: "But do they serve a Kreuz Margarita at Kreuz?" Hunh? "Do they really make mixed drinks with Big Red?" What? A guava mojito arrives in a mason jar, much like the booze did at Fette Sau. Not to gripe, but I feel that I should break some news: Southerners Don't Drink Out of Mason Jars! We don't. Most restaurants down in Texas instead pretend that they are chic New York establishments. So it goes.

Everything needs a gimmick these days to work though, be it concerts or restaurants or trend articles. New York Magazine has to proclaim "BBQ is the New Hamburger!" You probably couldn't swing a restaurant investor unless you have such a gimmick (all the food is pink!), much less convince an editor to run a story unless you make parse it as a new trend. As my companion and I lament such hooks and ploys, imagining a future of more trite and blatant gimmicks, she casts an eerie prediction: "Soon, we'll all be living in a world of wrestlers."