The April 2010 opening of Big Apple Barbecue in Glen Cove saw the long awaited return of Rick Anselmi to the Long Island BBQ scene about four years after closing Poppa Rick's Texas Bar-B-Que in Woodbury. Fueled by success, optimism or both, Big Apple opened a second location in Port Washington just three months later, taking over the former Bad Bob's BBQ space on Main Street. The small Port Washington outpost has multiple personalities, tucking a bar and a service counter in separate nooks, with tables and chairs spread throughought two rooms divided by an out-of-place waterfall. A J&R smoker at the Glen Cove branch smokes the meats for both restaurants.
The Big Apple barbecue offerings include "Monster" spare ribs and "candied" babyback ribs, the usual pulled pork and brisket and chicken, plus smoked wings and smoked meatloaf. But Big Apple Barbecue's menu runs beyond barbecue, with chili, gumbo and onion soup, wings, a Wagyu hotdog, a steak sandwich, chicken fingers, a couple of burgers and four different salads.
I visited Big Apple Barbecue on a Friday evening, joined by three barbecue aficionados with cooking and judging experience.
Complimentary house made potato chips were tasty and got things off to a nice start.
Smoked wings were small to average in size and lightly sauced with a sweet and spicy mix that would feel right at home at one of the chains. The smoke level was light but noticeable. There was nothing really noteworthy about the wings in either a positive or negative direction; although there was no fanfare they got the job done.
Splitting a sandwich four ways is one of my favorite appetizer strategies, and this time it paid off well with the smoked meatloaf sandwich. I didn't detect smoke as I did with the wings, but I did enjoy a very pleasing flavor. Inside the bun were several 1/4" slices of meat that to me looked and tasted like larger versions of the sliced meatballs you'd get on a pizza. These had red and green peppers, some other goodies and a fresh taste and texture. A light saucing of what I originally thought was ketchup added a little moisture while letting the flavor of the meat shine through. I didn't really get a barbecue vibe, but viewed strictly as a meatloaf sandwich, this was a winner.
The way the menu is worded, I was led to believe that the spares came unsauced and the babybacks came sauced, but a full rack of monster spares were well lubricated. But that was only the second thing I noticed: these were huge ribs, not only justifying the "Monster" moniker but rendering it an understatement. I'd guess that the longest ribs were about a foot and that the rack as a whole had to weigh about 5lbs. A light crispness at the exterior suggested a grill finish before saucing, but there was an undercurrent of steaminess to go with that crispness. The interior meat was juicy and bore a light smoke and a light but noticeable porkiness. I didn't notice much rub though, as the predominant flavor was the sauce. There's still a lot to like about these ribs, but in the end it wasn't the saucing that held them back as much as that the sauce itself tasted too much like ketchup. If (unlike me) you loved the ribs at the now departed Hog House, you're in for a treat, because the sauce is nearly identical and the meat beneath is superior.
A pulled pork sandwich, ordered unsauced, was generous of meat and surprisingly well executed, at least texturewise. There was a nice crispness to the exterior; inside, the meat was tender without wilting, and pleasingly moist. Flavor was another story, as I didn't taste much of anything: very little smoke, no rub, no spice.
A brisket sandwich paralleled the pork in that it was cooked to the desired texture but didn't have much (if any) flavor. Moisture was there too, but not as much as in the pork.
No surprise here. There's only one sauce on the table and I didn't like it. What I thought was ketchup on the meatloaf was actually this sauce, which tastes and feels a lot like ketchup. It's got more going on than pure ketchup, but that same ketchupy flavor overwhems.
Carrots had an Asian flavor profile, with hints of ginger. I love Asian flavors, but something wasn't right about the harshness of these carrots. Cole slaw was a fairly standard creamy/crunchy mix. Mac and cheese was pretty tame. Beans were subtle yet effective, with a homemade taste and plenty of meat. Overall, the sides were all competently prepared with no real highlights or lowlights aside from the carrots.
The bottom line:
It's tough to peg after just one visit, but I see Big Apple Barbecue as a mixed bag with promise. The meats are smoked and cooked properly, but the flavors need some work. With more spice, more smoke and a couple of new sauces, this could be a barbecue joint I'd come to regularly if I lived in the area. As currently constituted, they do enough right to warrant at least another visit and a qualified recommendation. Just bring your own sauce.
Yelp reviews of Big Apple Barbecue
Urban Spoon reviews of Big Apple Barbecue