On a beautiful summer day, I found myself on 23 rd near Madison Square Park with about 15 minutes to kill before RUB opened. The line at Shake Shack was pretty long, so I ducked into Live Bait for a pulled pork sandwich to go. Live Bait is a cool looking place, with pink neon lighting, indoor shack roofing opposite the bar, retro plastic seats and vintage signage.
There are also a few TVs strategically placed around the dining room.
Live Bait specializes in seafood (including a raw bar), but they have a few barbecue items.
That first day I just got their pulled pork sandwich, with a side of cole slaw to go. The pulled pork was very warm and very sauced on a buttered, toasted bun. It was impressive if you like your pulled pork to look like a Sloppy Joe, scary if you like your pulled pork to be dressed simply with meat juices and vinegar. It wasn’t bad though, with fairly long strands of pork, just not the style I prefer. I had a few bites and dug into the cole slaw, which I thought was pretty good. It was finely sliced, had onion (I think), carrot and just the right amounts of vinegar and mayo.
A few months later I tried a BBQ combo with ribs and chicken. A basket of mini corn muffins was a nice touch, but dry. The ribs were very large spare ribs, slightly pink and crusty and doused with red sauce. They weren’t bad, but were a little rubbery and didn’t appear to be smoked based on aroma, appearance and flavor. The chicken, once I dug through the sauce, was surprisingly moist and flavorful, with a slight spicy kick. Not on a par with real smoked chicken, but not bad. The collard greens were actually pretty good, with large leaves in a garlicky, vinegary broth.
The bottom line: Not bad, but not good. This is Duke’s/Earl’s caliber barbecue, with a seafood slant (and I’m guessing the seafood is better), making it a palatable option to the less carnivorous in your group. It’s a good bail out plan when the lines at Shake Shack get unbearable, but if you want barbecue in the first place, you’re better off heading a few blocks west to RUB, northwest to Hill Country or northeast to Blue Smoke.