Our meat hoard (clockwise from top left): pulled pork, sausage, tongue pastrami, pork belly (thin strip), pork chop, beef brisket.
Three years ago I reviewed Fette Sau (“Fat Pig”), Williamsburg’s tip of the hat to the fabled butcher-shop barbecues of the black-dirt farm country east of Austin, Texas. Its only rival in this category is Hill Country, just west of Madison Square. Both deserve to be ranked among the very best barbecues in the city.
The interior is always thronged with barbecue-munchers, but a place at the picnic tables is likely to magically appear at the moment you need it.
On a hot summer Saturday evening, for no particular reason, and with three friends in tow, I decided to re-check the place just to make sure it’s still great. It turned out to be better than when I first reviewed it.
It was 7:30 and a line stretched out the door of the former auto garage, which still retains its garage doors, and through the stockaded front yard that leads to the street. The place doesn’t take reservations, and it requires a leap of faith to believe that, after you’ve stood in line for a half-hour or more, there will be a table where you can sit on the inside or the outside in the already crowded dining areas. Yet there always seems to be one.
While Hill Country mounts a nearly conventional Texas barbecue menu, Fette Sau has a crazy-ass menu sourced from boutique-quality meats, and the list varies from night to night, though the meat is still slow-smoked in the conventional way over hardwoods. This is Williamsburg, after all. The beer list is another point of departure. No Lone Stars or PBRs here, but a list that includes Kelso, Sixpoint, and other craft brews, served in mason jars.
The evening’s barbecue selection didn’t include ribs of any sort.
As is my usual practice, I ordered samples of nearly everything, in quantities ranging from a quarter of a pound to three-quarters of a pound. There were no ribs — pork or otherwise — on the menu that evening, which is strange for a barbecue. There were, however, beef tongue pastrami and pork chops — the latter not so strange, being found on most Lockhart, Texas, barbecue menus. We also had pulled pork; pork belly served in long strips, but not tasting much like bacon; and sausage. Rather than serving the grainy beef sausage eaten in Texas, Fette Sau chose hot fennel Italian sausage. It was great. Now, that’s real Brooklyn terroir.
The things we liked best were the brisket and the pork chop, with the pork belly nearly as good. We weren’t particularly fond of the tongue pastrami, with its sweet-tasting cure. That’s a pretty high hit-rate for excellent barbecue. The place is convivial and really seems like a joint, a unique place that’s become a citywide treasure. And I’ll definitely be going back soon, on my own dime. And the four of us finished nearly everything. (Thumbs-up on the potato salad, thumbs-down on the apple-containing slaw. Pickles excellent.)
Waiting outside patiently in the 100-degree heat for some of the city’s best barbecue.