Revisiting John Brown Smokehouse


A luscious assortment of barbecue from the relocated John Brown is Dish #43 in our countdown.

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[See More 100 Dishes: Hot Bone Marrow Tacos at Lulu & Po | Hot and Spicy Whole Flounder at Rural Restaurant]


A mess of ‘cue: (from lower left going clockwise): rib tips, pork belly, pulled pork, beef brisket, turkey, lamb sausage, and burnt ends

A month ago, barbecue newcomer John Brown Smokehouse — channeling the great barbecues of Kansas City, with a few Austin flourishes — did a strange thing. It moved from a cozy location near the N train southwest to another, more industrial, neighborhood in Long Island City.

The new building and its awning look nearly the same as the old. But the new L-shaped interior is twice as big, with a separate bar (the old place was BYOB) and a sunny back courtyard, easily quadrupling the seating.

When a crew of friends visiting from Sacramento and I arrived this past Saturday, the place was hopping with employees and customers — even though pit master and owner Josh Bowen was away at Pig Island for the day as one of the featured pig-cookers. We ordered up a big tray of ‘cue, including six items that had been highlights of the previous menu, and one we’d never tried before (turkey).

The bill of fare in chalk — no specials today, possibly due to the absence of the pit master

Brisket burnt ends remained the favorite ‘cue at John Brown.

The Sacramentians were mightily delighted by nearly everything — they apparently have nothing like John Brown Smokehouse in Northern Cali. We wolfed down the entire tray, and then one of the women went to get more burnt ends.

The turkey was also a surprise favorite — moist and smooth-textured, so different from grainy and tasteless Thanksgiving turkey breast that it might have been a different bird. The sausage was also every bit as good as at the old location. We also loved the pulled-pork shoulder, served in big clumps. It was better than the version at the previous place.

To my taste, the regular brisket lagged somewhat. It might have been held too long before serving and had a steamed quality that is the antithesis of rich barbecue flavor.

Everything else was entirely up to par. We also had three sides, including french fries that seemed thinner than at the previous locale; nice vinegary coleslaw, and good baked beans with plenty of barbecue detritus in them.

The draft beer selection was diverting, with pitchers of draft going to $21 apiece. We especially dug the Founder’s Special IPA, brewed in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The on-tap selection

Next: More photos


The turkey surprised us.

Typical sides

The brisket was slightly lackluster this time around.

Mainly from Sacramento, the ‘Cue Crew

John Brown Smokehouse
10-43 44th Drive
Long Island City, Queens