Peter Sherman spent a decade in fine dining, working his way through kitchens under Joel Robuchon, David Bouley, and April Bloomfield. But a question he was asked early in his journey resonated with him: “When I started at Robuchon, we had a Japanese chef,” he says. “It was his first time living and working in New York. He said to me, ‘Peter, my brother called me and said to send him something American. What am I supposed to send him?’ I couldn’t answer the question. Coca-Cola? Money? It stuck in my head as something I should be able to answer.”
That question served as inspiration years later as he began pondering his own place, and he settled generally on barbecue, and more specifically on bacon. “It dawned on me years later that what we do and represent is barbecue and smoked meats,” he says. “In this city, we do that at the highest level in the world. Our smoked bacon is definitely among the best, and we’re not approaching that as we should.”
And so BarBacon (836 Ninth Avenue, 646-362-0622) was born, a bacon-centric restaurant that Sherman opened in Hell’s Kitchen in January.
As he built out his place, Sherman wanted to capture the feel of the barbecues he used to throw on his terrace. “I created a space that lent itself to that sort of comfort,” he explains. “Right in the middle of the space, there’s a huge island bar where you can connect with a bartender and sit down and stay for awhile.”
And then, of course, there’s the menu, a roster of comfort food; each dish save for a sausage platter and a few sides sports bacon in some form, from the grilled cheese on golden raisin bread to the chicken club, two dishes Sherman says exemplify the simple approach he’s trying to take. “I didn’t want to push my background into anyone’s face,” he explains. “But it’s my responsibility to find touches from my background to make dishes a value coming out of the kitchen. Those little touches makes the food a little bit different and better, but you’re not eating refined, haughty food.”
And the bacon he’s using, he says, is the best in the country; you can order it in a tasting flight and compare, say, the Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon to the Father’s country maple bacon.
Wash it down with a whiskey cocktail, the focus of the drinks list.
And for those of you wondering whether bacon’s 15 minutes of fame are up, Sherman says that the response to the concept has been “overwhelming. The reaction I’ve gotten in the first five weeks is what I was hoping I’d get in eight months.” He points out, too, that BarBacon’s niche (and not just the pork-related one) was underrepresented in the neighborhood; this is a spot that’s not a sit-down restaurant but also not a dive bar.
BarBacon is open from 3 p.m. until 2 a.m. daily (which makes it a good place to stumble late at night after a few cocktails; Sherman says he’ll eventually open for brunch and possibly lunch once the place finds its footing.