The 12th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party at Madison Square Park resumes at 11 a.m. this Sunday morning, offering you one last chance to experience 18 of the nation’s top pitmasters, from Brooklyn brisket darling Delaney to Salt Lick BBQ from the heart of Texas Hill Country. But before you queue for beef brisket, baby backs, and no less than four variations on chopped whole hog, here’s what you need to know.
North Carolina whole hog legend Ed Mitchell’s relocated to the faraway corner of 27th and Madison this year, and today only, he’s serving whole natural turkey alongside the pig. Some hungry fans waited over an hour yesterday for chopped bird (even his FastPass line reached east to Lexington) only to learn he couldn’t get them off the ground Saturday.
You shouldn’t get in Mitchell’s line on an empty stomach, and the ephemeral umami of the vinegary sauce-and-slaw-slathered Western Tennessee-style hog from Martin’s BBQ of Nashville is the ideal contrast to the unadorned chopped sandwiches from Ed Mitchell and his North Carolinian neighbor, Sam Jones’ Skylight Inn.
Can’t-miss local smokes include this Texas-style beef rib from Red Hook’s HomeTown Bar-B-Que and the brisket, sausage, and tomato salad plate from Williamsburg’s Delaney. Both proved two of the Saturday’s biggest draws, while as in past years the classic New York pits (Blue Smoke, Hill Country, Dinosaur) once again went unattended by the masses.
VIP and Fast Pass badges this year are coated in an extra-thick laminate, making them near impossible for many cashiers to debit with their hole punchers — which allowed plenty of lucky customers to eat for free yesterday. No badge? Bring plastic: This is the first year both regular and Fast Pass lines are accepting credit cards in addition to cash.
Last, you won’t get a taste of Mary Jane today: The fourth-generation descendant of the great King Neptune, an iconic Illinois pig whose public appearances helped sell $19 million worth of war bonds during WWII (and himself sold for $1 million at auction in 1943) was smoked and pulled by the crew from Murphyboro, IL’s 17th St Bar & Grill yesterday morning. Unfortunately, one pig doesn’t last too long. After the fat melts down in the cooker and the bones are removed, a 400 pound animal can lose nearly half its weight and what’s left can be portioned out in just an hour. But don’t worry, 17th St is still serving the best baby back ribs in the park.