With the obvious exception of vegetarians (of whom I know quite a few), barbecue seems like a style of food anyone could agree on. What’s not to like about slow smoked meat? That’s why Hill Country seemed like the perfect post-holiday meet-up with a friend who will beat me with a bland buttered noodle if I mention her baby palate once again (maybe the Olive Garden gift card James gave me to give her will temper her ire if she reads this).
I needed someplace that wouldn’t be a killer from Brooklyn (that nixed Dinosaur, and besides I was just there a few months ago) or too painful from Morningside Washington Heights (no Smoke Joint or Fette Sau). Daisy May’s has those kooky commercials, but Wildwood has lamb ribs (lamb is the new pork, right? Or is that goat?). In the end I picked Hill Country, top tier as any. Even though the original pitmaster left year, it’s not like I would detect any difference since I had never been anyway. And you could also tell me all sorts of tales about Texas barbecue and I would be none the wiser, having never set foot in the Lone Star state either.
The cavernous, woody restaurant was quiet on a Sunday afternoon. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is great that way, a dead zone. I’ve been entertaining moving to Red Hook just to experience that soothing desolation on a daily basis, never mind the nuisance of bussing to the subway. (I finally convinced James to call about this seemingly awesome house for sale near the Ikea but it had already gone into contract. Even in this supposed down economy, properties are selling quickly in third-rate NYC neighborhoods.)
I liked the by the pound approach so you could get just what you wanted. And I didn’t mind carrying around the little check off card to individual stations for meat, sides and beverages and ordering from the chalkboard menus. I did lame out and got the lean brisket, half a pound, when normally I’m one for the moist, i.e. fatty cuts. With the addition of a quarter pound of pork equaling two hefty ribs, all was well. I know our citified ‘cue is overpriced by Southern standards, but $12 plus change for the meat above wasn’t wildly outrageous.
The brisket is definitely the star and that was no surprise being a Texas-style joint, complete with imported Blue Bell ice cream, Kruez sausages and Big Red soda. Even the lean slices encased in char with pink substrata were juicy. The ribs weren’t necessary and they were a bit tough and dry, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I talk too much when I eat and was futzing around with a new camera (I still have kinks to work out, clearly, but I’m getting there) so they were cold by the time I got around to gnawing on them.
Even though it was still 2008 at the time and I said I wasn’t making resolutions anyway, eating more beans has been a vague plan I’ve been meaning to adopt (I’m making a white bean chorizo soup tonight, well, the same idea but with tepary beans and chicken sausage). Unfortunately, I think the addition of rubber eraser-sized “burnt ends” to the baked beans might’ve mitigated any nutrients potentially gleaned.
I shared pickles and corn pudding that Heather picked out because I’m a beast who doesn’t like mac and cheese. Starchy and creamy corn is more desirable than starchy and creamy pasta.
Next time I’ll ignore the ribs, opt for a little of the Kruez jalapeno cheese sausage instead, and try one of the mini, though not two-bite mini, pecan pies.
Hill Country * 30 W. 26th St., New York, NY