The Fourth of July is the best time to have a barbecue! And what better time to celebrate a national barbecuing food holiday: Barbecue Spare Ribs Day! Did you know the term “spare ribs” has nothing to do with the ribs being “spare” at all? It most likely comes from an old German term meaning to cook the ribs on a spit. So, in essence, spare ribs, by definition, should be barbecued!
It’s tough finding good, authentic barbecue in New York City, a place that’s known for the variety of international foods available, but not particularly for American regional cuisine. (It’s especially tough when you can go anywhere in the country and get a differing opinion on what constitutes “authentic” barbecue!) But there are some great spare ribs to be had in Manhattan today. Break away from the mobs already lining up to see the fireworks and head to Blue Smoke for their Kansas City-style spareribs. “Kansas City” style means the meat’s been slow-smoked over wood before it’s cooked using a tomato and molasses-based sauce. It makes for sweet, sticky, smoky ribs, and that’s exactly what Blue Smoke delivers. Many of their patrons agree that the spare ribs are the best meat on the menu: they’re soft and fall off the bone at the faintest touch, but that meat sure does pack a lot of flavor. Get yourself a full or half rack of the ribs–either in beef of pork–and a side of sweet potato fries with some maple dipping sauce. Oh, and don’t forget the wet naps, too: with a meal this hefty and this messy, you’re bound to get delightfully dirty eating it!
116 E 27th St (between S Park Ave & Lexington Ave)
“The most refined of New York’s barbecue emporiums is Blue Smoke, but don’t let the fresh-faced servers and comfortable dining room fool you. Serious barbecue is practiced here. I found my sticky fingers most eagerly reaching for the Texas-style salt-and-pepper beef ribs and the smoky sweet Kansas City spareribs. Blue Smoke’s beef ribs are a little bit beef jerky, a little bit corned beef. How much more elemental does it get than meat, salt, pepper and smoke?”–The New York Times
“Kenny Callaghan, chef at St. Louis native Danny Meyer’s barbecue joint, knows his wet sauces and dry rubs: The menu includes traditional Kansas spareribs, Texas salt-and-pepper beef ribs, Memphis baby backs and Kansas City spareribs. The atmosphere is sports-heavy and includes a prominent bourbon bar and galvanized-metal buckets for your bones.”–Time Out New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“BBQ Spare Ribs – very very good – thick and wholesome – with a nice smokey flavor. The meat was not quite fall off the bone – which is perfect, b/c every bbq expert likes when you can bite it – and leave teeth marks – without having to struggle to get the meat off the bone. -Personally i like a little more sauce cooked and charred on a little – but the flavor was good.”–Richard L.
“Now, to the good stuff, I’m a spare ribs guy and the KC ribs are like sticks of southern paradise. Not dry at all, the rub is not at all over powering and there isn’t a whole lot of fat on these guys so for all you lean freaks, you can enjoy them too. The sides are decent, but who goes there for sides. The ribs is where it’s at baby. And if you’re not about commitment then you can get the samplers which come in decent portions.”–Patrick M.
Growing up in Brooklyn with Chinese heritage, however, makes me think of some place a little farther east than Kansas City when I think of barbecued spare ribs. One of the darlings on the Chinese American restaurant menu, glazed spare ribs were always a staple when we ordered in, the big, barbecued ribs of beef almost an unnatural shade of red from the special glaze used on the meat. They may not be slow-smoked or fall off the bone good, but they have their own unique taste that’ll always remind me of New York. Instead of going the traditional American barbecue route, try something that has just as much tradition up here in Chinatown, at Big Wong King on Mott Street. The classic Chinese restaurant makes a slamming dish of spare ribs, their glaze not too sweet, but just flavorful enough to bring out the best in the pork ribs. And for only $5.50 per order, I can guarantee you that a plate of Chinese barbecue spare ribs will last you longer than any ribs on Blue Smoke’s menu–they might even last you till the fireworks tonight!
Big Wong King Restaurant
67 Mott St (between Canal St & Bayard St)
“New York does have its own thriving barbecue tradition, but it’s more about star anise than smoke. At places like Big Wong King and Kim Tuong in Chinatown, pit masters turn out hundreds of racks of magnificently glazed ribs every day, with the moist meat, salty-sweet perfume and burnt edges so beloved of barbecue fanatics across the land.”–The New York Times
“They’re like pig candy, Chinese ribs perfectly balanced in all ways. They’re succulent, just fatty enough, but with plenty of meat on there, too; they’re small, just the right size to eat one after another. The glaze isn’t cloyingly sweet, and there’s just enough of it to add that sweet backdrop without ever disguising the taste of the pork. I can’t think of many better ways to spend five bucks and change.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I’ve always had good memories of this place. Roast pork, roast duck, spare ribs, fried eggs, their soy sauce, their ginger-scallion sauce etc etc. This place is where most stemmed and for good reason.”–Melissa N.
“Their barbecued dishes are good as well. Most notably the barbecued pork ribs. Yum! The roast duck and bbq pork is very good as well. Why not get a triple combo over rice, roast duck, bbq pork, bbq ribs and a fried egg on top? Right, it will cost me more. “Just do it and charge me already”. Ahhhh. Well worth it.”–Billy C.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!