Wednesday, August 6, 2014

At Mighty Quinn's Barbeque, It Is Mighty Slow and Mighty Good

Mighty Quinn's Barbeque birthday special: beef brisket, dry&vinegar claw combo, burnt end baked beans and pickled red onions and pickled cucumbers. To wash it down, a wheat beer. Photo by Yours Truly.

FOLLOWING is the account of how Yours Truly discovered in Mighty Quinn's Barbeque some powerfully good eats – in New York City:

It's Saturday morning, around 9:30, on the second of August. I note the time because I am not in the gym where one can normally find me at this hour on this day. Today is different. It is my birthday.

I slept a little late because I started celebrating at 12:02 a.m. with some words to my Maker and some horseplay with a sly cat. Then I decide, because it is my day, to watch some TV, specifically a western on the cable channel, Encore Westerns. Was it about 5 a.m. when I turned in?

But now it's almost time for me to get going, except that I don't, because it is my special day. The next hour or so is dedicated to reading birthday wishes and generally lazing about. Then my stomach emits a low growl.

So what to eat? I decide against a burger, something French and brunch, before I settle on 'cue, barbecue (aka Barb-q, BarBe-Q, BBQ, Barbeque, etc.) for the uninitiated. Not sure whether the 'cue thing dates to an Independence Day craving or a recent article on the science of it all (http://www.bit.ly/1pZKwFW).

But where to get good BBQ in NYC? Two cuisines that do not exist in good abundance in Gotham are barbecue and Mexican.

What would I do without Google? How have I survived these years?! I googled “Best Barbecue in New York City.” Of the myriad links that pop up, I choose one that leads to a Gothamist article from last year (http://www.bit.ly/1oLjIN7).

A careful reading strongly suggests that the casual dining joint, Mighty Quinn's, is the best bet. It is geographically desirable and culinarily enticing.

According to the Gothamist taster, much of the best BBQ in NYC is in Brooklyn. It just so happens that Mighty Quinn's has two locations in Brooklyn as well as one in Clifton, NJ. There are three in Manhattan, including the East Village location where I am standing in, what is to my mind, a long, cafeteria-style line.

Meats at Mighty Quinn's Barbeque are cooked long and slow. Photo from Mighty Quinn's Barbeque Facebook page.

It is the mini chain's first brick and mortar venue, constructed to alleviate the long lines that were customary at that first Brooklyn stand. I am thinking that those lines must have stretched to Philadelphia at about the same time that I spy a coven of people with hungry eyes standing in a corner not far from where I am taking up real estate. Soon enough, I learn that that is the end of the line and to where, to be fair and very likely to avoid fisticuffs, I must relocate myself.

Grudgingly, I mumble my excuse mes until I am at the end, then realize I can use this time to vet the menu. In my mind's eye, dancing are images of Louisiana and Texas 'cue plates – main dish and two sides for a reasonable price. At Mighty Quinn's, however, it seems to be an a la carte affair and it ain't nominally priced.

Immediately, I am disgusted and distrustful, thinking that like too much in Gotham, here's yet another hustle. Somebody learned how to smoke barbecue Texas-Carolina style, named it Texalina 'cue, then decided to charge a bunch of yankees (not the baseball team) an arm, a leg and two holes in the wallet for what I am certain will be a pedestrian eating experience.

Before I tumble over the cliff, though, Better Judgment hauls me back. It is my birthday. And I am hungry, after all. It is now nearly 2 p.m. And I am in no fit mood to go huntin' up lunch elsewhere. Besides, I want 'cue and I ain't going to Brooklyn – on a weekend!

All unpleasant thoughts are banished. I will pay the people the high price they want for their 'cue and never come back again. Self-intervention complete, I consider the menu.

It is what one should expect from a 'cue joint, with a few interesting departures. Here are Single Serving and One-Pound quantities, naked or covered (no sandwich or sandwich), of Beef Brisket, Burnt Ends, Pulled Pork, Spare Ribs, Half Chicken, Wings and whatnot. And then there is the Brontosaurus Rib, which an inquiry reveals is a long, rather than short, beef rib. I declare, the meat-bone combo can be a lethal weapon!

Sides run to Slaw (Dry and Vinegar), Burnt End Baked Beans, Sweet Corn & Edamame Salad, as well as Buttermilk Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple & Pecans. In a category called Pickled Add-Ons are Cucumber, Celery, Red Onions and Chiles.

I decide on the single serving beef brisket ($8.95) and a small side of slaw ($3.10) and burnt end baked beans ($3.10). First, I confirm my worst suspicion that everything is a la carte. True that, mutters the laconic Meatcutter. Inhaling, I remember the intervention. Only in New York!

But when I get to the loquacious Sides Guy, I learn that the slaw and one pickled add-on (red onions, plus a cucumber thrown in by Sides Guy as a gesture of hospitality) come with the meat.

Subtract at least $3.10. Things are looking up, back on really good mood. Pep has returned to step. Song in heart is a ditty, not a dirge. Varnish is returned to happy. Birthday girl can eat a horse, or rather, a cow! Picking up my meal tray, I proceed to the Drinks Station.

Who is that masked man? Mighty Quinn's Barbeque Pitmaster Hugh Mangum hiding behind a Brontosaurus (Beef) Rib. Photo from Mighty Quinn's Barbeque Facebook page.

The FireStone: Union Jack IPA (CA) is a beautiful muted, gold color with a slight bitterness. It's good, but my palate doesn't want the bitter edge. A sample of the wheat beer reveals a brew more the hue of what one would expect of an IPA. It is lighter, with a more even, less bitter finish. Sold! (drat, I don't remember the name)!

Final stop before seating is the register where I part with around $20. Not bad for 'cue meat, two sides, add-on and a beer in New York City, but bad for the East Village a fellow diner and longtime villager gives me to know.

A moment of silence (and grace), please before the birthday lunch … It must be noted that MQ's is not stingy with its portions. In fact, part of that beef brisket was the star attraction of my lunch on Tuesday.

During the initial tasting, I try the beef brisket without the barbecue sauce. It is tender, succulent and bursting with understated flavor. It's as MQ's p.r. puts it: “the perfect harmony of smoke, flavor and time emerges.” Pitmaster Hugh Mangum, who spent some formative years in Houston, knows what he's about.

Now for the sauce: smokey, a bit sweet – subdued, not overpowering; I appreciate that it is not too salty, though for this palate it is a touch sweet. Yet, the sauce is quite delicious.

The slaw is merely competent. It would have been wiser to have either the dry or vinegar instead of half&half. Palate-pleasing pickled parts. The burnt end baked beans – yum. I learn while diving into them that they contain meat – I don't need to ask, for I know it is pork.

From the sound of it, the Mighty Quinn's Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple & Pecans can go savory or dessert. Photo from Mighty Quinn's Barbeque Facebook page.

In theory, I do not eat pork and do try to avoid it on all occasions. But sitting here on my birthday with this very satisfying meal, I am not removing the battery of napkins protecting my garments from 'cue residue in pursuit of porkless baked beans. After all, I do like pork, and this pork goes in the direction of the sublime. I just don't eat pork – in theory.

Before I pick up my romance novel, I spend a few minutes more savoring my birthday lunch, sans interruptions from damsels and dukes, basking in my good fortune in finding such fine BBQ, served by a friendly and courteous staff, in NYC. Thank you, Gothamist.

And thank you, Mighty Quinn's Barbeque. You do Texas and the Carolinas proud.

Visit http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com/ to learn more about Mighty Quinn's Barbeque.

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