Neely’s Barbecue Parlor

You might find Neely’s Barbecue Parlor on Yelp, and, due to so-so reviews, cross it off your list of barbecue options to try. You’d be sorely mistaken. Neely’s is quite good and well worth the trek off the beaten path.

neely's pecan pie

pecan pie

Located on First Avenue and 62nd Street, Neely’s is not what you’d expect in a typical barbecue joint. A few steps up the stairs by the entrance and you’ll find a lounge area near the bar where patrons sip drinks like Dad’s Day Off (an excellent combination of Jim Beam, lemonade and maple syrup) or green tomato sangria, and munch on Neely’s fare. Down a dim corridor where Neely’s staff warmly greet you are a number of break-out dining rooms with ornate furnishings. It’s not the well-lit, basic table-and-chair set-up of Hill Country, by any measure. No, Neely’s is something special.

The menu features standard barbecue options: pulled pork platter, various styles of ribs, and sides such as cole slaw and molasses baked beans. The dishes are decently priced and sized.

I ordered a half rack of the Memphis style baby back ribs, and boy were they good. Tender and succulent, these baby back ribs were easy to polish off. I got Gina’s collard greens as my side dish, a hint of pork in their flavor. I was pleased with my meal and felt quite full afterward.

MDP got the “blue ribbon” chicken, which is a chicken that has been cooked with a can of PBR inside of it. He was served half a chicken with two sides: corn bread and macaroni and cheese. The chicken was supple and flavorful, and MDP had no problem finishing every last bite. I enjoyed the moist corn bread, and the creamy macaroni and cheese tasted delicious.

neely's red velvet cake

red velvet cake

For dessert, we ordered the red velvet cake and pecan pie a la mode. I preferred the red velvet cake topped with a delectable cream cheese frosting. The pecan pie was soupy and too sweet. MDP enjoyed the Haagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream served alongside the pecan pie so much, he gushed that we should get some for home. (Really, the ice cream was kind of basic to my palate, but, sure, let’s get a pint…)

As an aside, you’ve probably noticed that I only have pictures of desserts on this post. The table right next to us had two women who had equally poor manners–the older of the pair, in particular, had a severe staring problem–and I felt uncomfortable photographing my food in front of them. Pretty silly, but they were kind of strange. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Anyway, try Neely’s! Everyone at the restaurant seemed to be having a great time and enjoying their food. I think you would, too.

Neely’s Barbecue Parlor

1125 First Avenue (at 62nd Street)

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Take the 4/5/6/N/Q/R to 59th-Lexington and walk east a few avenues and north a few blocks.

 

Advertisements

MoonShine Modern Supper Club (Millburn, NJ)

So, what the heck was I doing in Millburn, NJ, you ask? Well, my mother lives in a nearby town and I wanted to take her somewhere nice for her birthday. She had seen MoonShine Modern Supper Club on TV at one point, and chose it for our outing.

moonshine modern supper club biscuit

biscuit & sausage gravy

I’m not quite sure what constitutes a “modern supper club” and MoonShine’s website doesn’t exactly illuminate the matter, but they do have a reasonable description of their approach: “Opened in November 2011, MoonShine Modern Supper Club presents Contemporary American cooking executed with style, finesse, and an updated comfort-food sensibility.” Yes, yes and yes. MoonShine certainly achieves all aspects of their description.

Thinking the place would be packed at brunch (they were on TV, after all), I made a reservation for noon on what would be a rainy Saturday. When we walked in early, we were the only guests in the whole restaurant. I guess New Jersey people don’t “do” brunch.

MoonShine graciously offers a nice prix fixe brunch menu, with a handful of salads and other types of dishes for appetizers, and delicious options, such as croque monsieur, chicken paillard and salmon, for entrees. We ordered coffee and took in the menu.

moonshine modern supper club omelette

omelette with goat cheese & tomatoes

The extremely accommodating waiter made small talk with us, about the weather and other topics, and brought us three banana muffins, which were exquisite.

For my brunch, I ordered the biscuit with sausage gravy and the omelette with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes. My mother also opted for the biscuit dish, but decided to try the MoonShine burger, which is topped with cheddar and Applewood bacon.

The biscuit appetizer was amazing. I couldn’t get over how delicious the sausage gravy was. MoonShine clearly uses top-notch ingredients, as the sausage had a distinct flavor of fennel and it was evident that it was high quality meat. The biscuit itself was pretty standard, not made with lots o’ lard like Bubby’s, but definitely solid. My mother and I both polished off our plates and felt quite sated following the biscuit course.

moonshine modern supper club burger

burger

Then, the entrees came out. And I’ll tell you, the burger is the entree to get at MoonShine. So do go there for brunch! Because I had eaten a burger last night, I couldn’t order the burger, something I rather regret now. It was, in a word, heavenly. Extremely juicy, the patty had flavors of sirloin, as my mother pointed out, and was cooked to a perfect “medium” level of doneness. The whole package–the bacon, the cheddar, the patty, the bun–made the burger one of the best I’ve ever had. Really. It was that good. And the shoestring fries that accompanied the burger were outstanding–lightly salted, crisp and flavorful. You can’t beat that dish.

As for my omelette, well, it was just okay. I didn’t sense the tomatoes were roasted, but merely diced and tossed into the omelette, disappointing. The egg itself was slightly overcooked, and I ended up only eating about half of it.

I highly recommend MoonShine Supper Club for brunch. It’s pretty easy to get to Millburn from New York. Just take the NJ Transit train to Millburn and walk a few blocks to get to MoonShine. I’d trek a hundred miles for that burger. You might, too. And Millburn has a beautiful downtown area to perambulate, and an adorable park just across the street from the restaurant. Go sometime. You won’t regret it.

MoonShine Modern Supper Club

55 Main Street

Millburn, NJ

Wild Turkey Smokehouse

When My Dining Partner (MDP) received an email about a Groupon for Wild Turkey Smokehouse in Sunnyside, I was skeptical. What exactly is this smokehouse? I wondered. Their website isn’t exactly glamorous. But, I told MDP to get the Groupon anyway–on a whim–and we tried it tonight.

wild turkey smokehouse truffle macaroni and cheese

truffle macaroni and cheese

Situated on a quiet street south of Queens Boulevard, Wild Turkey Smokehouse is easy to miss. Its door is decorated with Seamless and Grub Hub stickers–their website is hooked directly into Grub Hub–and just inside is a long bar  with a handful of tables spread around a pool table in the rear.

Our waitress was also the bartender, and so, was extremely busy with various patrons. She did her best to accommodate everyone, but, truth be told, Wild Turkey needs to hire some waitstaff, especially if they expect to generate a returning-customer crowd.

Their 8.5 x 11 stapled menu expresses the level of sophistication exuded by the restaurant itself, but that’s not a bad thing. I appreciated Wild Turkey’s simple decor and flavor. Comfort favorites like onion rings and beer-battered mozzarella sticks figure prominently on the first page of the menu, and a lengthy list of sandwiches and burgers makes an impression on the second page. On the final page, there’s a short drinks list, that, for some reason, doesn’t include alcoholic drinks (which they have aplenty), but features a San Pellegrino beverage (that they didn’t have) and ginger ale, a crowd favorite according to their website.

We opted for the onion rings and truffle macaroni and cheese to start. While the onion rings were fairly standard, the macaroni and cheese tasted extraordinary. Made with gruyere and a bechemel sauce, the mac and cheese was extremely creamy and delicious.

wild turkey smokehouse mushroom and gruyere burger

mushroom and gruyere burger

For entrees, we ordered the pulled pork sandwich and the mushroom and gruyere (I know, more gruyere) burger, which both came with our choice of fried potato (waffle fries, steak fries or sweet potato fries). Topped with coleslaw–an interesting choice–the pulled pork sandwich featured large, succulent shards of pork that made for a supremely delectable sandwich. I enjoyed my burger, whose char was so strong, I could barely detect the toppings. My steak fries tasted like they were straight out of a bowling alley of my youth, and the sweet potato fries were incredible.

I was so full by the end of the meal that we didn’t get dessert. It’s probably for the better, considering it took us about 15 minutes for the waitress to notice we were finished with our dinners.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Wild Turkey Smokehouse, and will probably order food from there sometime. They are, after all, just a few blocks away from my apartment. But, overall, the experience wasn’t stupendous, not that it should have been. But one can always hope.

Wild Turkey Smokehouse

3935 47th Avenue (between 40th Street and 39th Place)

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 to 40th Street and walk south on 40th Street to 47th Avenue. Turn right.

 

Bubby’s

What do you say about a place called Bubby’s? Well, it’s well-lit, fairly spacious, and serves up just about the best pancakes New York has to offer. That’s exactly what you say.

bubby's griddle special

griddle special

A newcomer to the hip New York brunch scene, I was tipped off about Bubby’s by a coworker (and the New York Times, which printed an article last week that mentioned the renowned TriBeCa brunch spot). “You must try the pancakes,” my coworker implored.

My Dining Partner (MDP) and I went to Bubby’s this Presidents Day (notice the lack of apostrophe, as it should be) for breakfast/brunch. I figured there would be a crowd, but not as bad as on the weekends. Upon entering, we were greeted and promptly escorted to a nice table for two in the back left corner of the joint.

There were families, tourists, and Wall Street types (who can be spotted a mile away, wearing a suit to a 9:30 breakfast on a national holiday), all cobbled together in this roughly 30-table dining room. We all wanted still or sparkling water–and some tables even got both, as our Wall Street neighbors did–and we all wanted to try Bubby’s incredible coffee. It’s smooth and flavorful, and some of the best joe I’ve had in a long time.

bubby's flaky biscuits

flaky biscuits

For our breakfasts, I ordered the griddle special, which comes with two pancakes (sourdough or sour cream), eggs (any style) and meat (house-cured bacon, chicken apple sausage, scrapple or ham), and MDP got Bubby’s breakfast, comprised of eggs (any style), homefries or grits, toast, fruit and meat (as previously listed). I decided to opt for the sour cream pancakes with perfectly scrambled eggs and their very own house-cured bacon. We also got a side order of the flaky biscuits, which are made with lard, and boy can you tell. They’re flaky and dense, and altogether fantastic.

But, I must take a moment to comment on the pancakes–absolutely divine. The sour cream pancakes are where it’s at. Fluffy and full of flavor, these pancakes delicately absorb all the maple syrup you put on them and they certainly don’t need butter (although I’m guilty of topping my pancakes with some). MDP even commented on the sheer fluffiness of these hot cakes. They’re perfect. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Bubby’s is pretty good and well worth the wait, should you encounter one whenever you decide to go. While it’s a trek from anywhere (unless you live in TriBeCa), treat your visit to Bubby’s as an adventure into a wonderful world of deliciousness.

Bubby’s

120 Hudson St. (between North Moore and Franklin)

TriBeCa, New York

Take the 1 to Franklin Street. Walk around the corner. 

Blue Collar

The only motivational thing about Blue Collar in Williamsburg is the presence of the phrase “Good job” all over the restaurant. I spotted it on the spare menu board and on one of the condiments containers, I believe. The rest of Blue Collar requires an acquired taste, most notably their poor overhead lighting and sparse seating arrangement. But, the burgers are pretty good.

blue collar burger

burger

Blue Collar’s menu features burgers, hot dogs, shakes and fries. Unofficially, there are also floats and chicken tenders to be had. I noticed a neighboring guest eating chicken tenders, and wondered where they came from until the woman behind the counter mentioned them to a prospective customer on the phone. So, anyway, ordering is pretty simple, since the options are fairly straightforward, and the prices are quite cheap.

MDP and I each ordered a cheeseburger and our very own orders of fries. The cheeseburger was small (1/4 lb.?) and I wish I had ordered the double because it was just that good. The meat is juicy and flavorful, and its special sauce adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dining experience. Blue Collar thoroughly toasts their potato rolls, so you get a bit of a char flavor. If the place were nicer, and in a better neighborhood, I’d suggest you go there every weekend.

blue collar fries

fries

But, one drawback of Blue Collar is the matchstick fries. They’re wooden and flavorless, although I was so in the mood for fried food that I ate my entire bag (and some of MDP’s).

For dessert, we opted for the peanut butter shake which was rich and creamy, and tasted quite like peanut butter, as it should.

I recommend Blue Collar for a weekend lunch or a summer dinner–sometime when the sunshine is still present and you can navigate the neighborhood without the fear of getting mugged.

Blue Collar

160 Havemeyer Street (between 2nd and 3rd streets)

Williamsburg, New York

Take the J/M/Z to Marcy Avenue or G to Metropolitan Avenue, or for the fearful, take the L to Lorimer and walk south.