Smoke Joint New York is foodie paradise - lovely delicacies from all over the world - but there are few places to eat lip-smacking barbecue.

Although there aren't many great BBQ spots in NYC, Smoke Joint in Fort Greene does a pretty decent job. That it's fun, cozy and affordable sweetens the deal.

Since I cut my teeth on pit-cooked pig deep-basted and marinated in a vinegar and crushed red pepper sauce, I'm naturally not crazy about their tomato based table sauces, but their meats - chicken, pork and beef ribs - are substantial and succulent.  Still there are times for tomato-based sauces, particularly when faced with a rack of babyback ribs or some hot wings.

Pit-cooked pulled pork is not native to Brooklyn, but then neither are many wonderful delicacies that translate well. Smoke Joint brings barbecue shack flavor and passable barbecue to the urban landscape without any kitsch. 

While it's not the BBQ joints of my North Carolina youth -  with their great smoky, rich and meaty eats but low-budget ambiance defined by paper placemats, plastic tumblers and formica tables - Smoke Joint is a fun experience with good beers and whiskeys as well.

It is indeed what owners Ben Grossman and Craig Samuel call "real New York barbecue," infused with a melting pot of urban flavors.

Dinner for two with drinks averages $40, not including gratuities.


Smoke Joint

87 South Elliott Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217-4803
(718) 797-1011

Nearest Transit:

Lafayette Ave (C)

Fulton St (G)

Atlantic Ave-Pacific St (2, 3, 4, 5, M, N, Q, W, R, B, D)

Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 12 pm - 10 pm, Fri-Sat 12 pm - 11 pm

Accepts all major credit cards

What's for dinner: Bison burgers

Square like Wendy's but a whole lot better for you

Last Saturday we got up early to make it to the Durham Farmers Market before all the sweet corn disappeared. We were well rewarded with beautiful plump kerneled ears.

Soooo sweet silver queen  Overall, the market offers a good selection of fresh produce, baked goods, organic eggs, poultry, meats and cheeses. Additionally, we have soap makers (goat's milk!) as well as chocolatiers (DollyMama, a playful take on the Dalai Lama, whose chocolates include the Buddha box), and artists and craftsmen selling everything from jewelry to stained glass baubles to handmade cards to pottery.

But the booth that we kept gravitating to was Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farms' bison meat.  You too can buy Rocky Mountain Oysters (ugh, no thanks) as my younger brother did or you can be more conservative (a term rarely applicable to me) and buy kabobs or burgers, roasts or stew meat.

Bison is pricey. The average price per pound for most cuts is between $7 and $10.  Organ meats are cheaper, starting at $3.  Prime cuts like steak as high as $20. 

My son, the 11-year-old epicure, was dying to try bison.  We bought kabobs (and unbeknownst to us, my older brother had already been shopping and bought burgers). Around five, we got a call to come over for Buff Burgers on the Barbie. So, we did.

Loading up the bison burger

Bison doesn't look that much different from ground beef, but is leaner and nutritionally superior according to some experts.

Sunset Ridge buffalos are grass-fed, and are not given growth hormones, low-level antibiotics, or animal by-products

According to the National Bison Association:

Research by Dr. M. Marchello at North Dakota State University has shown that the meat from Bison is a highly nutrient dense food because of the proportion of protein, fat, mineral, and fatty acids to its caloric value. Comparisons to other meat sources have also shown that Bison has a greater concentration of iron as well as some of the essential fatty acids necessary for human well being.

Eastern North Carolina pit cooked barbecue

Pulled pork BBQ sandwich featured at Cook's Illustrated Growing up in eastern North Carolina, I cut my teeth on pit cooked barbecue. 

I love a big plate piled high with chopped pork barbecue - tender meat redolent with wood smoke, vinegar and sharp cayenne - and sides of hot, crisp hushpuppies, thick, rich Brunswick stew and cool, creamy coleslaw.

When my Dad and brother cook a pig, they cook the whole behemoth - everything but the squeal.  Cooking a whole pig over coals is a lengthy process, with an average cooking time of between 10 and 12 hours. My Dad and brother used to cook pigs in lined earth pits but later fashioned cookers from metal drums. 

These days barbecue enthusiasts can buy cookers and smokers in a range of price points with every bell and whistle imaginable.  Of course, not every one who wants to cook eastern North Carolina style barbecue will want to cook the whole pig.  A pork shoulder makes some mighty fine barbecue too.

There are two things critical to good barbecue - the sauce and the method of cooking. 

Eastern North Carolina barbecue sauce is simple but piquant, made from apple cider vinegar, crushed red pepper, a pinch of cayenne, a pinch of salt and a dash of tomato sauce.  Some people add a little brown sugar to temper the acid of the vinegar.

The best barbecue is pit cooked, but the reality is that this method isn't always practical. Unless you're planning on a big gathering, cooking a whole pig is obviously impractical.  Good thing the same flavor can be achieved with a gas or charcoal grill and smoked wood chips.

Traditional Eastern NC Barbecue Sauce


1 gallon apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cup crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
4 ounces of tomato sauce
1/4 cup salt


Mix the ingredients and let stand for at least 4 hours before use.