A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to NYC for the day for business. On my last visit to NYC two years ago, I published this review of Virgil's BBQ. I had hoped to steal out for a meal on this most recent trip to Daisy May BBQ. Time was tight, and I only had time to visit their BBQ cart located on 50th between 6th & 7th. Daisy May's cart has a quaint character compared to several of the other hot dog/gyro/etc. carts I saw in NYC. I was really excited to sample Daisy May's BBQ because the restaurant is owned by one of my favoriet BBQ chefs, Adam Perry Lang. I've included Adam's cookbook, Serious Barbecue, several times on my blog because I think it is very well written and has a viewpoint on cooking and presenting smoked meats that really resonates with me. So, I was really hoping that the Daisy May BBQ cart would blow my socks off and prove that Northerners can cook BBQ.
Adam Perry Lang (APL from here out) has a ridiculously strong resume including time in the kitchens of Daniel, Le Cirque, and Guy Savoy. He's also won BBQ competitions and has won several awards for his restaurant Daisy May's. That said, I had no intention of comparing the BBQ I was going to get in the cart to what I would get from his restaurant. BBQ from a cart is essentially offsite catering. Having spent many, many hours myself as a BBQ caterer, I was very interested to see how APL was going to deliver a pulled pork sandwich and how well the BBQ would hold.
I walked right up to the cart and ordered a pulled pork sandwich (for $8!!! - APL is very proud of his BBQ, ahem). I trotted a few blocks back to the hotel and unpacked what you see at left. I thought APL had been pretty inventive and smart to break the pulled pork sandwich down to its core elements and wrap each separately. The deli container holding the BBQ does a good job of keeping the BBQ from getting dried out or beat up as it is being held at serving temperature in the cart. The logic was that if you build the sandwich yourself, then it won't get all soggy and gross. Separate wrapping also makes holding the food and serving it much easier. I was pretty bummed out as I inspected the top of the pork container to see that the meat had been presauced. It hadn't struck me at that point that there was no container of sauce included with my sandwich. My simple viewpoint is that good BBQ does not need sauce. If I decide that sauce is necessary, then it is up to me to decide how much and what type. So, APL and I split paths on this issue. I was really puzzled to see that he chose the presauced route. Why not just pack the deli container with straight pork and include a ramekin of the BBQ sauce of my choice (kansas style, carolina style, etc.)?
When I opened my pork container, I was shocked to see that APL had sauced my pork with a South Carolina style mustard sauce. Of all the BBQ sauces out there, SC mustard probably has the fewest fans and is the most regionalized sauce. I live in a state bordering SC and you only see it around here about 5-10% of the time. What the hell is a mustard BBQ sauce doing in NYC? Did it get lost? The BBQ itself had been pulled down further than I like and was way oversauced. You can see the soggy mess I found just to the left. Forking through the BBQ, I did find nice pieces of bark on some of the pork. There was a nice, smokey taste and smell to the BBQ, but the mustard sauce just stepped all over the meat. I went ahead and built my sandwich - bun, slaw, and pork. APL chose an oversized, sesame seed bun which struck me as odd. BBQ usually gets served on plain white bread or texas toast. There was a bite to the bun that was just a little off - not stale, but still it popped when you took a bite. The slaw was a little dry and needed more vinegar pop. So, in the end the sandwich wasn't bad. It just wasn't what I was expecting nor what I wanted. Maybe I could have ordered the pork without sauce. But, it was very cool to be able to walk a few blocks from my hotel and buy a BBQ sandwich. I didn't let the sandwich dim my enthusiasm to visit Daisy May's on one of my next trips and order a big pile of food. I still have faith in APL to deliver high quality NYC BBQ. You can only expect so much from a food cart, right?