Almost four years ago my job began to take me into the NYC area for business. Over the years I have gotten to sample mind bending yakitori, mediocre BBQ, Vietnamese/French mashups and true fine dining in Manhattan. I returned today from another visit to the City and have some very good news to share. A rose grows in Brooklyn! After years of searching, I found a BBQ restaurant in NYC worthy of a BBQgeek endorsement. Fette Sau is located in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, NY. Williamsburg is a trendy slice of the boroughs where bums and graffiti bump up against gourmet cheese shops, cutting edge music venues, high end trendy retail, and kick ass BBQ. Unassuming and slightly difficult to locate from the sidewalk, Fette Sau strives to offer high quality, locally sourced and properly cooked beef and pork BBQ, homecooked sides, and a fully stocked bar. From my slightly shaky and poorly shot video perspective you can hopefully see that the masses agree that Fette Sau is bringing a quality product to the (picnic) table. What follows is a photo diary with commentary on my Mother's Day meal at Fette Sau
There are only two clues to the location of Fette Sau - the smokey smell drifting around the sidewalk and the minimalist neon sign out front of the restaurant.
The entrance corridor to Fette Sau. As you can see, things are well underway at only 6:30pm.
After a thirty minute wait in line, I begin to approach the Meat Locker. Fette Sau approaches their menu a little differently than most. Meats are sold by the pound. You can order by the fraction of a pound, by the number of bones, or by the slice. Meats are weighed out and tickets are hand written and then sides are added to the tray. The serving and seating style is communal which really adds to the electric vibe of the space. While waiting in line I overheard several conversations where regular customers were initiating their guests to what lay on the tray in front of them for dinner. The tone of every singule conversation bordered on evangelistic. "These ribs are the BEST EVER! You HAVE TO TRY THEM!!"
The Meat Locker - Most everything looked great except the pulled pork (seen drying out and dying there in the back center). Sunday's menu featured pork and beef cheeks, spare ribs, beef ribs, bone-in pork belly, and spicy sausage.
The Backbone of the Operation- A Southern Pride 250 smoker. I don't think these are available new any longer from Southern Pride. Based on the number of people I saw in the restaurant this evening, Fette Sau undersized their smoker and could have easily gone with a unit twice as large.
My meal for the evening (beginning front left corner and working counter clockwise) - Bone-in pork belly, Beef brisket, German potato salad, beans, and pork spare ribs. The belly sounded like a great idea but was far too fatty to be yummy. It really needed to be rendered a lot further. The fat was chewy and a bit gross. The meat to fat ratio was just off. The brisket was great, although a little dry. Again, I think this is an issue with how Fette Sau holds their meats for service.
I really enjoyed the German potato salad but kept thinking of our hometown Heirloom BBQ version that is far better. The beans were undercooked and had way too much blackstrap molasses and not enough brown sugar and tomato product. The ribs were really delicious (best of the evening) but suffered from poor butchering. I got a bunch of boney bits that detracted from my enjoyment. The shocking bit about this tray was the cost. $42 for just the food. By the time I had added an alcoholic cider to the mix, I was in for $50. Without question, this was the most I have ever paid for a single serving of BBQ. Granted I asked for more than I could eat so I could sample a bit of it all, but DAMN!
As far as sauce goes, these guys are still struggling a little in my opinion. Their vinegar sauce has a disdainful brown color but tasted fine. The best sauce of the evening was what they called their Georgia sauce - slightly tangy with some tomato - not a bad approximation of what we pull off down here.
The Bar. A great idea and extremely well executed. Fette Sau offers a nice selection of non-alcoholic beverages but really shines when it comes to the adult beverages. The whiskey list is completely boutique. The beers are well thought out and there is a nice depth to the bench of choices. Cider is a brilliant accompaniment to all of the smoked pork and that was my selection for the night. The glasses for all beverages are Bell mason jars and the pitchers are old-school apple juice jugs (awesome touch). Despite the raw appearance of the interior, a lot of attention has been paid to the details. Check out the tap pulls for the beer. Looking around the room, every picnic table had several jugs of cider or beer being shared communally. It's a small detail that carries a long way throughout the room and I'm sure it does a great job of boosting the bottom line every night.
The view from my seat at the bar towards the FOTH.
The Whole Room
Best Wallpaper Ever - I'm doing both of my daughter's rooms in it this weekend.
Verdict??? Brilliant for New Yorkers. They need to work on their sauces and they need to learn how to hold pulled pork and brisket correctly for service. Past that, the meats were well smoked with substantial bark. The sides were strong but could use a little finesse (maybe add some collards and stew??-- just a thought). Fette Sau dispels all notions that Northerners cannot cook BBQ. This restaurant would do very well in almost any Southern city. Brooklyn and NYC should be very proud of what Fette Sau is bringing to the (picnic) table every day.