Sunday, July 12, 2009

Snapple Big Apple BBQ Block Party, Madison Square Park

Big Apple BBQ Block Party – Madison Square Park (June 13-14, 2009)
$ (admission is free, food is $8 per plate, desserts and drinks are $2-$6 - free drinks are passed out at certain times throughout the event)
All proceeds go to the Madison Square Park Conservancy

Every June, the country’s best barbecue pitmasters flock to Madison Square Park for a weekend of showcasing their wares in the Snapple Big Apple BBQ Block Party. I’m a big fan of block parties, and a die-hard meat lover, so there was no way I would miss out on a festival like this! I also had to bring my friends Becca and Scott along, which wasn’t a hard sell since they’re both barbecue fanatics.

On the first day of the weekend-long BBQ, we started by going straight to the Information Booth so that we could map out a plan of attack. After a lot of debate, we decided to go for pulled pork first and then eat it while standing in whatever line seemed shortest after that.

Our first stop was the line for Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, which had about a 45-minute wait - their pulled pork sandwich was UNBELIEVABLE!!! I can’t even explain to you what exactly made it so good (deliciously fatty, without being greasy – juicy and tender), I just felt like I was knocked flat by some incredible barbecue-drug! Becca’s Southern roots make her biased against anything that isn’t the mustard-based pulled pork of the South Carolina low country (does it get any more niche than that?), but even she said it was one of the best sandwiches she’d ever had! Scott took one look at the beautiful, pink smoke-rings around each bite of pork (a sign of long hours in the smoker) and was won over before even tasting it.

As Chris Lilly (Big Bob
s Chief Pitmaster and my new idol!) explains it, his pork is so awesome because of his method of seasoning and slow-smoking. First, the pork butts are injected with apple juice-based seasoning and covered in dry rub before spending 14 hours in a smoker - then the pork is hand-pulled and chopped into generous bite-sized pieces. Big Bob uses a vinegar-based sauce on their pulled pork, but the sandwich (served on plain, white-bread buns) doesn’t come with an actual “barbecue sauce” – regular sauces are on a table to the side, and you can add however much of whatever sauce you like, although the meat truly doesn’t need anything extra.

Big Bobs was a tough high to come down off of, but our next stop was Drew Robinson’s smoked sausage from Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q. I’ve eaten my share of sausages, but I’d never had anything like these! Jim ‘N Nicks insist their smoked sausages be eaten in a particular way - covered in their signature sauce, on top of a Saltine that’s spread with pimento cheese, and topped with a slice of Serrano pepper. This was fantastic!

Top: The smoked sausage from Jim ‘N Nicks - you can see the Saltine crackers, pimento cheese, and freshly sliced Serrano peppers.
Bottom: Becca got barbecue sauce all over Scott’s shirt. Since Oxy-Clean helps sponsor the Big Apple BBQ, the late, great Billy Mays was at the block party, but this stain wouldn’t wait for his personal touch - Becca and I had to step up.

I would have gone back for a second one, but we needed to try out some other places before going back for seconds anywhere. We visited The Salt Lick and 17th Street Bar & Grill, which were both pretty good - click here and here for their respective reviews. Ultimately, we just couldn’t get Big Bobs sandwich out of our heads, so we went back for a second one of these before leaving on Saturday. We wound up waiting an hour-and-a-half for it, but it was TOTALLY worth it!!!

When we came back on Sunday, we started with an easy 30 minutes in line for our third (and regrettably, final) sandwich from Big Bob’s – I know, I know, I think I might have a problem!

Scott and I (and Scott’s sister, Julia) enjoying our third pulled pork sandwich from Big Bob’s. Becca was off getting free drinks, but you can tell how excited we all still were about these sandwiches!

We also visited The Pit and Pappy’s Smokehouse (pulled pork and ribs, respectively), but these were both just kind of “okay” - maybe that’s the risk you run with cooking for such a huge crowd during a multi-day food festival. We spent the rest of the afternoon on a bench in Madison Square Park, listening to the live music, eating watermelon, and drinking root beer floats. Shake Shack had a long line during the Big Apple BBQ, but I can’t imagine who would want a New York burger when they could have Alabama barbecue!

(click here for a full list of pitmasters & their menus)


  1. Thanks for posting this review. I am always out of town the weekend they hold this but always want to go :(

  2. I am beyond jealous! Glad you had so much fun, and created some great food memories-

  3. I reviewed the Big Apple BBQ as well, I got stuck in line behind prepies...

  4. @Epicurette: i read your blogpost - haha, i can't imagine bringing a football to an event this crowded! the only thing worse would have been a frisbee - although that's a little more "dirty hippie" than "preppy" :)