Sep

20

Harlem Bar-B-Q…It’s Meh!

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Dinosaur B-B-Q, reigning champion of Morningside barbeque, is a little crowded and a little overpriced. Leaving Harlem Bar-B-Q (2367 8th Avenue, between 127th and 128th Streets), Bwog realized that we’d rather just hang out in the Dinosaur mosh pit and pay a few extra bucks.But Harlem Bar-B-Q is not a bad restaurant, and if you’re looking for decent and cheap uptown BBQ, you could do worse. Jason Bell, of last year’s famed food feud, reports:

BBQCustomers are greeted with a basket of warm cornbread. Gingery, buttery marmalade snuggles in the basket too, bringing sweet, fruity heat to the rough and savory bread.

Proteins were successfully executed. Rotisserie chicken marries fatty skin to juicy flesh, a tender and surprisingly flavorful dish that narrowly avoids poultry’s usual pitfalls: rubbery, dry meat and insipid flavor. Actually, the barbecue sauce slathered all over the chicken tastes remarkably different from the mediocre wing sauce; spicy and complex, this sauce contributes acidity to an otherwise straightforward composition. Whether or not this sauce truly differs from the wing sauce remains uncertain—perhaps the kitchen corrected a seasoning mistake between course one and course two.

Of course, ribs always prove more controversial than chicken: fall-off-the-bone soft versus competition style firm, fatty versus lean, sauced versus dry. Harlem’s decision to feature baby back ribs complicates matters further, since St. Louis style ribs and spare ribs dominate most restaurant menus. Less meaty than other cuts, baby back ribs also picked up a cultural stigma from those catchy and annoying Chili’s commercials. Smeared with sticky sauce, Harlem’s ribs pull apart easily, incredibly soft and lightly smoky. These are not “authentic” barbecued ribs by any measure, lacking a characteristic pink smoke ring, any appreciable texture, and the depth of flavor achieved in well-seasoned pits. Tasty enough, Harlem’s ribs satisfy a momentary barbecue craving, and at $7.99 for lunch, they leave hungry wallets smoke free.

But! Crispy wings were more soggy than they were crisp, and barbecue sauce that tastes like ketchup doesn’t deserve a second taste.

Sides are slightly expensive, requiring an extra dollar to “upgrade” baked potato, French fries, or yellow rice to sweet potato fries, candied yams, potato salad, or mac and cheese. Collard greens raise the bill two dollars. Ordinary fries look and taste ordinary, a member of that ambiguously edible “frozen fry” species. Pony up the extra money to get a bowl of excellent collards, infused with shredded pork.

Harlem Bar-B-Q’s sweet tea is, sadly, cloyingly sweet straight-up Nestea.

Harlem Bar-B-Q is, alas, quite ordinary.

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4 Comments

  1. This article  

    is the Harlem BBQ of posts.

  2. Awful

    This guy needs to stop being a food writer. His prose is painful to read and falls into the adjective trap of which Bourdain speaks...

    • Jason Bell Fan  

      I mean obviously his prose is really florid, but his metaphors and word choice are always fresh and spot-on. I feel that his style of food criticism actually augments the overall effect of his review... To each his/her own, whatever...

  3. Anonymous  

    he's a st. louis boy...he knows his bbq

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