A legitimate barbecue festival — in the middle of New York City? It may be hard to believe, but the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party is now in its eleventh year. Every June, the event brings more than a dozen of the country’s best pit masters together in Madison Square Park (23rd and Broadway). This June 8 and 9, you’ll find a roster of incredible talent at the Block Party, both serving their barbecue and speaking about it onstage.
How it works: Festival admission is free; food is priced at $9 per plate. Each of the pit masters has his or her own station, and chatting with the fine folks behind the barbecue is one of the highlights of the experience.
Arrive early to beat the crowds; the festival kicks off at 11am, but folks line up well before that. One easy way to access the event is through a FastPass, a ticket that gets you access to an express line, but they’re sold out for the 2013 event.
What to eat: Whole hogs are a rare sighting in New York — barbecue joints in this dense of an urban area here don’t have the space or the ability to pull it off — so embrace the opportunity to try some at the Block Party. Seek out famed pit masters Sam Jones (Skylight Inn in Ayden, N.C.), Rodney Scott (Scott’s Bar-B-Que, Hemingway, S.C.) Ed Mitchell (widely regarded as a master of the whole-hog style; currently between ventures in North Carolina) and Patrick Martin (Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Nashville, Tenn.).
Other notable participants include Mike Mills (17th St. Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Ill.), Scott Roberts, (Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas) and Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q of Decatur, Ala.).
Onstage: At the Block Party’s stage, you’ll find talks from acclaimed Southern chefs, including James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Hastings (Hot & Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Ala.) talking about Gulf seafood; Chef John Currence (City Grocery, Oxford, Miss.) on cured meat; and Sean Brock (Husk in Charleston, S.C.) teaching the crowd about Nashville hot chicken.
And more: Had enough meat? At the “Alabama Gulf Seafood No Bones Zone,” from 4pm to 6pm both Saturday and Sunday, there’s an oyster-shucking party from Wintzell’s Oyster House, a famed seafood joint in Huntsville, Ala. Tickets are $40, and are available at eventbrite.com/event/6636725625