Hill Country Barbecue

I woke up this morning, and could not even make it through to the second half of my flagel.

Hill Counrty BBQ Hill Country Barbecue Sauce

My stomach was stuffed from yesterday, which began at Baked in Brooklyn, then extended through to a burger and fries at Shake Shack, across the border to Connecticut for steamed lobster, then back into New York City with a quick detour through the Apple store, then home to polish off the box of cookies I absconded with from the boys at Baked. Because, you know, I had to eat them while they were still fresh. Right?

cornbread

So you can imagine that I didn’t wake up with much of an appetite.

However…

I had a meeting over on 26th Street which ended around noon, coincidentally coinciding with lunchtime, and I found myself right in front of Hill Country barbecue. I’d had barbecue already at RUB, and I knew that Hill Country was supposedly the best in New York City (and I also know about Dinosaur, but Hill Country is Homesick Texan-approved, according to the word on the street), and there I was, and there it was. So I thought I would ‘take one for the team’—and went inside.

Hill Country is counter service, meaning they give you a ticket on the way in, you pass through the meat counter, where choices range from pork rib and brisket, to Beer Can game hen and Kreuz’s sausage, delivered from the mothership in Texas.

Hill Country barbeque Arnold Palmer

There’s a soda called “Big Red” shipped from Texas as well. But my drink of choice is always an Arnold Palmer, a mix of lemonade and ice tea, served southern-style, in a jar.

The fellow at the pit was pulling meat out of a big metal bin, while the service person was piling it onto heavy pieces of paper (there’s no plates). Everything is by the pound ($22.25-$8.50) so I ordered four strips of brisket and three pork ribs, changing my order at the last minute to add an additional rib. Because, well, they looked kinda good.

Hill Country Barbeque ribs

You then can pick out the sides you want, and I went for confetti cole slaw and cornbread with ancho-honey butter. The Q? It was great. The ribs had a smoky flavor that permeated all the way through; meaty and sweet, with just enough fat to make them tender. My lean brisket was terrific, too, dipped in a puddle I made with the barbecue sauce provided on the tables, along with a big roll of paper towels. Especially appreciated was the large sink with plenty of extra towels in the dining room, for in-between clean ups, which I did twice during my lunch, and once afterward.

barbecue aftermath

When I brought my ticket to the cashier, I was a bit surprised when the bill came to nearly thirty dollars (not including tip), but I suppose that’s cheaper than a trip to Texas. And it was mighty good barbecue, although I had to leave two of the ribs behind because, seriously, I just couldn’t eat anymore. For those that want to get out of there for less than I did, there are lunch specials, like the barbecue beef sandwich with a side and drink for $11.50.

And there was a “healthy” lunch on the blackboard for $10, which, in retrospect, was probably what I should have ordered. Because I can barely face the Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake from Baked that’s sitting in the next room right now. And it would be a shame if I left any of it behind.

Hill Country Barbecue
30 West 26th Street (between Broadway and 6th Avenue)
Tel: 212-255-4544

Related Posts and Links

Rub BBQ

Doughnut Plant

Flat Bagels

Porchetta

Zabar’s

Momofuku Milk Bar

New York City Dining & Travel Notes


52 comments

  • I’m jealous you got to go to Baked. I so want to visit them and that will be in the fall. And may be you should be back to Austin to taste the Hill Country here too. We have one of the best barbeque in town. I will be looking forward to your next trip, wherever it will be. I’m enjoying (and drooling over) your trip.

  • That looks pretty authentic, but you really should go to Texas for the real thing sometime — to the genuine Kreuz’s or, my favorite, the original Rudy’s in Leon Springs, just north of San Antonio (and it needs to be the Leon Springs location – the others are pale imitations). And with barbecue, you need a Shiner Bock, not a Big Red, which is pretty disgusting stuff, no matter how popular it is in Texas!

  • I am usually a little late on the game….and I am just getting around to finding out about you…sorry for me. But am very glad I have…WHERE have you been all my life! This post sounds like a perfect vacation day for me. I just recently stumbled upon “The Sweet Life in Paris” and am loving it. I back packed around France as a college student and have German friends who now live in France…so some of what you are saying is familiar and makes me giggle, and mortified all at the same time.

  • Fette Sau is WAY better.

  • You didn’t miss anything by skipping the Big Red, but a Shiner Bock or a St.Arnold Lawnmower go great with BBQ.

    The price seems pretty outrageous—last time I was out for BBQ in the Hill Country, we spent under $25 for 2 people!

  • Wow, these cats are fancy with their brown paper and cornbread. If you ever make it out to Austin it’s white bread on white butcher paper. And you can get your gas pumped while your ordering. Now that’s Texas BBQ.
    Oh, and the brisket is good too :)

  • The last good bbq I had was Salt Lick and Ruby’s in Austin. I absolutely can’t wait to go to NY and try Doughnut Plant and Hill Country BBQ, possibly even Rub. You have stirred up a hankering for bbq. It happens! I lived in Texas and it is king of bbq with fabulous stories to go with. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t find good bbq elsewhere. It tremendous fun to find those hidden gems (some are not so hidden) that are doing it right. Looks like a road trip is in my plans! Thank for the tour of NY. There is so much to do there. Tenement Museum is supposed to be very interesting.

  • You should come to the real Hill Country in Texas and go on the BBQ trail! It includes Taylor Cafe, Elgin, and Salt Lick (and more!). It’s worth the plane ticket, I swear to my mamma!

  • So how did you take pictures of the ‘cue without greasing up your phone? I’m impressed! Personally I think Hill Country has the best sausage and brisket; Dinosaur has the best baby back ribs; and Daisy May’s has the best sides, chili, and beef ribs.

  • I’d give so much for *any* restaurant selling cornbread here in Australia, even if the cornbread itself cost $30. (Okay, that’s a lie. I wouldn’t pay $30 for cornbread. I might for that cake, though.)

  • No plates? I don’t know. I already don’t understand why anybody would serve anything on paper or plastic plates but none at all?

  • Lemonade and Iced tea? Interesting combination. Jars are a nice touch; just went to a bridal shower where they used those as drinking glasses.

  • Hey guys, just click on the Kreuz’s link in this blog and you will see that David HAS been to the real deal.

  • I went to Hill Country for the first time a few weeks ago, and it definitely lived up to the hype. I mean, Bruni worships the place. I literally ate so much though (went during all-you-can eat Mondays, with unlimited meat and sides after paying a $25 flat-rate) that I was comatose for hours afterwards. It was beautiful. Good choice on the cornbread with the ancho honey butter by the way, that was one of my favorite parts of the feast.

  • Hooray! I have a taltented actress friend who’s a waitress there. I will tell her that her restaurant is famous.

  • Dang it: “talented.” Why am I so quick to submit and so scornful of preview?

  • I had no idea you could find good barbeque in NYC. I was saving up my craving for smoked meats and mexican food for a trip to Austin but since I will be going to NYC sooner, I might just indulge myself. I really miss good barbeque.

  • I wish you’d stop making me question my decision to leave NYC, David. Hrmph.

  • I have trouble with those restaurants selling any dish “by the weight”. It means that if you’re not specialised in eyballing quantities for the meal you selectionned, you almost always end with a bad surprise on the bill. That would have been too tricky for me, or I would have asked to weight every piece till I found one compatible with my budget (and probably I would have got odd looks :/…)

    I remember some friends thinking that I was terribly picky and cheap to ask for precise quantities at the chinese restaurant counter. (I was asking for 200gr of rice and I made her reduce the quantity twice, while she was trying to sell 390gr or so, and 295gr or so, as an equivalent instead. Same for every part of the meal).

    My friends thought that it was ridiculous to get rid of just one big spoon of rice, the plate would be the same with it. actually each “spoonful” was another 100gr = 6€, but they seemed to fail to understand this. they just thought I was wasting their time and mine.

    So when it was the turn of those friends to order, with something proud in the voice, looking at me in the corner of their eyes, they simply stated that they wanted some rice, and some chicken with some nems.

    Oh boy, they were not disappointed :D !!! Of course the lady at the counter crammed their plates with all the rice and chicken she could fit on it, and I can swear it was the most expensive chinese meal I ever saw in my life… At least for them :D !

  • dayum, David! Leave some food for me when I come to NYC in November ;-)

    @krysalia: Good story!

  • Wow David, Too much food! Although, I really appreciate this because I’m going to New York City soon and will know what restaurants to visit if I ever find myself looking for one outside of the list I’ve already created.

    -Earl Lee

  • Hill Country barbecue reminds me of summers at my families’ lake house — we always stopped at Big John’s barbecue on the way. And you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted Big Red ice cream — I think it’s made with a litre of Big Red, a box of frozen strawberries, a can of sweetened condensed milk and a cup of cream. Only in Texas…

  • Are we going to get a review of Baked? If you could go to one, which would you go to: Baked, Doughnut Plant or Milk Bar.

  • Who would have thought of some tasty kick ass barbecue in NYC! The Arnold Palmer lemonade / iced tea is always a refreshing treat.

    =:~)

  • I wonder how the guys at Kreuz feel about their sausage being served with BBQ sauce. If you’ve been there, you’ve seen the “No Sauce” sign.

  • Sasha: I reader in a previous post also pointed out that Kreuz has a “no sauce” sign, but I took a picture of my dining companion, a native Texan, dipping a rib in something that looked like sauce. Maybe they mean “No Bbq sauce”? In any case, Kreuz is certainly aware, I’m sure, of how Hill Country serves their bbq and there is a nice photo montage on the wall of Hill Country as well.

    My Kitchen in the Rockies + Dina: I’m not a Texan, but that’s I’ve had bbq served in Texas, which I think is a tradition. Like spreading newspapers when eating crayfish, or wearing a bib eating lobster in New England.

    Skippy: All the service people were really, really great. Including your friend! (if she was there..)

    Amy: I was surprised it added up so fast (!) The four ribs were $11 so I probably should’ve just ordered two, since that was all I had the appetite for. I was thinking this is probably a better place to go with a group and get a big pile of bbq and sides, and share everything.

  • Hey David –

    Hill Country is certainly yummy, but even better is Fette Sau in Williamsburg. (How can one deny something named “Fat Pig”?) My boyfriend and I live not too far away from Hill Country but when we’re in the mood for barbecue, we make the trek to Billysburg because, well, we take our barbecue fix pretty seriously.

    PS. Any chance you got to try the Spicy Rice Cake & Sausage dish at Momofuku Ssam? I really would love to hear what you think about it! It seems like the kind of dish that would be really fun to try to replicate at home and I guess I’m hoping you’ll figure out a way to do it for the rest of us ;)

    I didn’t eat there on this trip, but perhaps the recipe is in the Momofuku cookbook? -dl

  • How strange to be sitting in Austin, longing for visit to New York, and reading all about homesick Texan food! Though I do love my hometown. And we’re having a banner peach crop this year. What you need after that bbq is some cobbler and homemade ice cream. Come on down!

  • This native Texan is gagging at those prices! Glad it was good.

    This matters to no one but a fellow Texan, but it’s definitely white bread, pickles and raw onions with your brisket. Big Red is more of an East Texas thing where it goes well with hot links and ribs. Shiner Bock is the perfect accompaniment for Central Texas style sausage.

  • David, maybe it was bottled spicy sauce what your friend put on it. Supposedly, there’s a debate in Texas whether BBQ meat should be served with sauce or no sauce. I personally prefer it with sauce even when the meat is deliciously tender and smoky. At Kreuz, I usually dip my meat in a salt and pepper concoction they have on all the tables and that’s it.

  • I just want to point out that no self-respecting Texan would serve lean brisket. ;) Then again I’m impossibly spoiled for brisket (mine) so I usually don’t even order it out.

    As for the no sauce, it’s not really a hard and fast “rule” with anything but brisket. Certainly with chicken and ribs you would want to use sauce especially for basting purposes, and if you’ve got some REALLY spicy sausage, a tangy sauce in moderate amounts can be a nice balance.

    But if you’ve got to add sauce to your brisket, you’re doing it wrong. Likewise if you need a knife to eat it. ;D

    Texas BBQ pedantry aside, it looks delicious! I know what I’m having for lunch.

  • re: The sauce vs no sauce debate: I was telling someone the other day, when I was a pastry chef in a restaurant, someone wanted chocolate sauce on their apple crisp. To me, the idea is awful (as much as I love chocolate sauce and apple crisp, I don’t think the two should ever meet.) So I just gave them a pitcher of chocolate sauce on the side and let them do what they want.

    Taste is so subjective. When I moved to California, I was really shocked to see people putting mayonnaise on hamburgers. (Oil and egg yolk spread…on a burger?) But some people like it that way and as long as I don’t have to eat it, let ‘em spread it on. I’ll stick with mustard and relish on my burgers, though, and sometimes ketchup.

    And if you go to Paris and ask for ketchup for your frites, you might get a Texas-sized refusal. (Although many places do keep it on hand for les Américains…)

  • David, Yum. I am literally drooling over the fabulous food you are eating in New York…. the pork ribs look divive.
    I have one ( somewhat unrelated) question, that I hope you may be able to answer…
    I noticed on the the website for Hill Country there is a photo of a big pile on BBQ’d meats with a few Ritz crackers on the plate…almost like a garnish. I was wondering what that was about… it seems to be a rather odd juxtaposition?

  • David, excellent post. I’ll have to check it out.

    Je suis tout à fait d’accord avec ceux qui ont proposé Fette Sau comme alternatif. Une petite excursion à Williamsburg – ca vaut vraiment la peine, je vous assure. Même si vous ne faites pas une note dans votre blog, il faut pas le rater pendant votre petit sejour à New York.

    Pleasure reading as always.

  • I wish I would have known about this place during the two months I was in New York.

  • I’m drooling, as usual…quit making me jealous! Also, I must say, it was great following your blog while I was living in Paris (you always seemed to put into words EXACTLY what my roommates and I were thinking), and now that I’m back home in New York, it’s great reading your blogs here, too…you’ve given me some great restaurant recommendations! Thanks :)

  • By the looks of this post you had some fine Bar B Q!

  • Oh David, for a minute I thought you found the time to sneak off to central Texas and have a religious moment at a real barbeque joint. Not that good barbeque is really that hard to find (even in Paris if you don’t sleep in). But to sit at the wooden benches with some Texans and a few loaves of cheap white bread and a bucket of Lone Star… David, do you have any idea? Love the writing Monsiuer. Ciao. -Ben

  • Nothing, nothing, compares with bar-b-que in the Hill country of central Texas. Thank god I spent the formative years of my youth there and developed a fine appreciation for bar-b-que sauce and Shiners beer. I could eat a bowl of sauce with a spoon, I like it so much.

    It looks like you found the next best thing at Hill Country in NYC. Good for you.

    Kathleen

  • So glad you enjoyed it! You’ve been hitting all of the amazing places!

  • Did you ever make it back to RUB for a bite of burnt ends? They were the highlight for us there. Hill Country is fabulous. (Coincidentally those have been the two restaurants of choice the past two Father’s Day.) When Daisy May’s first opened, they had an amazing Blue Plate Special which was worth every penny- something like $8 for ribs and two sides— the Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar is to die for. I believe he puts copious amounts of butter and cream in it.

    I’ll come over to polish off the Sweet and Salty Cake if it’s still around!

  • You should have taken my advice and gone with the moist brisket and the prime rib.

  • Simon: Well, the ribs looked irresistible, so I couldn’t pass them up. Could I?

  • Where did you go for lobster in Connecticut?

  • Hill Country — at least in the beginning, and I’ve not heard of any change — had Kreuz’s imprimatur. The Kreuz pit master even brought a half-burnt log of post oak from Lockhart to help “bless” the HC smokers. One of HC’s founders could trace his lineage back through Lockhart.

    The brown paper is totally in homage to Kreuz. It was a market, so it had market paper. In its old S. Commerce St. location (before the split and K’s move out to U.S. 183, or N. Colorado St.), Kreuz at one point had knives chained to each table. That eneded when the party-poopers at the health department finally noticed.

    Now for the heresy: On the right day, the prime rib at HC actually can taste better than at Kreuz.

    And, although the boys at Baked might have raised the smallest quibble, you could have taken home a little container of Blue Bell’s “French vanilla” ice cream from HC to go on the salty-sweety-cakey-thingy.

  • Four words to remember for next time you’re here in Austin: City Market Luling Texas

  • Brilliant! A sink with towels in the dining room… I love ribs but always despair at how messy my fingers get when eating them. I enjoyed reading about this restaurant’s pragmatic approach to this BBQ dilemma, David.

  • hahaha oh dear, I had no idea Big Red was a Texas soda. it’s kind of weird because I’ve seen it all my ilfe, heh.

    Oh, and I’m glad you mentioned the sweet and salty cake because I’ve been meaning to make it. Although, seeing as it is summer and it’s hot and the peaches are sweet, I’ll have to wait.

  • I lived in Lockhart as a teenager and Central TX BBQ has spoiled me for all the rest. Lockhart itself (a town of 15,000+) has 4 BBQ places! All of them decent, but Kreuz is the big dawq. Big Tex mentioned Kreuz original location which is now Smitty’s (result of a big family feud), which I like on those few times I get back there. Probably just for the nostalgia. They have these smoked pork chops that are fabulous. City Market in Luling I have heard is great as well, but they were rivals to Lockhart so haven’t been there.

    And if you don’t cotton to Big Red, the next best thing for true Texas is a cold Dr. Pepper!

    If the BBQ is good and pit-smoked there really is no need for sauce – end of story!

  • I’ve eaten here a few times when I’m visiting NY. We usually go on Monday night as it’s all you can eat. Everyone orders different sides so we can all get a little taste of everything. The brisket is the BEST!!! Who’d have thunk it! – especially coming from the south — great BBQ in NYC !

  • Wow I love American barbecued ribs! I’m definitely following some of your guide if I visit NYC one day!!!

  • Next trip to Austin for BBQ, pass by Lockhart and try the ribs at Luling City Market. Lots of locals think it is superior to anything in Lockhart. But you’ve got to try it if you want to join the debate.