New York Barbecue

Hill country bbq

I’m pretty sure I can’t eat anymore. But for some reason, I keep testing out that theory in New York. There’s so many places to try, old favorites and new ones, that it’s hard to stop. But when I found out a friend from Australia was in town, as well as my Frenchman in tow, when faced with the task of choosing a place to go. So I suggested Texas bbq, which surprisingly, everyone was up for it. Including me.

Barbecue people are pretty rigid about what constitutes good bbq – the type of meat, the rub, the sauce, and the cooking – are all points of contention. But I’ve never heard anyone say a disparaging words about Hill Country Barbecue…even though it’s thousands of miles from Texas (or Kansas.)

beef rib at Hill country bbq jack daniel's on the rocks

I’ve sent some open-minded French friends here on their visits to New York and although the food is served on butcher paper and meant to be grabbed with both hands for maximum (and correct) enjoyment, they’ve loved it all the same. Unlike the fast-food outlets that are transplanted outside of the United States, which are often all they see representing American dining, barbecue is really something that’s part of the best – and most unique aspects – of America.

Gnawing on a mega-sized beef rib that was generous enough to feed three of us, and then some (when I ordered three – one for each of us – the counter person said, “I think you may just want two”, and when she weighed one and it was over a pound, and cost $29.75, I agreed), we three from different corners of the world, took part in the great American pastime of stuffing ourselves silly.

Romain was rolling his eyes over and over, and finally said “I’ve never eaten beef this good” which is partially due to the fact that the best American beef is usually aged (French beef generally isn’t, and can be chewy) and visitors come here and rave about how good the meat is. Midway through the meal, he pronounced it the best meal he’d had of the week.

Of course, to go alongside, I ordered some typical side dishes. I had to translate what corn pudding was (maïs gratin?), green bean casserole (haricots verts en surprise?), corn bread (which is made like a cake, but we call is ‘bread’, so if I called it gâteau de maïs I don’t think they would have let me order a few squares), and cole slaw, which although doesn’t exist in the same incarnation in France, was the easiest to explain as salade de chou.

hill country bbq bag

Luckily le doggy bag exists, which are far as I know, is something pretty unique to America as well. Yet we didn’t have to make use of one as surprisingly, my friends from France and Australia made hay of the meal, while l’américain had to beg off helping them with the rest.

Hill Country Barbecue and Market
30 West 26th Street
(212) 255-4544

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  • Martha in KS
    August 7, 2011 5:43pm

    Come to Kansas City for some REAL BBQ!

  • Rachel S.
    August 7, 2011 5:47pm

    Mmmm Sounds delicious David! I’m reading this post at 8:46 AM and I feel like I’m ready for some BBQ of my own. :)

  • Sophie
    August 7, 2011 5:49pm

    This is making me hungry – I had planned a barbeque summer gathering this afternoon but I’m from the UK and inevitably the British weather has crushed our plans by having a sudden rain downpour. At least I can live it through you David! If only teleportation were possible…

  • August 7, 2011 5:49pm

    I remained fixated, staring at the first picture for a long time.
    I imagined what it tasted like, how happy I would be eating it and how i would suck on the bones……
    I am so visiting this place on my next trip to NYC.
    Thanks David!

  • August 7, 2011 5:59pm

    I am drooling.

  • August 7, 2011 6:00pm
    David Lebovitz

    Sophie and Melissa: Kind of great how good food knows so international boundries!

    Martha: I’m not sure what that means…is Texas bbq not actually bbq? I’m confused…

  • August 7, 2011 6:06pm

    I have been researching BBQ joints (both Kansas and Texas style) to visit with a bunch of kids and this looks to be perfect. Eating with our hands is our favorite new pass time here because we live in Paris too and use a knife and fork for everything. We do get some weird looks when they eat hamburgers and fries!
    I don’t eat much meat but I might have to make an exception for this summer.
    I normally live for the ‘sides’, hope theirs were good.
    Do they have the burnt ends too?

  • Jenny
    August 7, 2011 6:12pm

    I used to travel to NYC 2-3 times a year for business and it seemedlike everything I ate there was wonderful. My most memorable meal was on 6th st at one of the Indian places…. Never ate at Hill Country BBQ though — maybe that’s because I grew up eating Texas Hill Country BBQ!

  • August 7, 2011 6:16pm

    I absolutely love when out-of-town foreigners visit and are adventurous eaters. My friend from Nice, France stayed with me for an entire summer and ended up gaining 10 pounds. I would say that my mission as US food tour guide was a success!

  • August 7, 2011 6:18pm

    Good choice – Hill Country is hands down my favorite BBQ place in NYC. It’s great for big groups and the food is always amazing. I live in London now and whenever my husband and I are back in NYC this place is one of our first stops. Sounds like you have been having a great time in New York!


  • Mary K.
    August 7, 2011 6:23pm

    Daveeeeed! Just finishing your book about your life in Paris. I, too, lived in SF and had the honor of visiting Paris on our honeymoon (I swear even the sewer gas smells like roses!) My favorite BBQ place is Dinosaur BBQ- started in Syracuse, NY, it was a biker joint- it now has a location in Harlem. Give it a try. The pulled pork (ahem) is to die for.

  • Mary K.
    August 7, 2011 6:25pm

    oh yeah…Cocolat was the bomb! A friend, Curtis, used to work there and used to bring us containers of the ‘centers’ that didn’t come out just right. Tastiest rejects I ever ate!

  • August 7, 2011 6:32pm

    I was raised in NYC and this article has made me miss my hometown! One of the things no place can do quite like NYC is wonderful food at all the fabulous restaurants. This looks heavenly.

  • Marie M.C.
    August 7, 2011 6:59pm

    Num, num, num, nuuuuuum. I want some place like this in San Francisco — or is there already one and people are keeping it a secret?

  • August 7, 2011 7:07pm

    I enjoyed looking at your post on the kitchen on the Queen Mary 2 as when we cruised to the Caribbean with it we did not see the kitchens. When I came to the US from France in the 60s I came I across on a ship, but it was not so luxurious.

    We have some pretty good barbecue in Atlanta. I would not try to find a barbecue restaurant in Paris as I prefer to eat la bonne cuisine française. New York is a gourmet paradise. Portions here are huge so doggy bags are very useful. I’ll keep your list of New York restaurants, merci mille fois.

  • August 7, 2011 7:12pm

    How to translate corn pudding and corn bread made me laugh out loud. I made corn pudding for some friends when I was living in England as and undergraduate and it is a rather odd dish to explain, although not quite as out of place in England. At least, though, the proof is in the pudding.

  • August 7, 2011 7:38pm

    Looks pretty awesome! ;-)
    I love Georgia Pit BBQ with fried okra.

  • August 7, 2011 7:52pm

    Absolutely love translating classic aspects of American cuisine, such as BBQ, to friends from around the world. Also a big fan of BBQ in the heart of a world class dining destination that is New York City. On a recent visit to NYC, I fell in love with every aspect (except fighting the huge crowds) of Daisy May’s BBQ. Thanks for sharing your experience at Hill Country, I’ve added it to the always long list of stops on the next trip to New York.

  • Sandra Myers
    August 7, 2011 9:01pm

    Although I haven’t eaten much ( actually any Texas style bbq), I understand its appeal. I’m curious about one thing in your first photo here. What was the cracker…assuming saltine..there for, about, etc? I’m just a bit curious about that and did not read any mention of that.

  • August 7, 2011 9:58pm

    We were in NYC in July and enjoyed a great dinner in Blue Hill thanks to you mentioning it a while ago.

    You are right that aging is sure the main reason why the meat tastes different in the US. But aging is not everything. Here in Switzerland we also age beef for 2 to 3 weeks but our farmers breed the wrong animals because they care more about producing lots of milk then about high quality meat and so the end result in the US is still way better.

  • Laura
    August 7, 2011 10:19pm

    I’ve been to the Hill Country branch in DC several times. Being a Texas-style BBQ place, it is worth the trip for their beef (the brisket and those Flintstones’ sized ribs). Some of their sides are also done very well – the corn pudding, the collard greens, and the macaroni and cheese, which is a bowl of rich, uber cheesy, creamy goodness. But as a native of KC, I’ve been less enamored of Hill Country’s take on other meats, particularly their chicken.

    And yes, Texas-style is BBQ, as is Memphis-style, Carolina-style and Kansas City-style. It’s just a difference in meat preference, rubs, sauce, and/or smoke. Each version is worth eating (and often!), if done well.

    And not to pick a nit, but the vast majority of Kansas City proper is in Missouri, but there is plenty of good BBQ to be found on both sides of the MO/KS state line.

  • August 7, 2011 10:31pm

    As an immigrant to the U.S., I confess my feelings about American cuisine were rather negative. Until I experienced Texas-style bbq. Having now broadened my horizons into other styles of bbq, I am confident that this American-style cooking truly is special, and is extremely high-quality food.

    If only we can get bbq enthusiasts to give up their fascination with Wonder bread…

  • kim
    August 7, 2011 10:39pm

    Oooh! Happy to see this :) I visited New York for the first time this June and went to Hill County BBQ on a whim (okay, because it was on the same street as our hotel). It was awesome! Me and my friend split a one-person combo menu (at 20$) and still couldn’t finish our meat, but man it was so good. And we were able to take our giant cookie (dessert course of the menu) to go. I always assumed “Texas BBQ” would be just dripping and greasy, but I never had brisket before… I’m converted. I’d definitely return!

  • Leah
    August 7, 2011 11:57pm

    You probably already have more recommendations than you can use while you’re in NYC but here are two more, just in case:
    1. Kefi for amazing Greek food – One of the owners is Michael Psilakis, who wrote “How to Roast a Lamb” (505 Columbus Ave. near 84th Street)
    2. Calle Ocho – for great Tapas – 45 W 81st Street.
    Theese are both on the Upper West Side and are easy to get to by subway.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  • August 8, 2011 12:54am

    It’s both a blessing and a curse that my office is directly across the street from Hill Country. On the one hand, every morning I walk to work and am surrounded by a delicious fog of barbecue smell; on the other hand, there’s always that fatty delicious brisket so close at hand…

    You’re hitting all the right spots this trip, sounds like!

  • Janell
    August 8, 2011 2:44am

    Did they pile you up with white bread with your purchase?

  • Crystal
    August 8, 2011 2:57am

    I went to Hill Country BBQ last August when I spent a week in NYC, based on your recommendation, and it was wonderful. Can’t wait to go back.

  • Sasha
    August 8, 2011 3:34am

    Next time you’re in Austin, bring Romain with you *and* you must stand in line for 2 hrs starting at around 10 am to have some Franklin’s BBQ.

  • August 8, 2011 4:39am

    If one day the blog isn’t your thing anymore, you can always get a job as food translator. Funny.

  • Nick
    August 8, 2011 4:51am

    I was gunna say David. Those biscuits look familiar. We have em in Aus. They’re called Saladas… You guys prob have your own version there too I’m guessing… Loving the New York posts! You should be a traveling food critic! What a job!

  • LH
    August 8, 2011 5:29am

    I agree. Come to Kansas City for BBQ. There’s nothing quite like going to a Kansas gas station to get some of the world’s best barbecue.

  • August 8, 2011 7:41am

    That looks too good David!
    Lucky you :)

  • August 8, 2011 12:56pm

    looks very spicy. This is making me hungry when i look at first time its mouth watering… very testy i will tryout this on this weekend…

  • August 8, 2011 3:01pm

    Wooahh! This makes me hungry and drooling! Now I’m craving for BBQ!

  • Martha in KS
    August 8, 2011 3:59pm

    David, it’s all about pride. Texas bbq is their version, but KC’s is the best! You must come try it! I’ll give you a tour of the city.

  • August 8, 2011 4:31pm

    Looks delicious! I know everyone has a style of BBQ they prefer. I went to my friends last night for BBQ….they are both Master BBQ Judges and there was also a State Champion BBQer there…to say the food was amazing would be an understatement!

  • August 8, 2011 4:38pm

    But there’s BBQ in Paris – and it’s really good, too! Romain (and you) should try Blues Bar-B-Q. The owner is from TX and imported two smokers so that the beef, pork, ribs, and sausages are smoked not braised. It’s the closest thing that you can get to real barbecue without paying for a ticket home. She also does homemade cornbread and Louisiana style gumbo.

    • August 8, 2011 5:12pm
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t been but gave them a little shout out here.

  • Ninette
    August 8, 2011 4:46pm

    I’m glad Hill Country BBQ finally opened in DC. Brisket is to die for. Mac&cheese is also very good. Glad the sides can be ordered in small sizes.

  • August 8, 2011 4:50pm

    Well I think it is all good and if you still want more Virgil’s on 44th was always good! Always love you blog but this has been great following your travels!

  • August 8, 2011 5:06pm

    I am so jealous – it is certainly true what you say about French beef – I wish they’d learn how to age it properly!

  • August 8, 2011 5:52pm

    Thanks for the link – if I would have read your post back in April I could have been eating BBQ for months. And Mexican food, too!

    But more importantly, your link for getting an IP address in the States is golden.

  • August 8, 2011 6:12pm

    Your photo makes me wish I had BBQ right now for breakfast. Such competition…Kansas City, Texas, North Carolina! I have to say my favorite barbecue is from a little place in Denver. My back porch. Maybe it’s the bourbon in the sauce? :)

  • ben w
    August 8, 2011 8:05pm

    “even though it’s thousands of miles from Texas (or Kansas.) ”

    Considering that you regularly rag on people who want to know where they can get burgers or other “American” foods in Paris, I find it a little odd that you would condescend to eat barbecue in New York City.

    I don’t know when I’ve been regularly irked by people looking for American food or items in Paris. In fact, I’ve done posts about where to get American baking ingredients, Mexican (and Tex-Mex) food, and hamburgers in Paris. -dl

  • David
    August 8, 2011 8:38pm

    Hill Country is really good Texas style BBQ, but my absolute favourite BBQ in New York is Fette Sau in Brooklyn, which is more delicious (although not strictly Texan), cheaper, and a much better atmosphere.

  • August 8, 2011 9:21pm

    I was tickled to see the write-up about Hill Country Barbeque in NYC — and it also has a DC location now. As someone who grew up on Kreutz Market barbeque from Lockhart and who even now has to occasionally drive the 50 minutes from Austin to eat there, I can testify that Hill Country indeed ‘got it right!’

    Ask for the pork loin whether it’s on the menu or not.

  • August 8, 2011 9:25pm

    Great post! Just wanted to give you the heads up I referenced your post on Corn Syrup in my post. Thanks so much for all the great information!

  • Doukissa
    August 8, 2011 10:26pm

    Remember the line “Where’s the Beef?” well you found it in NY! I love that one pounder y’all had to have, with all those sides, slaw and gooeyness. Ah, David, all those irresistible delights you’ve been indulging yourself in . . . seems like you know, deep down inside you’re gonna reeeaaallllyyy miss us! Yee-haw! Of course, we’ll still love you no matter where you are! Keep enjoying the good old USA!

  • August 8, 2011 10:49pm

    Agree that barbeque is one of the best things about American cuisine. Looks delicious!

  • Sparky NYC
    August 9, 2011 12:00am

    Dear David,
    thank you for your blog. I was in Paris after a job in St. Remy recently and did follow some of your haunts. Before you go back to Paris, would you go to Kalustyans 28th and Madison and write a review. I feel that it is a gem that should not go un-noticed.

    As to Paris, I stay in the 4th and L’osteria on rue de sevigne is a gem. Unfortunately, the President and his entourage found it last summer. The owner is now French not Italian. Same chef. amazing food. reservations recommended.

    sparky NYC.

  • Susan
    August 9, 2011 2:30am

    When in MAnhattan, I tend to go to Virgil’s near Times Square, but shall now have to try out Hill Country. And they have branches – how convenient !!

  • August 9, 2011 4:03am

    Oh I love this place. For 4th of July week I did seven days of American food and I included Hill Country for the Texas brisket. The side dishes were soooooo good, especially the sweet potato bourbon mash.

    But the best NYC BBQ happens at the Big Apple BBQ every June, so many choices so little time!

  • August 9, 2011 4:30am

    Nothing beats Texas’ BBQ, but that does look finger licking good :D

  • August 9, 2011 4:45am

    I love finger lickin BBQ but have to say I live in St Louis and although I think we have great BBQ – hands down Kansas City has the best!

  • Mike
    August 9, 2011 10:11am

    “ut I’ve never heard anyone say a disparaging words about Hill Country Barbecue…even though it’s thousands of miles from Texas (or Kansas.) ”

    Let me be the first then. I went there when it was relatively new. I thought it was OK. After eating at a lot of B-B-Que places in Manhattan I just don’t think there is very good b-b-que in this town. Someone told me something to do with regs prohibiting a real smoker or something. That out in Queens you can get decent b-b–que or you can wait for the b-b-que feast in Madison Park once a year and dream of eating real b-b-que down South.

  • Mike
    August 9, 2011 10:13am

    “Well I think it is all good and if you still want more Virgil’s on 44th was always good! ”


    PS, I ate at Blue Ribbon Sushi yet again this week. That’s where you should take your friend. The sushi there is always first rate !

  • August 9, 2011 12:37pm

    Hi David- love Hill Country! I’be been there several times when up from Atlanta. Ahhh, the brisket!! This week I’m visiting the new Neeley’s BBQ Parlor (from the Food Network show), instead. I’m hoping it’s not a tourist trap- we’ll see!

  • August 9, 2011 5:46pm

    Hill Country is one of my absolute favs in NYC. Their moist brisket is unrivaled!

    • August 9, 2011 7:16pm
      David Lebovitz

      I actually made the mistake of ordering the lean brisket once, which wasn’t nearly as good!

  • Guy
    August 9, 2011 6:23pm

    David, can you elaborate about the difference between American beef and French beef? I am a Frenchman and have been living in the USA for several years and I have found beef to be delicious and tender here. Even the non-aged one. Conversely I consider French beef to be absolute junk and once cooked it barely qualifies as soles. The taste is not that great and it is very fibrous and nervy. How come?

    • August 9, 2011 7:16pm
      David Lebovitz

      Aging beef means hanging it in a controlled environment for a number of days (at least a week, but usually longer). During the time, moisture get wicked away and the meat becomes more tender. The downside is that it takes time and the beef loses water, so it’s more expensive to produce and subsequently, to purchase. Am not sure why it’s not done in France since this is such a country of meat-lovers but a few places like Le Severo do it. (I do know a few French chefs that say that the meat in France is inconsistent and often they’ll use beef from Ireland instead.) You can read more about the process at Beef Aging on Wikipedia and there’s further links there, too.

  • Wendy Alden
    August 9, 2011 7:00pm

    Just finished reading, ‘A Sweet Life in Paris.’ Truly one of the most entertaining non-fictions books I’ve ever read. That and the great recipes too. I nearly ate all of the Plum & Raspberry Clafoutis the evening that I made it! Yum!

    I enjoy your website too for all the different sections.

    Having had the joy of visiting Paris in 2009 and 2010, I appreciated some of the subtleties in your book more than I would have without those visits.

    Seeing as you will be on the West Coast of California in later August, I may just be traveling the coastline to San Diego and if the trip works out, may just coincide a quick visit at your presentation to say ‘Hi’ and thanks for a great book. I am telling all my friends about the book too.

    Hello from Canada!

  • TGirlZA
    August 9, 2011 7:22pm

    I only ever see recipes for stewed or braised short ribs – any recipes for barbeque/grilled beef ribs, then… I know it’s not exactly le Francais, but I’m sure you could rustle a little somethin’ up!

  • August 10, 2011 2:59am

    Makes me hungry! Thankfully I am living in the BBQ Belt :)

  • ranchodeluxe
    August 10, 2011 3:49am

    My fave BBQ = your ribs or carnita recipe+ my chipotle sauce made in the Big Green Egg in my courtyard. Add pineapple salsa and dig in! From a Kansas farmer living 40 mis from KC….

  • August 11, 2011 2:48am

    Hill Country BBQ in NY? I don’t know about that. I have to agree with Sasha though. Franklin BBQ is pretty amazing. We posted a wrote up a review recently

  • August 11, 2011 2:54am

    They look glorious

  • Catering kraków
    August 11, 2011 2:10pm

    An amazing blog written by an amazing man. His style of writing draws one into the story she is re-creating. A wonderful creative talent. And the food and photographs are a delicious bonus :) Well done.

  • John Conrad
    August 12, 2011 8:59am

    A carnivores feast! If I learned anything from this article – It is that Americans LOVE their meat! Its good to see that a super-modern city, like New York, still has eateries of tradition and character! Love your writing style man!!! keep the articles coming!!!

  • August 14, 2011 4:26pm

    Interesting, I’ve visited the ultimate Hill Country barbecue place, which is called Salt Lick, and their barbecue looks nothing like that nor do they serve those side dishes. Too bad you and your friends couldn’t have experienced Kansas City barbecue because it truly is the best.

  • August 17, 2011 10:03pm

    I gotta put that on my list of things to do next time I’m there.