The Best Of New York's Big Apple BBQ

The sun was hot, the sauce was sticky, and the ribs were plentiful at the twelfth annual Big Apple BBQ festival this weekend at Madison Square Park, where Southern rock and pop bands like The Roosevelts played, and BBQ joints from across the country showed off the best brisket, ribs, and pulled pork they had to offer, including New York's Blue Smoke and Hill Country Barbecue, Texas' Salt Lick Bar-B-Que, and St. Louis' Pappy's Smokehouse.

Some places, like Que in Durham, North Carolina, were even serving a whole hog.

Que's hog. Photo by: Joanna Fantozzi

Lines were long this weekend at one of the biggest food festivals in New York, but Danny Meyer, who started the feast 12 years ago, remembers when it was just one block long in front of Blue Smoke.

Madison Square Park was filled to the brim both days of the festival. Photo by: Karen Lo

"My favorite thing to do here is watching people eating BBQ; it makes me so proud as one of the founders of the event," said Meyer. "BBQ builds community irrespective of what walk of life you come from, just look around everyone's happy."

Cutting pulled pork for Skylight Inn BBQ. Photo by: Karen Lo

Meyer's Blue Smoke was serving sizzling Andouille sausage last weekend with yellow mustard chow chow, prepared by chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois.

There was certainly a bit of healthy competition this weekend. It's tough not to compare the illustrious vendors — are 17th Street Bar and Grill's smoky and crispy ribs with a sweet sauce better than Pappy's generous helping of meaty and succulent baby back ribs? Or maybe it was the pulled pork sandwich from the Skylight Inn. 

The pulled pork sandwich from Skylight Inn BBQ. Photo by: Karen Lo

According to Salt Lick pitmaster Scott Roberts, even though they were all smoking similar dishes (like his brisket, Andouille sausage, and slaw on the side), the vibe between pitmasters is usually friendly.

"We don't try to say we are better than them, when you say best it's subjective, otherwise there'd be 250 million best BBQ restaurants," said Roberts. "We just try and judge if we did a good job by how our customers feel."

Even so, Roberts would not give the secret away to his Cajun-inspired BBQ sauce. That's the kind of thing that pitmasters guard fiercely.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi