Finally ate last night at Bone Lick Park, the new barbecue joint on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village.
Executive summary: It wasn't an unqualified triumph, but for a three-week-old restaurant it shows a hell of a lot of promise.
I had been publically skeptical about this place... it's in a doomed location, has a saccharine-cutesy name, and seemed to offer a very limited menu. Well, as my sainted grandmother used to say, make your words sweet, because someday you might have to eat them.
To get potential biases out of the way up front: I am from North Carolina, and my wife is from Kansas City. We are not easy to please, barbecue-wise, and we have definite regional notions about what makes good 'cue.
To be on the safe side, we brought along our New Jersey-born friend Kenneth as our control group.
We started the meal by sharing a plate of onion rings ($5.75), which were very good: hot, crisp, lightly breaded fried sweet onion, which came with a tasty blue-cheese dip but were just fine by themselves. Would have been just the right size for two people to share, but even among three we got enough o-rings for a thorough tasting.
We then put together a barbecue tasting menu for the table consisting of a full rack of baby-back ribs ($17.95), a plate of chopped Carolina-style pork ($11.95) and half a barbecued chicken ($11.95.) All orders came with cornbread and one side; we ordered yams, collard greens, and stewed okra and paid $2 extra for a big dish of cole slaw.
Let's get this out of the way right now: I found the cornbread, although undeniably fresh and homemade, spongy and forgettable. (My companions, who didn't grow up eating cornbread, seemed to think it was okay, but nothing to write home about.)
The sides, however, ranged from good to fantastic. Cole slaw was fine, crunchy, creamy and slightly sweet; the okra, collards and yams were all quite good, and portions were generous. At $3.50 a side a la carte, one could actually make a very nice meal off of three sides (something to remember for those of you with vegetarian friends.)
The meat was *surprisingly* good. Bone Lick is the real deal, barbecue-wise, in that all of their meats are cooked in a massive high-tech wood "pit" over hickory and fruit woods. The meat that arrived at our table had the firm texture, slightly smoky taste (and tell-tale pink color) that comes from long, slow cooking and smoking at low temperature. No liquid smoke ever got anywhere near this meat.
We all agreed that the ribs were the best dish of the night. Meaty, moist, plenty of flavor, just the right amount of fat, and the meat pulled very easily from the bone without falling off by force of gravity (a sign that you've overcooked your ribs, IMO.)
The Carolina-style pork looked promising when it arrived: chopped into coarse chunks, with nice browned bits mixed in. On tasting, it proved to have the perfect texture, and was pleasantly moist, but it was somewhat bland and underseasoned; a liberal application of barbecue sauce at the table, however, solved that problem.
(A word on the sauce: this is a fusiony, sort of sweet-and-sour barbecue sauce of no particular regional origin; I tasted tomato, pepper, honey and vinegar in it, and while it may not be "authentic" it was just fine and went well with their barbecued meats. As a North Carolinian I wished for a simple vinegar-and-pepper sauce to dress the pork with, but the Kansas City and New Jersey representatives pronounced the sauce delicious.)
The chicken, alas, was just the least little bit dry, but it had an excellent flavor. The skin showed evidence of a dry rub being applied, we thought. Again, a light wetting with a good barbecue sauce covers a multitude of sins.
Desserts (chocolate pecan and Key Lime pies, $5.95 each) were very good. The Key Lime pie, in particular, was praiseworthy: very tangy and refreshing.
Total tab for three people, with cocktails before and coffee-and-desserts after, was $92 (including tax, not including tip.) Pricey, but really not bad considering the neighborhood; without alcohol and extras you could eat here very reasonably.
One could quibble endlessly about fine details (e.g., what the hell is "cucumber mint salad" doing on the menu at a barbecue joint?) but the bottom line is, this is a good new restaurant that serves good barbecue and should be very appealing to the NYC palate.
Bone Lick Park
75 Greenwich Ave, between Seventh Ave and Bank St
New York, NY 10014