A Slice of Texas in Manhattan
As I passed the threshold of Hill Country BBQ in Manhattan, I could have sworn that I passed through a worm hole and accidentally ended up in Lockhart, Texas. The decor is decidedly Central Texan, complete with pictures of the staff of Kreuz Market in Lockhart. Texas decor adorns the walls, and the wood floors bend and creak like an old barn. They serve Tito's Handmade Vodka and Lone Star beer. Was I really in New York? The price of that Lone Star clued me in. Yes, I certainly was in New York.
But no matter. A little heft on the price of cheap beer is nothing to be upset at when the masters are making some of the best barbeque in New England right there behind the glass doors. Pitmaster Robbie Richter is the kind of guy you want running your pits and running the floor. Not only is he a lover of Que and a brilliant pitmaster, but he's a great salesman. In one breath he can talk up the intricacies of Central Texas Barbeque and boss the meat men around the pits, ordering up 2 dozen briskets to be placed in the pits for the next day.
Hill Country's menu is deep, a fact that did not go unnoticed by me. You can tell the quality of a restaurant by the depth of the meat menu. HC's menu was deep with all kinds of smoked meats, including spare ribs, prime rib, beef ribs, and beer can game hen. Not only that, but the sausage is genuine Kreuz Market sausage shipped to HC direct.
An interesting side note to the sausage at HC. The jalapeno sausage is preferred nearly 3 to 1 over the regular flavor in New York. Whereas in Texas, the regular flavor is the favorite.
Hill Country is true to its Texas roots, serving the meat from the "market" on butcher paper. But the way HC differs is the use of the meal ticket. When you arrive at Hill Country BBQ, you go to the hostess stand who hands you a meal ticket and then lets you into the market. Each time you visit a counter at the market, the market serviceman puts a sticker on your meal ticket indicating what you ordered. There are no waitresses, rather, you can order whatever you want in the market and pay for it at end of your meal by presenting your meal ticket to the cashier.
With authority, I can say that Hill Country's spare ribs were phenomenal. They were Texas style ribs with a little bit of flavor and no sauce. Just perfect. The brisket was good, and I ordered a pile of "moist" to see how the point of their briskets were cooked. Robbie was unhappy with the briskets that night, but I thought it was mouth-watering.
Hill Country has only been in business since June, but is already seeing tremendous success. The desire for authentic barbeque in New York seems to be overwhelming. Since it's success, celebrities have taken to signing the black pits with white chalk. You can see the likes of Don King, Kathleen Turner, Bobby Flay, and Mario Batali.
Keeping true to the Central Texas tradition, Hill Country offers live music in the basement. This evening was a three-piece country band singing country cover songs. New Yorkers seems to be embracing the world of barbeque with open arms. The food is excellent and the services is just right. Now we just need to teach them how to say "Yee-Haw" at the end of a song.