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"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

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Hometown Bar-B-Que, Brooklyn

Next year I’m doing a road trip in the USA with the Meat & 2 Veg. It is fast becoming a tour of the South’s best BBQ joints. Believe it or not, it was his idea. If I could, I would base my entire travels on what I am eating and where, and often do when I travel alone, so I jumped at the chance when the M&2V suggested it.

We are still working out a route, but it looks like Texas, Tennessee and Kansas  are top of the leader board. I have been using Johnny Fugitt’s book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America, as a guide. He visited 365 barbecue restaurants across 48 states in a year to come up with the list.

I was surprised to find that his number 2 was in Brooklyn, so I thought I’d kick off the tour early when I was in New York last week. 

Fugitt describes Hometown as “Brooklyn with clear Texas influence” and suggests trying the brisket, pork or beef ribs and beans. He sums up, “Everything at Hometown is top notch. If I hear of you going to New York and not visiting Hometown, you should burn this book and never be allowed to eat barbecue again.” Needless to say, I had high expectations.

I was sitting at the bar and struck up a conversation with a regular who lives round the corner and eats there “at least once a week”. I went ahead and ordered everything he told me to:

  • ½ pound of brisket,
  • 1 of Billy’s housemade sausages
  • ¼ wood fired chicken with Oaxacan marinade pickled red onion and salsa verde
  • Texas-style queso mac and cheese
  • Smoked pit beans w brisket burnt ends
  • Whiskey sour pickles

As you might imagine, this was an absurd amount of food for one person to order, but doggy bags are a big thing in the USA and I wanted to cover all bases.

My favourite, by a country bumpkin mile, was the chicken. It was impossibly tender – if the white meat had been any more juicy, it would have been pink. That’s a real achievement when wood-firing a chook. The addition of pickled onions (crisp and zingy) and the salsa verde (fresh and herbaceous) was well balanced with the smoky, charred chicken. My new friend Chuck (yes, really) said if I didn’t order it he would have ordered it for me.

I was less enthused by the rest of the meat, which is a real shame, because if this is the benchmark then I don’t have high hopes for the tour. Fugitt writes that “The brisket is absolutely incredible. This isn’t a ‘well, it’s good for not being in Texas kind of thing.’ It’s right there with Kerlin and Franklin as the best in America.”

It was really well cooked, I’ll give them that, so tender it was falling apart with a “perfect smoke ring” (that’s Chuck again). I could definitely see it, but for me it was lacking the flavour to match. I thought it was vastly improved by the whiskey sour pickles and the house BBQ sauce, but I was led to believe that the meat should speak for itself. That said, the smoky flavour did develop overnight and I made a mean sandwich of brisket, pickles, mustard and melted NYC cheddar the next day.

The sausage was definitely a mistake for me – it just really wasn’t my kind of banger. I like British pork sausages (rich, fatty, salty and juicy) and bratwursts at a push. This was like a cross between a frankfurter and a cabanossi and 3 times as fat. For me it was too big and too bland, but Chuck assured me it is always the first thing to sell out. Hmmm.

I really liked the side dishes. The pickles were fantastic –crispy and crunchy with a perfectly balanced salty, sour flavour. The smoked pit beans with brisket burnt ends were as heavy as they sound and I didn’t get far with them, but I liked them all the same; rich, hearty, sweet and slightly spiced.

I’m glad I didn’t ask what Texas-style queso was before ordering it – liquid cheese with lumps of red pepper just doesn’t sound appealing. To me, it just tasted like melted American burger cheese, which is not a bad thing, and as you might expect – the mac was drowning in the stuff.

The only thing I really wish I had tried were the ribs – they looked like the definition of finger lickin’ good – but I’d hardly made a dent in all of the above and I just couldn’t face any more meat. 

I sent the M&2V a pic of my defeat:

“What is the thing that looks like a cup full of turd?”

“Beans with burnt ends.”

“Now, that's what I am talking about - veg with more meat!”

He has proposed a rebrand for the Deep South BBQ tour: the Meat and more Meats.

Meat Sweats and Farts more like.

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