A smoked-meat smell permeates Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue in Gowanus, and our mouth started to water as we stood underneath the bright overhead lights and ogled the the pork that was enclosed in the glass display case up front.
We came to the laidback Fletcher’s was to find out what owner Bill Fletcher and pit master Matt Fisher, formerly of R.U.B. BBQ, meant by “Brooklyn barbecue.”
“We decided to consciously make Brooklyn barbecue for many reasons, the first being that we aren’t from Texas, Memphis, or Kansas City,” said Fletcher. “We aren’t claiming to be recreating what they are doing in Texas, that’s 3,000 miles away.
Plus, cooking in the city is different than cooking in Texas, the supply is different, and the demand on the quality of the food is different. So, there is the sense of not wanting to pretend to be something we are not.”
Actually, that made sense. Fletcher also said because Brooklyn residents tend to look toward foods that are sustainable, local, organic, and high quality, their use of farm-raised meats fits right in.
Also, the melting pot aspect plays a role in their cuisine and you can see it in dishes like the coriander-rubbed baby back ribs or the Asian inspired char siu pork shoulder.
And about those dishes. “I’ll just give you one of everything,” said manager, Joe Baron, as he wrote the order with a Sharpe on the butcher-paper-covered tray.
Sure, we thought, we can handle it. But then, he brought out a heaping pile of pork shoulder, brisket, St. Louis style ribs, and spicy LaFrieda sausage. That wasn’t the end.
We also got a dish of super smoky baked beans, macaroni and cheese, Kirby fridge pickles, and bright purple coleslaw.
But wait! After squeezing out a healthy dose of their barbecue sauce and sampling a bite of juicy pork shoulder, Ron DePaul, a retired barbeque guy from California and Fletcher’s official meat carver, decided we needed a side of their special chili macaroni and cheese with brisket. Who could say no to that? We immediately dug in.
“Our flavor profile has a little more worldly sense with spicing coming in from other places,” said Fletcher. “I think that’s a direct result from being in Brooklyn, walking down the street, and smelling all these different regional specialties.”
Whether they are making an international inspired meat dish or doing classic smoked pork, the bright red meat locker that you can see when you look beyond the counter is where all the magic happens. They use only wood fuel and keep the production simple. There are only paper plates that you get yourself and the hearty wooden tables are a free for all.
In the two weeks they have been open, customers have ranged from whole families out with the kids, meat-loving couples on dates, and even a barbecue meet-up (or is the meat-up) group wandered in one night. Prices tend to go on the more expensive side, but when you factor in the cost of organic meat, $24 a pound doesn’t seem like that much.
They serve a couple of wines and cocktails, but your best bet so far is a pint of one of their three draft beers, which, as is fitting for this barbecue joint, is served in a plastic cup.
The ‘cue may be Brooklyn-style, but carnivores from throughout the five boroughs can find a lot to love at the first BBQ shop to open in Gowanus.