The best barbecue (by which I mean American barbecue - the smoky, slow-cooked, Southern kind, not the British word for any form of outdoor Summer eating) I've ever had is undoubtedly at Hometown. When we had just moved in to our Brooklyn apartment and were spending what felt like every weekend at Ikea, Hometown was the one thing that made those trips to the gigantic blue and yellow warehouse in Red Hook bearable.
I have now recovered from my Ikea-phobia. Not enough to return to Ikea but enough to fall in love with its surrounding neighbourhood. A trip to Red Hook feels like a trip to some isolated little town which is a haven of food, sport, artists, and plants, far away from New York City.
This weekend, we were on a mission to buy a friend for the newest member of our family, a little green plant called Spike, and the nearest sizable and reasonably priced garden centers are in Red Hook. And no trip to Red Hook is complete without feasting on ribs and cornbread at Hometown.
We joined the already fairly long line, and watched it expand rapidly behind us as the late-Saturday-lunchtime crowds arrived. With plenty of time to make our decision as we waited, we had settled on the perfect combination by the time we got to the front: spare ribs, beef brisket, mac and cheese, slaw, and cornbread. We took two seats at the bar, and sat there silently enjoying the salty, smokey, fatty, deep flavors of the soft brisket and the melting ribs. The mac and cheese was classically American, the perfect balance of cream and salt, and the slaw was the ideal antidote to all the richness which made up the rest of our meal. Don't miss out on the cornbread either (you really do need to go hungry): its sweet, sticky, maple syrup crust is perhaps the most magical item on your metal tray.
How people eat more than this portion that was shared between the two of us (and we had both done silly amounts of exercise that morning, and were suitable starving), I have no idea. And yet they do. What we split was less than anybody else was eating on their own. We were full to the point of explosion, but we couldn't let just one piece of that creamy macaroni go to waste, and so devoured the whole plate. It was soon time to walk it all off on a long stroll around the sun-drenched streets of Red Hook, admiring the spectacular views of Lady Liberty and Manhattan as we went.
Hometown, 454 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231