91 South 6th Street, Brooklyn NY 11211 (near Berry Street; map); 718-599-3090; fattycue.com
Service: Friendly, solicitous, efficient
Setting: Barbecue joint meets dive bar
Must-Haves: Whole Pig, Brisket
Cost: $40-50 for three meaty courses, a beer, tax, and tip
Brooklyn's exploding food scene features all the comfort foods serious eaters love: fried chicken, pie, pizza, and burgers are all represented, in terms of quantity and quality. What is the final Brooklyn comfort food peak that's yet to be climbed? Barbecue.
Brooklyn has yet to have a great barbecue joint to call its own. Fette Sau is solid, Smoke Joint doesn't even rise to that level, and Char No. 4 serves some incredibly tasty meats, but when it comes down to it, it's a restaurant and bar, not a barbecue joint.
But along came Fatty 'Cue—an excellent name, no? Fatty Crab chef-restaurateur Zak Pelaccio is marrying his passion for Malaysian flavors and food with meat smoked low and slow, with the help of homegrown New York pitmaster Robbie Richter, who honed his 'cue craft at Hill Country (where he was the opening smoke stoker) and the competition barbecue circuit.
We've long been fans of some of Pelaccio's and Richter's best dishes, so we were excited to head to Fatty 'Cue. Had they finally brought great 'cue to Brooklyn? And what did the detour to Asia bring to the barbecue party?
Fatty 'Cue certainly has the barbecue joint look down; its low ceilings and bare-bones decor make it feel almost like a dive bar-barbecue. We were there on a Sunday, which is when they throw a whole pig into the smoker; we were lucky enough to score the pig's head ($40, can be reserved in advance). It was served with shards of crunchy pig skin, green beans, bao (steamed buns) for stuffing, and a delicious pineapple curry sauce. The simultaneously crunchy and moist pig meat practically exploded with flavor and didn't even need all those nifty condiments or accompaniments, though assembling one of those buns did result in one seriously delicious bao.
The American Wagyu brisket ($18) was just as spectacular. It came as beef two ways: the lean top half and the fatty bottom, the deckel, in chunks known to Kansas City barbecue afficionados as burnt ends. They were perfect, with a crunchy exterior and a moist, perfectly marbled interior.
Other dishes were not nearly as successful: a too-chewy duck, a special beef short rib, forgettable pork spare ribs and a smallish pile of hand-pulled lamb shoulder. For dessert, however, I really liked a shoofly pie from Allison Kave, which was dark and delicious and not too sweet.
So what can I tell you, serious eaters? Go to Fatty 'Cue on a Sunday and order the pig head, some brisket, and a beer or a drink, and you'll have an excellent meal and a good time. But Brooklyn is still looking for its first really good barbecue joint—Asian or otherwise.
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