Serious Eats: New York
First Look: Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue in Gowanus
Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
"We're not trying to recreate something that's been done in Texas," says Bill Fletcher, owner of the recently opened Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue in Gowanus, on what makes his restaurant specifically Brooklyn barbecue.
To Fletcher and pitmaster Matt Fisher, that means an emphasis on local products. All of their meat comes from either nearby Lucky 7 Farm or Pat LaFrieda's farm cooperatives, which raise their animals humanely and without hormones, using sustainable practices. They get their wood from an upstate farmer who specially cuts green wood to fit their smoker, a J & R pit from Mesquite, Texas. Their beer and vegetables are local as well, and they make everything in-house, including the pickles, of which there is a new variety every night based on what is in season.
And while their menu boasts traditional barbecue offerings like St. Louis ribs, brisket, and deckel cuts, other items break from that mold. The Char Siu is an Asian-inspired pork shoulder that is cut into steaks, marinated in ginger, hoisin, and soy, then smoked for six hours. "It's about being curious eaters, and working different spices into a smokehouse menu without becoming fusion," Fisher notes. Currently, they're working on coriander- and pineapple-smoked baby back ribs.
Fisher and Fletcher met through Grillin' on the Bay, the Brooklyn barbecue competition that Fisher helped found. Fletcher, who owned an advertising agency until two years ago, indulged his passion for barbecue every weekend, and was a frequent competitor.
Fisher, on the other hand, fell in love with barbecue at a young age, while travelling through the South to visit relatives as a kid. "I loved the culture surrounding food in the South," he says. He began working at a barbecue restaurant in college and never looked back. Before opening Fletcher's, he owned a barbecue catering company, opened Wildwood BBQ in the Flatiron, and was the pitmaster at Rub BBQ in Chelsea.
Just because they're Brooklyn doesn't mean they aren't influenced at all by Texas, of course: Fletcher's counter service set up was inspired by barbecue joints in that state. The menu is written above the counter on a black board, reminiscent of a meat market. The kitchen is completely open, so nothing is left to diners' imagination. When you order at the counter, your meat is placed directly on the paper that goes on top of a metal tray, and the order is written right on the paper. The restaurant's impression is one that is homey and comfortable, but also streamlined and stylized.
When seeking a location, Fletcher looked around Park Slope, but ultimately fell in love with Gowanus. The design of the bar, which includes tables from a Hudson, New York craftsman who makes furniture from old barns, and posters by an artist friend, was a gradual and meandering process, says Fletcher, but he and Fisher always knew just the vibe they were going for. "The goal is to be a neighborhood restaurant," he says.