A Hamburger Today
First Impressions of BrisketTown, Delaney Barbecue's New Brooklyn Restaurant
We've been paying close attention to Daniel Delaney's smoked brisket adventure since our first taste back in August. Even in its pop-up setting, we knew that Dan was on to something; this central Texas-inspired brisket tasted much better than you'd expect from someone who first started cooking it earlier this year.
He's since opened up a full restaurant in Williamsburg, BrisketTown, a 35-seat counter service space. Our barbecue bureau chief James Boo talked with Dan about what went into building it; we recently paid a visit to see how it's coming along.
First things first: how's that $25 a pound brisket? If anything, better than when we last had it, with fat that melts right into the meat. There's an inherent juiciness in his lean slices too, though we'll still recommend you ask for juicier fatty cuts, which Dan will happily oblige.
There are also ribs now, $22 a pound (about six), which we may have enjoyed even more than the brisket. They have the same pronounced peppery bark and remain tender to the core.* Pick one up by the meat and the bone may very well slip out the middle. Both the ribs and brisket have a complicated, layered smokiness going on, not the one-note sweet flavor you'll find elsewhere.
* Nope, not competition-style at all, nor are they trying to be.
The kitchen has added simple, full-flavored sides to round up the complementary addition of white bread, raw onions, and pickles. German potato salad ($4) is just creamy enough with a strong mustard kick; cole slaw ($4) is also light on the mayo, letting red cabbage's sweetness shine through. Dan has other sides in the works, and offerings will rotate by the day. Though they're his recipes, he notes that "the whole team works on things."
BrisketTown is currently BYOB, but there's a bodega next door, where the aisles are lined with PBR and Rolling Rock (oh, Williamsburg), but the fridge cases house better brews.
Lastly: pie! It's baked in-house and sold for $4 a slice. We've eaten a lot of pie in the past couple months, but this pumpkin-sweet potato recipe, light on the spice with a flaky, buttery crust, is one of the better to cross our forks. There's also an apple pie on the menu.
Dan stands at the front of the counter, his poofy hair breaking the silhouette of the neon Delaney Barbecue steer behind him. His calm manner is reminiscent of a young Doug Sohn; you can tell he has eyes everywhere, but when it's your turn at the counter, they're all on you.
We recommend you get there earlier if you can. Fans who already pre-ordered brisket online can reserve their meat for a given day on the BrisketTown website; everyone else has to contend for the limited supply available for that day. "Sometimes we sell out of everything in an hour and a half," Dan mentions. "And then we're done." BrisketTown opens for dinner at 6:30 p.m. (6:00 for those with reservations), Tuesday through Sunday.
On our Tuesday night visit there was a short wait and a humming crowd inside. "This is a quiet night," Dan told us. "On busier evenings the line runs out the door, and we often have live music playing in the corner." So BrisketTown doesn't appear to be the place to linger for a lengthy dinner, especially as those on line for their brisket are eying your seats. But we get that: it's a barbecue joint after all, and like the friendly corner pizza parlor, it's cheery and welcoming while you're there, but dinner has a timeline.
Though this will run you more than a pizza meal. A pound of brisket, half a pound of ribs, two sides, and a slice of pie was a satisfying meal for three at about $20 a head, but not a feast. Dan has pointed out before why his brisket costs what it does: the meat from Creekstone Farms isn't cheap to start with, and the all-wood smoking process ups the price considerably. (Some other barbecue restaurants hit their meat with an initial blast of smoke but then slow-cook the meat without smoke to doneness.) On top of that, he's cooking the meat outdoors and contending with environmental conditions that all affect his cooking process.
BrisketTown is still in its early days and figuring itself out, but we think it's off to an encouraging start—just be sure to get there early to make sure the day's supply doesn't run out. Take a look at the slideshow for a closer look at the restaurant and details on what makes his brisket unique.