Brisket ($8.50/sandwich; $22/pound)
Mangum's brisket is smoky, but not overly so, with a lovely black bark and a quarter inch red smoke ring underneath.
Do request the fattier half of the brisket, which the polite cutters are happy to do, because the leaner, first-cut of the brisket can on occasion be dry.
Beef Rib ($23)
Even better than the brisket is his whole short rib, which looks like it must have come from the dinosaur collection of Museum of Natural History. It is tender and juicy with just enough chew to require a knife. It might become Mangum's contribution to the barbecue canon, the first original addition New York is making to that hallowed place. It is not cheap, but take one bite and you'll stop worrying about the price.
Pulled Pork ($7.25/sandwich; $18.75/pound)
In general this is pork that tastes like pork, which is not surprising given that it comes from Berkshire hogs.
Be bold and ask for as much outside meat as possible. The flavor in that bark is irresistible.
Ribs ($8.71/three-four ribs; $23/rack)
They are merely very, very good, with great porky flavor.
Pitmaster Mangum With Ribs
Half Chicken ($8.50)
Mangum admits this is a work in progress. The chicken meat is tender and juicy and moist (even the breast), but it doesn't have much smoky flavor, and the flaccid skin lacks crunch.
Mangum says he needs a grill to crisp the skin, and he hopes the community board will approve a grill's installation.
Sides ($3 small, $5.75 medium, $11.25 large)
The sides are where you see Mangum's chef chops. The three bean salad could be served in the front room at Gramercy Tavern. That's how damn good it is. The beans with burnt ends are almost as well done, as are the sweet potatoes with a brown sugar pecan topping (definitely on the sweet side). Cole slaw is very solid, but not as inspired as the other sides.
Mangum and his partners did not barbecueify the space too much: there are no filling station artifacts, no pictures of famous barbecue joints, no signature visuals at all. It's a simple space painted black with a few small tables and a longer one.
Though it looks more modern than your typical barbecue joint, you still order from the counter. The staff are friendly and eager to help you on your barbecue journey.
Wood for the Smoker
To the left of the ordering line is the all-wood smoker Mangum used. If you walk all the way to the back, you'll see many raw cuts of meat waiting for Mangum's minimalist treatment: just a salt and pepper rub before entering the smoker.