Big Bob Gibson’s Pulled Pork
This year’s best in show, Chris Lilly from Big Bob Gibson creates a masterful pulled pork sandwich that hits the right balance between pork, fat, and bark with a slight tang and soaking moisture that makes it a king not just among pork barbecue, but pork as a whole.
Now a tradition in its 11th year, the Block Party’s official start is with a “rib-bon” cutting by Kenny Callaghan of Blue Smoke, followed by the ceremonial ringing of the lunch bell.
After being smoked, Jim ‘N Nick’s sausages are thrown on the grill to give them a snappy finish.
Jim ‘N Nick’s Sausage
Spicy links with a bit of a tang are served with pimento cheese. A saltine spread with cheese and topped with piece of sausage is the best way to enjoy this.
The Salt Lick
Brisket straight from the Hill Country in Texas is what brings in the crowds, but it’s the fine textured and juicy sausage that’s the real noteworthy part of the this plate from The Salt Lick.
Texas isn’t known for sauce, so it follows that Baker’s Ribs from Dallas finishes their racks on the grill sans-sauce.
An improvement over the somewhat dry ribs we’ve had from Baker’s in past years, this year’s were juicier and more tender with a pleasing peppery crust.
That’s no coincidental grin on the hog’s face—she knows she did not die in vain when in the hands of whole hog master Ed Mitchell.
Ed Mitchell’s Whole Hog
Ed Mitchell’s whole hog has never failed to please with its extra tangy and peppery character that mixes with the smoky pork.
The friendliest faces on the block, the family operation behind Ubon’s Barbecue never lets you leave without a smile, laugh, and a little extra of their juicy pulled pork topped with a well-balanced sweet and tangy sauce.
Mike Emerson, the pit master behind Pappy’s Smokehouse, shows off a sheet of his baby backs straight from the smoker.
Torch ‘Em All
Doug Keiles, of the local barbecue operation Ribs Within, finishes Pappy’s ribs by torching their brown sugar coating into a crispy caramelized crust.
Pappy’s Baby Backs
The final ribs from Pappy’s are perfectly tender—just a little pull is all that’s needed to get the meat off the bone—with a sugary flavor that’s not overly sweet.
Slicing brisket at what has become a New York City barbecue institution, Hill Country.
Hill Country Brisket
The best brisket of the bunch at the Block Party. It helps to ask for slices from the deckle (also called the point), which has luscious soft fat that increases the flavor and tenderness of brisket.
Rodney Scott is pro at tending to the fire in his homemade aluminum pits, directing exactly where coals need to be added to finish his whole hogs properly.
Scott’s Whole Hog
The potential for Scott’s I saw last year was fully realized this summer—his whole hog was bursting with a peppery and vinegar flavor on extra moist chopped pork. Best part, no veggies here! A side of crackling pork skin is all you get, and really, all you need.
Our man Ed poses with the one simply known as “The Legend” in barbecue circles. Dubbed as such due to his winning record while fronting the Apple City competition barbecue team, Mike Mills is still churning out top ribs.
17th Street Bar & Grill’s Baby Back Ribs
Mike Mill’s ribs still deliver with a sweet and faintly spicy rub, paired with a thin layer of tangy sauce on meat that’s smoked so well that its pink smoke ring penetrates almost all the way through.
Showing off a hog on Martin’s massive rig.
Martin’s Whole Hog
The juiciest of the hogs offered at the Block Party, Martin’s is notable for its natural pork flavor topped with just a bit of spicy vinegar sauce and a helping of slaw.
Weber had a big presence at the Block Party this year. Beyond this massive grill, they offered grilling lessons and a grill showroom with experts at the ready to answer all your grill-related questions.
Memphis Barbecue Co.
Formerly of Rack and Soul, John Wheller was back under the Memphis Barbecue Co. flag. His St. Louis cut ribs were finished with a generous portion of sauce on the grill.
Memphis Barbecue Co. Ribs
Although Memphis Barbecue in name, I’d associate these ribs more with Kansas City due to their sweet and saucy finish.
Blue Smoke’s Beef Ribs
Best in beef this year goes to Blue Smoke, whose salt and peppery beef ribs delivered a robust flavor with a simple finish that only added to their satisfying beefiness.
Flaming Hog Head
Flames and hog heads in a Manhattan park? It’s all part of the fun at the Block Party. This scene brought to you by Ed Mitchell.
John Stage of Dinosaur Barbecue switched things up this year, ditching his usual pork shoulder and offering brisket sandwiches instead.
Dinosaur’s Brisket Sandwich
While maybe a little underdone, this brisket was given a boost thanks to a spicy jalapeño topping that made for a tasty sandwich. Admittedly, I was still left missing Dinosaur’s top notch pork of previous years.
Sam Jones (left), of Skylight Inn from Ayden, North Carolina, represented the sole new addition to the line-up this year.
Mountain of Hog
Out on full display, I was mesmerized watching the pitmasters of Skylight Inn work the pork—first chopping, then saucing and seasoning.
Skylight Inn’s Whole Hog
The whole hog sandwich from Skylight Inn had a lightly smoky character with just a bit of vinegar tang, letting the natural flavor of the pork come through.
Saucing the ribs at Checkered Pig from Danville, Virginia.
Checkered Pig’s St. Louis Ribs
Tommy Houston of the Checkered Pig has been consistently churning out ribs explemary in their tenderness, sauce, and balanced spice.
Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson doing what he does best, smoking and chopping pork shoulder into some of the greatest pulled pork sandwiches known to man.
Blackjack Barbecue’s Pulled Pork
We always have a good time stopping by Blackjacks for a bit of show from pit master Jimmy Hagood on his double decker rig. His pulled pork may be bit drier, for my taste, than others at the Block Party, but really, we’re splitting hairs here, since each pitmaster is top quality.
Lines were much improved this year, with one exception—the massive queue for fried pies. Maybe the long wait set us up for great expectations, but the soggy shells left something to be desired. Of course that didn’t stop these sweet and tangy morsels, the only dessert offering of the party, from being devoured by the handful.
More BBQ Indeed
Another year in the books, luckily it’s only 364 days until the next Block Party (time goes fast when you have something to look forward to).