Note: Click here for a later visit to Daisy May’s BBQ.
In 2003, Adam Perry Lang—who had previously cooked at such haute cuisine temples as Daniel, Le Cirque, and Chanterelle—decided to open a barbecue joint. He chose practically the most inhospitable and least accessible location in town: the corner of 46th Street and 11th Avenue, a solid fifteen minutes’ walk from the nearest subway station, and in a rather dingy neighborhood. Nevertheless, ’cue hounds flocked to Daisy May in the belief that no one else in Manhattan had come close to getting it right.
This spring, Daisy May added a small cafeteria-style dining room (it was previously just counter service, take-out or delivery), and they enhanced their menu, with rack-of-lamb for two ($95), half-a-pig or a whole pork butt for six ($200), or the whole pig for twelve ($400). All of these items have to be ordered a couple of days in advance, with a credit card to guarantee the reservation.
In the Times, Peter Meehan warned that it’s a ton of food, although he was in pig-heaven nonetheless. I didn’t have half-a-dozen companions to bring with me, so my friend and I pre-ordered the lamb. It cooks over a low heat for about two hours, and it’s fall-off-the-bone tender by the time it’s served. The rack was higher in fat content than what most restaurants serve, which is what allows it to cook for so long without drying out. Two or three ribs is quite typical for a lamb entrée, so with four between us the portion was ample. Yet, it was so good I was sad to see it gone. It came with homemade barbecue sauce (made partly with lamb gravy) that was out-of-this world.
The dish comes with huge helpings of cole slaw, watermelon, “Texas toast,” and two additional side orders from a menu of about eight choices—I picked the Peaches Bourbon and Cream of Spinach. The sides came in large serving dishes and could easily have accommodated five or six people. We didn’t touch the spinach, and we left behind great quantities of all the others. It is a sinful amount of food, and we felt rather guilty at leaving so much behind (when children are starving in Africa, yada, yada, yada).
The Times warned that service is pretty “bare-bones”, but the bones were barer than I’d imagined. The food is served with paper plates and plastic utensils. They not only lack a liquor license, but even so much as cups or a corkscrew. Unless you’ve pre-ordered one of these massive cuts of meat, service is strictly cafeteria-style, with canned soda all that’s available to drink. Then there’s the very long walk to 11th Avenue. This may well be the best barbecue in town, but I’m not sure how often I’ll walk that far to get it.
Still, on this occasion it was more than worth it.
Daisy May’s BBQ USA (623 11th Avenue at 46th Street, Hell’s Kitchen)