Entries in Blue Smoke (2)


Blue Smoke Battery Park City

Blue Smoke, Danny Meyer’s barbecue joint, now has a second Manhattan location, sharing a building in Battery Park City around the corner from Goldman Sachs with his other new restaurant, North End Grill.

The new location feels a bit smaller than the original Blue Smoke, in the Flatiron District. (The earlier restaurant also has a club attached, Jazz Standard.) The Flatiron outpost takes reservations for parties of all sizes; here, they’re taken only for parties of 6 or more. Flatiron transferred my bar tab; this one did not.

My view of Blue Smoke hasn’t changed much from when I reviewed the Flatiron restaurant. It feels a bit corporate and inauthentic, because it serves a mash-up of multiple regional barbecue styles, not really nailing any of them. In compensation for that, you get the excellent Danny Meyer service, and a better beverage program than almost all barbecue places.

We loved the Grilled Oysters with Spinach and Toasted Breadcrumbs ($8.95; above left), though it is a bit annoying that such a readily sharable dish comes with an odd number of oysters.

There are three kinds of ribs: Kansas City spareribs, Memphis-style baby-backs, and Texas Salt-and-Pepper beef ribs. A sampler of four, four, and two respectively, is $38.95 (above right). The Texas ribs, with their meager allotment of beef on the bones, were disappointing. My girlfriend liked the smaller, more dry, Memphis ribs the best; I had trouble deciding between those and the larger, saucier K.C. ribs.

There’s an abundance of sides, and I wish we’d had the appetite for more of them. The cornbread ($3.95; below left) was just fine.

I checked in on foursquare when I arrived, as I do at many restaurants, and by mid-meal a manager type came over to say hello (sent by Danny Meyer himself). Now, many restaurants check social media, but I haven’t often been noticed while the meal was in progress; usually it’s the day after. Finding me here took some sleuthing, as I hadn’t given my name. It says a lot about Danny Meyer’s attention to detail, when they go to the trouble at a barbecue place that doesn’t take reservations.

A warm strawberry rhubarb pie (above right), for which we weren’t charged, was excellent. I’d drop in again just for that pie.

There’s an excellent list of whiskies, bourbons and ryes; more beers on tap and by the bottle than you’ll get around to trying; and even a short but reasonable wine list. I had a fine Sazerac at the bar ($9) and an inexpensive Montepulciano at the table ($40).

The neighborhood—really, any neighborhood—is better with Blue Smoke in it. The crowd is a mix of Wall Streeters and young families. The restaurant was doing a good business at 7:30 p.m. on a weeknight, but wasn’t completely full. Blue Smoke will be a hit, make no mistake about it.

Blue Smoke (255 Vesey Street near North End Avenue, Battery Park City)

Food: Corporate barbecue with some good accompaniments and great dessert
Service: Danny Meyer’s strong suit
Ambiance: What you expect a barbecue place to be

Rating: ★
Why? There’s better ’cue in the city, but I’d be here all the time if I lived nearby


Blue Smoke

Note: Click here for a review of Blue Smoke Battery Park City.


When Blue Smoke opened in early 2002, it was an odd diversion for the restaurateur Danny Meyer, who was better known for a string of insanely popular three-star restaurants, such as Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and Tabla. (He has since added The Modern and Shake Shack to his brood.)

As Eric Asimov noted in the Times, “if anybody was going to give New York great barbecue, the thinking went, it would be Mr. Meyer.” But Blue Smoke delivered an uneven performance, and Asimov (then writing as the paper’s main critic) awarded just one star.

The NYC barbecue landscape has changed considerably since 2002. Righteous Urban Barbecue (“RUB”) and Hill Country have come along, both run by folks to whom barbecue is a religion, not just a sidelight. With those and several other standouts now available, Blue Smoke is just one of many NYC restaurants offering what purports to be authentic barbecue.

Those other places don’t have the Danny Meyer service model; most of them don’t even take reservations. Blue Smoke did, and when I called to say I was running a bit late, the staff offered to “make a note of it for the maitre d’.” My bar tab was transferred to my table without my even asking, and the host seated me before my girlfriend had arrived. That kind of service puts many higher-end restaurants to shame, and you certainly wouldn’t find it in any other barbecue place.

But while we appreciated the fine service, the barbecue at Blue Smoke wasn’t as good as RUB, Hill Country, or even Stephen Hanson’s Wildwood Barbecue, all located nearby. On top of that, Blue Smoke was absolutely crushed on a Friday evening. While it isn’t Danny Meyer’s fault that his restaurant is insanely popular, the crowds detracted somewhat from whatever charms Blue Smoke would otherwise have.

We had the Rib Sampler for Two ($35.95), which featured two Texas-style beef ribs, four Memphis baby back ribs, and four Kansas City spareribs. It is a pity that you cannot mix and match proteins and preparation methods. The dry-rub beef ribs were the most enjoyable, but they didn’t have as much meat on them as I would have liked. The spare ribs were the meatiest, but they were slathered in a a “KC Sauce” that was over-powering. The baby backs had the saucing right, but they were too lean for our taste.

The ribs are served à la carte, so I would definitely recommend ordering a couple of sides (they range from $3.95–7.95). Roasted Cauliflower Gratin ($4.95; above left) was too dry and had no perceptible cheese content. Macaroni & Cheese ($7.95; above right), the most expensive of the sides, was just fine.

We didn’t drink much, as we were driving out to Eastern Long Island after our meal, but there is an impressive list of beers, bourbons, house cocktails and other spirits. In this respect, Blue Smoke has other barbecue places beat.

There is much more to the menu at Blue Smoke, including a long list of appetizers and salads, more than a dozen more side dishes, and standard entrées, along with several more barbecue specialities. You can probably put together a good meal here, but we left with the distinct impression that it is not worth the trouble.

Blue Smoke (116 E. 27th Street between Park & Lexington Avenues, Flatiron District)

Food: *
Service: *½
Ambiance: Satisfactory
Overall: *