Broadway, bordering 44th Street with 6th Avenue. Now that’s an exciting neighborhood for a former Jersey girl living in the deep South to visit. I took Jet Blue from Jacksonville, Florida to JFK, never imagining I was bound for barbecue. Why on earth would I eat barbecue with Times Square beckoning? Everybody serves BBQ in my part of the world.
Family and girlfriend travel calls for cheerful compromises so I ended up at Virgil’s Real BBQ, 152 W. 44th Street.
Changed my tune before even getting to a Broadway musical. This barbecue sets new standards. I’ll be remembering Virgil’s flavors when the Big Pig Jig and other enduring Georgia cook-offs roll around.
Chef didn’t study Georgia barbecue and I don’t know why; Glenn Patrick said teams traveled widely, tasting, cooking and adjusting to get the Virgil’s style.
Barbecue-cooking states they quote are Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, the Carolinas and Missouri.
Chef Patrick shared some of his secrets. “Fresh spices are vital,” he said, “and for home cooking, look for spice shops that sell little amounts.” Six months on the shelf means spices are too old, he said.
His cooking is large, over hickory, oak or fruit wood. “Slow and gentle, taking our time,” he said for tenderness, aromas and flavors that fill the two-story Manhattan restaurant.
Macaroni and cheese lured me during my New York lunch, and so did banana pudding.
Bahamas BBQ too
Seems all those flavors also led the chefs last November to the Bahamas to open a family-friendly Virgil’s Real BBQ at Atlantis resort on Paradise Island.
Guess when I go there, I’ll forego conch fritters for spicy wings and meaty ribs. Curious to consider overlooking Paradise Lagoon and the Atlantis Royal Towers while eating barbecue.
Built around a 141-acre waterscape, this resort undoubtedly has changed in more ways than barbecue plates since I was last there; my sons now in their thirties were middle schoolers on that family vacation.
Guess I could invite them to return—or maybe take their little daughters instead. Four-year-old Mattie Jewell and her eight-year-old cousin Emily love to cook in my kitchen.
They’d be great fun in the Atlantis kid-friendly kitchen, where 21 children in a class tackle Virgil’s coleslaw, cornbread and chicken kebabs.
Table etiquette, napkin folding and manners fit in this Bahamas barbecue culinary class too. I’m in favor of that.
Top photo: Paprika and chili powedr are only two of Virgil’s complex series of spices distinguishing ribs and more in New York and Paradise Island restaurants.