The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

Fourteen top Pit Masters from around the country recently converged on Manhattan's old Madison Park at 23rd Street for the sixth annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party filling the steamy streets for two days of Southwestern style grilling.

Welcome to the Big Apple Barbeque Block Party.

Brisket from Texas, ribs from Yazoo City, MS., pulled pork from Dallas and short ribs from Garland, TX., and even the transplanted New Yorker brought their own brand of meat smoking, grilling style and Bar-B-Q sauce to lower Manhattan’s Old Madison Avenue. Madison Park was transformed into a BBQ lover’s delight. The cool grass and surrounding trees offered some relief as the temperatures climbed to a record 93 degrees but the breeze was stagnated by the crush of people and the tents that blocked any cross ventilation.

Waiting in line for Blue Smoke Ribs did not pose a problem during the two day Big Apple BBQ festival.

The block surrounding Madison Park was lined with steam engine size meat smokers accompanied by free standing grills where racks of the smoked meat were tossed for the final slathering of mouthwatering sweet BBQ sauce to be seared until crispy.

Joe Duncan's crew from Baker's Pigs sweltered preparing the rack.

Barbecue seminars were held for those who, when faced with the grill, are the master’s of their weekend domain or the grilling challenged. The weekend grill master, like a child at Christmas, stood silent in awe watching as the steam engine size smokers unloaded rack after rack of ribs, briskets, short ribs and pulled pork.

Texas Pit Master Joe Duncan's wood burning rib smoker.

Eight different Barbecue seminars were led by nationally recognized barbeque masters. The lecture topics covered the history of barbecue, Championship Pit Masters, city style grilling verses country style grilling. The instructional seminars were geared toward a more advanced griller included the art of slow cooking mutton, how to make ribs, Ribtastic!, ten tips on how to build a better barbecue burger and finally for those in need of self discovery, a course that will help every person figure out what is it about men, meat, midnight and a barbecue pit: the answer to the centuries old question that may just save your relationship.

The Salt Lick served drinks to quench the thirst and break the heat.

Corporate sponsor Rachael Ray from Everyday with Rachael Ray provided free cooking demonstrations, free gifts and expert cooking and grilling advice. Complimentary food and gifts supplied by sponsors Texas Pete Hot Sauce included mild to very wild hot sauce, Snapple gifts T-Shirts, free Snapple drinks and double scoops of Edy’s slow churned ice cream. Coca-Cola provided shots of Zero and Pretzel Crisps supplied bags of crispy baked pretzel chips.  The two day festival included three Country & Western bands on each day. The music ranged from traditional Country & Western to country rock, bluegrass, rhythm and blues and rockabilly.

Party goers were treated to live, toe tappin', Country and Western music.

The Pit Masters came from around the country to participate in the annual Barbecue classic. NASCAR’s official caterer, Tommy Houston from Martinsville, VA., came with his Checkered Pig crew, hometown favorites included Kenny Callaghan of New York, NY and owner of Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard who also co-founded the Snapple Big Apple Barbeque Festival. Other New York City restaurateurs include executive chef Pete Daversa of Hill Country, John Stage co-owner of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and transplanted New Yorker John Wheeler co-owner of Rack & Soul who brought his Natural Born Grillers pit crew.

The Natural Born Grillers crew put on the final touch for succulent smoked ribs: open grills and secret bbq sauce adds a crispy, mouth watering flavor to the wood smoked ribs.

Los Angeles was represented by former theatre and film producer Jonathan Burrows and owner of Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs who blends the exotic Asian flavors to southwestern country style for his unique rib flavor. Ed Wilson, judge of the Kansas City Barbecue and owner of Wilson’s Barbeque in Fairfiled, CT., has learned from the best southern BBQ Pit Masters. 

The Southwest came in with Joe Duncan owner of the franchise Baker’s Rib’s in Dallas, Texas who presently operates ten restaurants all servings delicious, finger licking smothered in sauce ribs! Also from the Texas area executive chef of The Salt Lick BBQ,  Michael Rodriquez.  The southern region of the country brought Jimmy Hagood, owner of Blackjack BBQ in Charleston, SC., who franchises his products through his Food for the Southern Soul retail company and Ed Mitchell owner of The Pit in Raleigh, N.C. Also from the south, Chris Lilly of Decatur, AL., who has been named by the Wall Street Journal as having the “best pork barbeque in the Country” and owner of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q.

With twenty-four championships Garry Roark, from Ubon’s “Champion Choice” out of  Yazoo City, MS., still stands on a five generation Barbecue sauce recipe that has won him twenty four grand championships from the Memphis in May BBQ contest. He is the owner of two Ubon’s restaurants in Mississippi.

Saving the best for last is four-time World Champion Mike Mills, aka The Legend owner of the 17th Street Bar & Grill and the Memphis Championship Barbecue in Murphysboro, Il., Mike is the best of the best in Pit Masters and is also partner in Blue Smoke located in New York City.

Pitts and Spitts had the ribs smoked and stacked.

Anyone who has ever eaten barbecue knows, that besides the mouth watering, juicy, succulent meat tenderized and smoked with a rich hickory smokehouse flavor topped with seared sauce until it goos and sticks to your fingers, that the plate is not complete without the sides: Cole slaw, mini cobs, Okra, hush puppies all were supplied by Side Master’s John Clary from Lawrenceville, VA., and John Currence from Oxford, MS. Desserts were provided by Jennifer Giblin, pastry chef at Blue Smoke and Elizabeth Katz from Wildwood Barbeque in New York.

Slathering the ribs with the special B-B-Q sauce is the real secret to great finger lickin' ribs.

It was a two day delightful, finger licking, mouth watering treat for all who braved the extreme heat for some extreme Bar-B-Que from the best pit masters in the country.

For more information on any of the Pit Master's follow the link:,,,,

All photos by Janet Walker courtesy of Pulse Point Productions, Inc.:

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