On July 3, we had our premature fill of Independence day barbecue at the newly opened Hill Country. The BBQ market is oddly hot right now. Fette Sau has been much-feted, Pies N' Thighs is permanently packed. It seems anyone with a grill and a rack of ribs in this city can at least break even. But barbecue isn't something you can fake.
Taking up a large part of the block between 6th Avenue and Broadway on 26th Street, Hill Country has the feel of a Texas roadhouse: wooden floors, exposed brick, lots of dudes. There's an upstairs which is big and a downstairs which is bigger and, when we went, emptier. A small stage occupies one wall of the basement. A large steel lone star is propped up behind it. Some country song about driving all night long was blaring.
Waitress service is minimal (though cute!) and, much like a goyishe Katz's, the payment model is that of a rmeal ticket. The food is larger-than-life. The cow is king; pork ribs play second fiddle to buttery slices of beef brisket. When confronted with the thick pink prime rib, the pork chops quail and the game hen quivers.
There's also a large whisky selection and lots and lots of beer to be had. Like at Daisy Mae's, the sweet tea comes in a monster container.
Hill County is less outwardly cool than Fette Sau and lacks the kind of backroom cachet enjoyed by Pies N' Thighs. And though the pitmaster Robbie Richter is well-respected, he doesn't have the illustrious or tripartite name of Daisy May's chef Adam Perry Lang. And all of this makes it better: less foofy, and less pretentious.