September is an odd time of year, especially in the Deep South. The weather hasn't cooled a bit and not-so-distant memories of a recent summer vacation are lingering in your soul. You can still feel the fine white sand from a Gulf beach under your feet, smell the chlorine from your best friend's pool and taste barbecue ribs and smoked brisket still clinging to your lips. But what about the season inching just around the corner?
The sun will continue to sear us where we stand, but ever so gradually, the leaves will start to change colors and fall, the humidity will drop and the Saints will have their first home game against the Vikings on the third Sunday of the month. You can already smell the Hopitoulas you'll spill on your shirt, hear your friend's exultant cries when the Saints score and taste the barbecue ribs and smoked brisket on your lips. Can you see a theme here?
Whether you want to make the carefree days of summer last just a little bit longer are gearing up for football with your first tailgate, there's no reason to slave over a smoker or a grill when the barbecue scene in this town has really picked up the pace. New Orleans may well be on its way to becoming known for delectable, smoky “que” and there's no reason not to take advantage of the increasing competition.
One of the newest contenders on the scene is NOLA Smokehouse, a BBQ catering company that recently got its own digs on the corner of Jackson Avenue and Annunciation Street inside what used to be Finger Lick'n Wings. Chief smoker and owner Rob Bechtold, who formerly worked as sous chef in K-Paul's Kitchen, offers some killer deals like crispy, fatty beef brisket burnt ends for $9, smoked boudin links only $3 each, smoked chicken legs at $4 each and a half rack of ribs for $13. Sides include cole slaw, sweet corn spoon bread, BBQ beans and his own, house made pickles, all for only $3 for half a pint.
“Always smokin',” The Joint is a Bywater favorite for all things meaty. The first location opened on Poland Avenue in a small, brightly painted yellow shack a little over 10 years ago, and even after their move to a larger building on Mazant, locals and visitors from all over the country keep coming back. Owners Pete and Jenny Breen have had unwavering success with The Joint being recognized by barbecue aficionados and magazines from all over the country, including a spot on Guy Fieri's “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” on Food Network. Score a half rack of baby back ribs with a side of mac & cheese for only $13, a pulled pork sandwich topped with their house made slaw for $7.50 or ¼ chicken and 1 ½ sausage links plus a side of baked beans for only $12. Is anyone else getting hungry?
Opened just a little over a year now, McClure's Barbecue has become a local favorite, smoking up Uptown on the corner of Magazine and Bordreaux...right across the street from the popular bar/music venue Le Bon Temp Roule. What began as a Tuesday night pop-up at Dante's Kitchen in the Riverbend, quickly evolved into Neil McClure's dream, his very own barbecue restaurant. Along with ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken and sausage, McClure's also offers specialty sandwiches like his Chicken Cordon Bleu with smoked chicken, ham, roasted red peppers and Swiss for $10 or a vegetarian Smoked Mushroom Melt with onions, peppers and Swill served on a pressed roll for only $8.50. Upon walking in the door, though, folks are often pressed to indulge in their “All Meats & All Sides” combo that's perfect for two with ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, sausage, spicy sweet cole slaw, pork & pork & beans, four-cheese macaroni, barbecue jambalaya, Creole-potato salad and roasted corn and jalapeno corn bread, all for only $30.
You can enjoy the game and eat your barbecue, too at Squeal Bar-B-Q on Oak Street. Brothers Brendan, Patrick and Eugene "Gene" Young joined forces and opened up Squeal in 2008 and it's been going strong since, offering all of the usual suspects and some unique lagniappe (a little something extra) that might not be found at other que spots. Feel free to indulge in their hickory smoked pork, brisket, sausage and ribs, but why not try the Squeal Pie layered with pulled pork, corn maque choux, and andouille mashed potatoes topped with cheddar cheese. It's like Shepherd’s Pie with a kick! They also feature pork grillades and grits, duck “BLT” tacos, boudin balls and jalapeno-corn hush puppies served with honey butter. Order up, grab a beer and have a seat at the bar where you can watch the game and get your grub on without skipping a beat.