I couldn’t wait to check out the St. Louis–style pork ribs at Smokin’ Q, wrenched from the embers of a failed kosher steakhouse by an optimist named Steven Levy for his third go-round here. I know this address, the location of a string of cursed restaurants in what Gay Talese in his memoir calls “the Willy Loman of buildings.” I reviewed the exclusive Le Premier decades ago and half a dozen other spots over the years that failed to live up to great expectations. Pit-smoked barbecue is a cosmic reversal from Levy’s two recent strikeouts: a kosher Japanese steakhouse and, before that, Il Patrizio, a kosher Italian dairy restaurant. But our party, including three twentyish trenchermen, agrees with me that the ribs are really good and so are the thin-cut fries. Checkered oilcloth-cloaked tables and stand-up ordering have a strange fast-food feel for this hoity street; Le Premier was so elegant it had an unlisted phone. The bar does help: A good stiff martini always soothes. Our visiting nephew from Chicago is high on the brisket, and we all agree that tiny sides of mac and cheese, coleslaw, and hickory-smoked beans are good enough, though Miss Grimble should be ashamed of that apple cake. Levy ambles by to tout the banana-cream pudding with its money-back guarantee. “If you don’t like it, give me the money and don’t come back.” Okay. More Borscht Belt than down-home. But the pudding just happens to be fabulous. So far no sign of good neighbor Talese.
206 E. 63rd St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-355-7000