RUB, in Chelsea, is still the Manhattan barbecue joint I repair to for a bite of smoked pork and a burnt-ends sandwich or two whenever I grow weary of the rusticated pretensions of the Haute Barnyard crowd. But if you’re in the market for a full-blown, yuppie pig picking, book a table at the new wing of Daisy May’s BBQ USA, on 46th Street and Eleventh Avenue. Four hundred eighty dollars buys an entire barbecued hog, shipped in from hog country in Iowa, plus rubber gloves for picking, plastic bibs, and a boatload of chef Adam Perry Lang’s gourmet side dishes (creamed corn, candied sweet potatoes, cooling mustard slaw), and a big, country watermelon for dessert. Sweet-potato pecan pie is the dessert delicacy to order at The Queen’s Hideaway, a quirky little establishment buried deep in the backwoods of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Every evening, Liza Queen scrawls out her dinner menu on a piece of paper, puts an old LP on the house Victrola, and serves up home-cooked delicacies like spicy venison and duck gumbo, Brussels sprouts and nuggets of smoked sausage poached in sweet pear cider, and the aptly named “Lap of Luxury,” a nourishing stew of slow-cooked chicken smothered in a creamy mash of garden vegetables, with big blocks of battered cornbread “French Toast” on top.
For a real dose of unadorned, down-home cooking, however, visit the tiny kitchen at Pies-N-Thighs, under the Williamsburg Bridge, in Brooklyn. Eight bucks gets you three pieces of chef-owner Steve Tanner’s superior golden fried chicken (it’s brined, the way his grandmother used to do in Albany, Georgia, in salt, soda water, and a pinch of sugar), and for a few dollars more, you can tuck into a wedge of fresh-baked apple pie, while you listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting from the boom box in the corner. You can also satisfy your urge for fried food back across the river, at Rack & Soul, on 109th and Broadway, where the crack fry operation is run by the great fried-chicken wizard himself, Charles Gabriel. “Mr. Charles,” as the friendly girls behind the counter call him, cooks his chicken the proper way, rolled in seasoned flour, then sizzled in a bubbling iron skillet. The lightly salty catfish is similarly prepared, but if you desire something with a little more heft, order a rack of the sugar-sweet baby-back ribs, or a mess of country oxtails, fixed in a rich, glutinous pool of flour gravy and served with a bag of home-baked biscuits, sweetened with a touch of honey.