Presented in partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings
The debate concerning which city deserves the title of “Food Capital of the World” is as contentious as it is never-ending, and at the risk of angering Parisians who may be inspired to attack me with stale baguettes or irking a sushi chef in Tokyo who will commit my face to memory so he can serve me some poorly-prepared fugu if I ever end up in his restaurant, I’d argue New York City is the metropolis to beat.
Centuries of cultural convergence have created a culinary scene unlike anywhere else on the planet and every style of cuisine in existence is represented somewhere in the five boroughs, whether it’s served up in a world-renowned restaurant, peddled from a cart on the sidewalk, or cooked up in the back of a nondescript deli that you wouldn’t even notice if it wasn’t for the aroma emitting from it.
With that said, despite sporting an overwhelmingly endless amount of options, the city’s food scene does have its shortcomings. Yes, you can get your hands on virtually any dish from any region of the world but that doesn’t necessarily mean the food in question is going to measure up to the fare you’d be served if you actually traveled to those locations.
As a result, there are a few culinary itches I’ve had trouble scratching while living here and one of the most irritating ones is the shortage of quality BBQ.
I’m not saying there aren’t any places that serve up some great smoked meats, but because the city is as underserved as it is, I’ve found that you have to camp out to get your hands on them unless you want to stand in line for an hour and hope they haven’t run out of ribs by the time you get to the counter.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with the risk of leaving a restaurant empty-handed the other day when I headed to Buffalo Wild Wings, which recently rolled out a few new menu items to showcase the one BBQ staple I hold nearest and dearest to my heart: brisket.
Brisket probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of B-Dubs, which makes sense when you consider we’re talking about a restaurant with “Wings” in its name. However, the sports bar has been slowly but surely expanding its horizons over the past couple of years, and after getting to taste their take on a Nashville classic last summer, I was pretty amped to try their interpretation of the cornerstone of Texas BBQ.
Every place in the Lone Star State has its own unique approach to cooking brisket but the one Buffalo Wild Wings takes is about as traditional as you can get, as they season the hand-trimmed meat with a classic rub before smoking it low and slow over coals and hickory for 14 hours until it transforms into the tender, barky palate pleaser we all know and love.
In addition to the four brand new brisket-centric items Buffalo Wild Wings recently added to its menu, you can also throw some of the pulled meat on top of an order of nachos if you’re so inclined, which is exactly what I did when I was approached at my table for one and proceeded to ask for enough food to satisfy the average nuclear family.
If the people sitting near me didn’t judge me when they heard my order, they certainly did when I staged an impromptu photo shoot after my table was filled to the brim with the five dishes I’d gotten to ensure that you, the loyal reader, could take this journey with me.
Sadly, scientists have yet to realize Willy Wonka’s vision of transporting food through thin air, and as a result, you’ll have to actually go to Buffalo Wild Wings if you want to taste any of these for yourself and I highly recommend you do so if you get the opportunity.
It’s honestly hard to go wrong with any of the following offerings, but if I’ve learned anything working on the internet for a decade, it’s that people love power rankings and I’d be remiss to not give the masses what they crave.
5. Ultimate Nachos w/ Brisket
Superteams have become all the rage in the sports world over the past couple of decades, and while a number of franchises have experienced a great deal of success by compiling a squad full of all-stars, doing so doesn’t automatically make you a champion.
One of the biggest risks you take when you assemble a team of stellar players is knowing their egos could end up clashing at any time, and by getting in each other’s way, they could prevent themselves and their teammates from getting a chance to shine and reach their full potential.
This is kind of how I feel about these nachos, which feature a “Big Three” that consists of brisket, chili, and house-made tortilla chips with all the fixings (including crema, jalapeños, pico de gallo, and queso with some Hatch chiles thrown in to kick things up a notch).
If I had to compare these nachos to a superteam, I’d liken them to the 1999 Houston Rockets squad that boasted Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and Hakeem Olajuwon on its roster. While they had a great record during the lockout-shortened regular season, the trio just couldn’t find a way to come together as one and ultimately lost in the playoffs.
With that said, the ingredients by themselves are all delicious but one of these had to come in last place and the nachos were up against some stiff competition.
4. Smoked Brisket Sandwich
Whenever a restaurant releases its own take on a beloved regional staple, it does so knowing it’s going to find itself at the center of the increasingly tired argument about what makes a certain dish “authentic.”
As I mentioned above, the brisket at Buffalo Wild Wings doesn’t really deviate from tradition as far as preparation is concerned but I know that’s not going to stop people from saying, “Actually, it’s not really brisket unless it’s cooked in a smoker made of oil drums behind a repurposed gas station that’s only open for four hours on Monday and Thursday.”
Those people are the worst.
As you’ll see by the time you finish reading this, B-Dubs dreamed up a few pretty imaginative ways to showcase its newest offering, but if you want to see how it measures up to the “real” thing, the smoked brisket sandwich is your best bet.
If you’ve never been to a BBQ joint in Texas, you should know there’s a certain protocol that’s usually followed: you order your meat, pick out your choice of sides, and then get handed an entire loaf of white bread because that’s just how they do things down there.
This sandwich—kind of like the one you make with all of the leftovers the day after Thanksgiving—is essentially a condensed version of your typical platter. The brisket is tossed in just the right amount of honey BBQ sauce (with a touch of adobo for good measure) and the classic white bread is upgraded to a challah bun that’s used to sandwich the meat with grilled onions, pickles, and some Napa cabbage slaw.
The result is an expertly balanced combination of ingredients that allows the brisket to step into the spotlight, as the adobo perfectly elevates the smokiness of the meat and compliments the sweetness of the BBQ sauce while the other toppings provide some nice textural contrast thanks to their crunch.
If people who can’t shut up about authenticity just stopped yapping for a second to try this, I think they’d be pleasantly surprised.
3. Brisket Taco
The area I grew up in when I was a kid didn’t exactly have the most vibrant food scene as far as Mexican cuisine was concerned and I spent the first couple of decades of my life under the impression that making tacos involved dumping a packet of seasoning into a pan of depressingly grey ground beef and scooping the meat into premade shells topped with jarred salsa and shredded cheese.
As a result, I had my mind blown when I moved to a neighborhood in Brooklyn filled to the brim with places serving up more traditional street tacos. Prior to that point, I would have assumed “Al Pastor” was a member of the Indiana Pacers in the 1980s, but once my eyes were opened, I quickly started making up for lost time.
As a result, I have pretty high standards as far as tacos are concerned and Buffalo Wild Wings delivered with their brisket ones.
When I took my first bite, I was impressed by how bright the in-house pico was and I quickly took a second one to savor the combination of flavors—including grilled onions, cotija cheese, and ideally ripe avocado—that supported the brisket as it took center stage. After my third, my mouth suddenly started to tingle and was eventually overtaken by a pleasant (but not overpowering) burn courtesy of the adobo sauce.
Well played, B-Dubs. Well played.
2. Smoked Brisket Burger
John Montagu—the fourth Earl of Sandwich—is commonly credited with being the first person to come up with the idea of throwing meat between a couple pieces of bread back in the 1700s, and while historians can’t seem to agree who invented the hamburger, the consensus seems to be that people started throwing patties of ground beef on buns toward the end of the following century.
It didn’t take long for burgers to take the world by storm, and in 1926, a teenager named Lionel Sternberger changed the game forever when he threw a slice of cheese on top of one. However, the floodgates didn’t really truly open until some mad lad looked at his sandwich one day and said, “What if a burger…but two of them?” and the world was never the same.
You might look at this offering and think to yourself “Does anyone really need brisket on top of a double cheeseburger?” Well, did Crosby, Stills & Nash really need Neil Young to join them? No, but I don’t hear many people complaining that he did.
The Smoked Brisket Burger features more beef than the plot of The Warriors, and just like that movie, it’s an incredibly enjoyable guilty pleasure. It’d be a baller sandwich if it was just the two hand-smashed, American cheese-covered patties on their own but the brisket—which is again covered in honey BBQ and our trusty friend adobo—takes it to a literal and figurative new level.
The pickles and grilled onions placed between the challah help elevate it even more but the real MVP here is the bacon aioli, an ingredient I wasn’t aware existed before last week but which I now want incorporated into every single meal I eat.
I don’t know if you can nominate someone for the Presidential Medal of Freedom but whoever dreamed up that condiment deserves one.
1. Dirty Dubs Tots
I like to think I can hold my own in the kitchen but there are certain foods that require you to put in far too much time and effort only to produce an end result that pales in comparison to what the pros can cook up.
I wouldn’t even know where to start if I attempted to make tater tots from scratch, and while the frozen ones you can pick up at the grocery store are perfectly serviceable, you’re basically setting yourself up for disappointment unless you feel like breaking out a deep fryer to whip some up.
As a result, I’m a bigger fiend for some good tots than Napoleon Dynamite and will order them virtually every single time I see them on a menu and there wasn’t any item I was looking forward to trying more than the Dirty Dubs Tots when I rolled into the sports bar.
If the brisket tacos surpassed my expectations, these tater tots managed to shatter them like an unsuspecting backboard on the receiving end of a dunk of a sumo wrestler who jumped off a trampoline at the free-throw line.
There’s a lot going on here in addition to the sauced-up brisket, as the onions (grilled and green) and cotija are complemented by THREE different types of peppers, including pickled jalapeños and Fresno chiles as well as the ones used to make the Hatch queso.
Once assembled, everybody gets to know each other on the platter and the result is spicy, crunchy, meaty, cheesy goodness that checked more boxes than a UPS driver during the holidays.
In all honesty, having to put these dishes in order was kind of tricky, as it’s kind of like asking a parent to rank their favorite child (or, perhaps more aptly, asking Cronus which of his sons tasted the best). They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but at the end of the day, I love them all uniquely.
However, if they were all playing in different games at the same time, you could find me in the stands cheering loud and proud for my beloved tots.