Walking into Hill Country Barbecue Market in Downtown Brooklyn feels like stepping into another world. It’s a big, open space with lots of activity — live music playing in the corner, patrons at the bar sipping Shiner Bocks and margaritas in mason jars, and diners going back and forth from their tables for trays full of Texas barbecue and sides.
Hill Country Barbecue Market honors the barbecue and live music capital of Texas, taking its ‘cue’ from the legendary meat-markets-turned-barbecue-joints of Central Texas.
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With everything that’s going on, you may not know where to start. That’s why we’re giving you an insider’s guide to Hill Country Barbecue Market. With these 7 tips, you’ll impress your friends with your barbecue knowledge and ordering skills.
TIP #1 – Grab a ticket, grab a table, and grab some grub
Marc Glosserman, the founder of Hill Country Barbecue Market, was determined to replicate the experience of his family’s favorite Texas barbecue joints, particularly the world-famous Kreuz Market of Lockhart, Texas. (Texan tip here: Kreuz rhymes with “bites.”) There, meat is sold by the pound and served on butcher paper, ideal for picking and sharing.
To get started at Hill Country Barbecue Market, you get a meal ticket from the host at front, and you are shown to your table for drinks. Your meal ticket serves as your menu and your check. When you’re ready to eat, you take your ticket into the marketplace to order your meats and sides. Meats are carved to order and are served by the pound so you can order as much or as little as you like. The helpful Pitmasters talk you through the various cuts of meat and how much to order.
Your meats are weighed and wrapped in butcher paper with white bread and crackers, just like they do it at the barbecue joints in the Texas Hill Country. Sides are served in a variety of sizes to feed groups big and small. Once you’ve got your barbecue and sides, head to your table. Your server will make sure that you have all of the Shiner you need to wash everything down, and will show you a selection of desserts to choose from. At the end of the meal, hand your meal ticket over to your server to check out.
Meats in the smoker | Hill Country Barbecue Market via Facebook
TIP #2 – Go easy on the sauce
Texans believe that great barbecue doesn’t need to hide under sauce. Unlike barbecue from St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, and the Carolinas, with their sweet or tangy various sauces, Texas barbecue gets its flavor primarily from the wood smoke — Hill Country Barbecue Market only uses post oak imported from Texas — and a simple dry rub of salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. They have their own “If You Gotta Have It” barbecue sauce on the table if, in fact, you gotta have it. But try it without first!
Tip #3 – Meet your meats
Your friendly Pitmaster will walk you through your choices, but here’s a primer. Beef brisket is the iconic Texas barbecue dish, made from the same cut that New Yorkers use to make pastrami or corned beef. You can get your brisket moist (marbled with fat, and therefore delicious), or lean (not as moist, but still smoky). You can also get beef shoulder (a lean cut, sliced thin and served pink in the middle) or, for steak lovers, boneless prime rib cooked medium rare. Fans of ribs will love the succulent pork spare ribs and the massive beef short rib.
Their market chicken is the only meat cooked in sauce, and their turkey breast is moist and tender. Definitely try the sausage links, shipped in from the aforementioned Kreuz Market in Texas, and the housemade hot link. Watch out for specials such as the beer can game hen, smoked lamb chop, pork belly, and especially the outstanding chili-rubbed chicken wings. You may never eat a Buffalo wing again.
TIP #4 – Learn the lingo
The bark is a smoky outer “crust” on the meat that develops after hours in the smoker. It has a lot of flavor — barbecue lovers may ask for burnt ends, which are chopped bits of brisket bark. The pink smoke ring is not a sign of undercooked meat, but of a chemical reaction that occurs when meat protein is exposed to smoke for long periods of time. Fat = flavor! Great brisket should have a ring of fat just below the bark and plenty of marbling (evenly distributed fat throughout the meat).
TIP #5 – Use “chickenspeak” to order like a pro
When ordering chicken, you can ask for a “Tommy” (thigh and drum) or a “Dolly” (breast and wing). The Tommy is so called because the thigh and drum look like a tomahawk. As for the Dolly… you shouldn’t have to work from 9 to 5 to figure that out.
TIP #6 – Hack the menu
Want to eat healthier? Ask for “Claudia-style” chicken, and the Pitmaster will give you skinless white meat, chopped up to put in a salad. (Added bonus: it’s also a gluten free option.) On the other end of the spectrum, you can combine two of the best sides into one delectable mess called Chili Mac: beanless red chili over 6-cheese Longhorn Cheddar macaroni and cheese.
TIP #7 – Try a little of everything
With so many meats to sample, not to mention all the side dishes and desserts, it can be pretty hard to choose. All of the meats are served by weight, so you can order as much or as little as you would like. Then again, eyes are often bigger than stomachs, so one of the best ways to get the most of the Hill Country Barbecue Market experience is to come with a big group. Hill Country Barbecue Market’s space is made for family-style dining. Working together, you can try a bite of just about everything on the menu and pick favorites for your next visit.
But if you’re alone or in a small group, the Market Specials are perfect for sampling. For example, The Pitmaster Combo includes 1/4 lb. lean brisket, one pork spare rib, one hot link, and a quarter chicken (white or dark meat), along with two sides. There are also plenty of lunch specials you can ask about and a daily Butcher Paper special which gets you a rotating selection of a meat and two sides, $12 at lunch and $16 at dinner.
Armed with these tips, you are now ready to show your friends the delights of Texas-style barbecue. Check out Hill Country Live’s live music calendar to plan your visit, and come hungry!