Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Times Square, where it's tough finding a good meal.
Under most circumstances, news of a barbecue place opening in the heart of Times Square would, and should, elicit a shrug from any self-respecting New Yorker. Ah, but imagine if it was actually decent, a reasonably priced sit-down spot in the area—which we all wind up going to for whatever reason at some point—with good food that wasn't overrun by tourist mobs? Worth a try, right?
That's what I dreamed the brand new Sammy's House of BBQ would be, where they've got pitmaster Big Lou Elrose in from a legitimately good operation at Hill Country. Their publicist even got several high-profile media outlets excited about the place.
Sadly, the scene is exactly what you would most fear. The decor is all phony roadhouse with once-trendy touches like Edison bulbs and typography as art. Fake newspaper is laid out under your food. And despite promises of three floors of hot BBQ action, the footprint of the space is narrow, the tables crammed in together... and I could only find two floors.
A fair amount of people wandered in between 6:30 and 7:30 last Thursday night (several parties turned around immediately after learning there was no booze yet) and they all appeared to be visitors to our fair city. They also all seemed pretty dispirited. And I didn't witness anyone purchasing a Sammy's t-shirt, of which there are already several designs available.
Sammy, by the way, is Sammy Behoma, who runs the 1.5 Yelp-starred Benash Deli on 54th Street.
In a word: depressing.
I ordered as much as I could without being gross, but the portions here are big (and the platters on which they're served are large). It didn't matter in the end, though, because I couldn't bring myself to eat more than half of anything.
Not that the meat is poorly cooked; in fact both the Texas Smoked Brisket and the Memphis-Style Baby Back Ribs were perfectly tender, not even a little bit dry. Problem is, they were also both nauseatingly sweet. As were the sides of mac n' cheese and, especially, the baked beans. And the Texas Lonestar Chili that covers the nachos? Total sugar bomb. It's also really wet, creating a substantial puddle of reddish water in which your chips can soak. Which is not something you want your chips to do.
They actually forgot my cornbread, bringing a slab over at the end my meal, and it functioned well as a full-on dessert. I've eaten children's birthday cakes with a lower sugar content.
You probably had no plans to rush over to Sammy's House of BBQ, and you should stick with that. But if you saw any of the siren-emoji announcements last week and felt maybe a bit hopeful... well I'm here to crush your PR-fueled dreams. Sorry.
Sammy's House of BBQ is located at 258 West 44th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues, and is open for lunch and dinner daily.