Time for some brisket. Time for a trip to Hill Country Barbecue Market.
MG and I had a hankering for some barbecue. (Why am I spelling it with a “c” instead of a “q”? Cause that’s how they do it in their name.) We had not been to Hill Country since visiting DC over a year ago. Before that, we’d been to the NYC location a time or two before.
The format is very informal. Upon entering, a hostess hands each patron a card. You seat yourself at any table. The tables vary in size from long picnic style to small four-seater. There are two stations for food, one for meat, one for sides. Stroll up with your cards, make your order, and receive your food. Take your seat and dig in.
This is the tray that MG and I shared. The meat comes in the butcher paper pictured above. The brown things you see are what act as plates. I’m not sure what to call them: bowls, plates, containers, food rectangle holders?
Hill Country’s White Corn Pudding (small, $4.75) is my favorite side dish out of all the barbecue side dishes I’ve tried in any establishment. A beautiful meld of sweet and savory, solid and mushy, it makes my eyes roll into the back of my head every time. I know it’s not the nicest thing to look at, but it sure does taste good.
When MG sees sweet potato, she’s gotta’ have it. If you like sweet potatoes, you’ll enjoy this dish. The menu describes it as Sweet Potato Bourbon Mash (small, $4.75). I didn’t taste much beyond sweet potato, but that was just fine by me. I don’t know if the bourbon is supposed to impart a smokey flavor or what. Don’t let my commentary dissuade you from ordering. It is a very nice side, I just didn’t notice much beyond the sweet potato.
MG picked out this side. This is not something I would generally order. Don’t get me wrong, I usually like something green with my barbecue, but I would not have thought to order the Cool As A Cucumber Salad (small, $3.95). It’s cucumber with some flecks of onion. If the liquid addition was vinegar, it wasn’t terribly strong. There is a little tang to the dish, but it doesn’t overpower the clean taste of the cucumber. In other word, this definitely comes across as cucumber salad, not pickle salad. It almost works as a palate cleanser in between the other bold flavors, which brings us to the star of the show…
MEAT! GLORIOUS MEAT!
There are two kinds of brisket, lean and moist. Basically, the moist has more fat. Personally, I don’t mind the extra layer of fat, but MG abhors any appearance of fat on her meat. If you place a steak in front of her and the fat has not been trimmed off, expect to hear a comment by the end of the meal. As we were sharing this meal, we got the Lean Brisket ($21.50 per pound). Don’t take the description “lean” to mean “dry”, because it is most certainly not dry. The flavor is outstanding, and the texture is simply wonderful. It doesn’t quite melt in your mouth as there is just enough resistance to remind you that you are eating some good beef. I understand that some people want ribs when they order barbecue, but I think you would do yourself a great disservice by not ordering some form of brisket at Hill Country.
I was intrigued by the Jalapeno Cheese Sausage ($6.75) and had to try it out. The cheese is not overwhelming, which I enjoyed. If you are expecting a gooey center, this is not the sausage for you. There is just enough cheese and jalapeno to create a push-pull of creaminess and heat. The sausage is very nice, very meaty, but doesn’t have an especially smokey flavor (as compared to some other places I’ve tried). Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. I still enjoyed it. The casing may give some people pause. It is a little thicker casing that I’ve had in the past, one that is almost meaty in and of itself. It was not tough or rubbery, but I did notice the texture as I rolled it around my mouth while chewing.
As I mentioned before, customers go to serving stations to get their meat and side. Drink and desserts are provided by waitstaff that come to your table. On this occasion, someone dropped off two waters at the start of the meal, and we never saw another waiter/waitress again. An aberration? I hope so. The last couple times we dined here, we did not have any problem, but this time we did. The restaurant wasn’t especially crowded, and they did not appear to be understaffed. Let’s hope it was just a one-off incident.
Take a trip to Hill Country. Have the brisket with some corn pudding. You will leave very satisfied.
Hill Country Barbecue Market
30 W 26th Street
New York, NY 10010