NEW YORK — I smelled like wood smoke for half a day after I ate pulled pork, burnt-end baked beans and a sweet potato/pecan/maple casserole at Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque.
I couldn’t smell myself, even though I made an omega-level try at it, spinning about and nuzzling myself in vaguely auto-erotic ways. I was just told that I smelled. Mighty Quinn’s now is my all-time favorite restaurant encounter with smoked meat, and the cling of that slow-burning wood aroma only made it better.
Mighty Quinn’s opened in 2012 at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 6th Street in the East Village, not far from a psychic I considered asking for a seance. (I’ve been reading a novel about Carter the Great, and it’s given me urges.) The front of Mighty Quinn’s is a glass garage door, and the inside is all salvaged wood repurposed somewhere in Williamsburg by, I assume, a hipster carpenter with a Jesus Christ beard, vascular forearms and a closet of consignment flannel. He smells of fruit woods, pipe tobacco and urban self-reliance. I want to judge him, but secretly, I’m envious because I, too, want to build tables from nineteenth-century warehouse doors and be tall and Jack Palance-laconic like him. His name is Noah or something comparably biblical.
Eating at Mighty Quinn’s, procedurally, is like eating at Chipotle. There’s a counter and you order down a line: pick your protein, its dressings and its sides. It’s efficient, and, unlike a lot of New York restaurants, the staff treats you like they’re happy you’re there. The ‘cue also is inspiring, in an art kind of way.
I read a book, see a sketch, hear a song, watch a movie — if it’s good, I want to assimilate whatever I can of it for my use. Last week, I re-watched Manhattan (it seemed appropriate, being in New York), and I wrote the previous blog, the one about Coney Island, while listening to Gershwin. I’ve been reading the novel about Carter the Great, and because of that, I’ve been listening to 1920s jazz and big band stuff — Count Basie, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, etc. — for the past few days.
Mighty Quinn’s barbecue made me want to smoke a pork shoulder.
Harrisonburg, Va., where I live, is a desolate hole, from a barbecue perspective. There are approximately four barbecue restaurants; none of them are remarkable; they’re barely passable; more than a few outright suck. No smoke flavor. No bark. The meat’s chopped to a pet-food consistency and turned to trough slop with spiced ketchups and vinegars passed off as barbecue sauces. The sides are culinary miscarriages. The use of canned green beans is an unforgivable sin. Offenders should be pilloried and forever after made to wear a sign.
Mighty Quinn’s pork pulls are thick and weighted with bark. The sauce is complementary. The baked beans, their performance enhanced by rendered pork fat and burnt ends, and the sweet potato mash are as outstanding as the meat. I texted pictures to friends and family.
I ate by the glass garage door, reading my book and watching the 2nd Avenue people.
And… the 2nd Avenue psychic.