How long is a wait worth at a barbecue restaurant? When I heard about the legendary (and most likely prohibitively punishing) wait at the Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, that could allegedly stretch for more than 4-5 hours at times, I was pondering the question in curiosity. While my wife Jun and I used to not mind waiting on the line for a long time (several years ago, while we were still friends, we waited at the Museum of Modern Art for four hours to get into the famous Rain Room exhibition), our tolerance for long waits probably diminished significantly since our marriage. After stopping by an art gallery in Red Hook, Brooklyn, on a recent Saturday, I decided to test this question by stopping by at Hometown, generally regarded as one of the best barbecue restaurants in the city. Even though we arrived at the restaurant before 5 p.m., we ended up waiting over an hour and a half and the line of eager crowds behind us wouldn’t stop disappearing. By the end of our meal, Jun was very exhausted and we got home as soon as our meal was over smelling of smoke all over our clothes. So, was the wait worth it? Jun and I arrived at the conclusion that no barbecue restaurant, no matter how good, is worth a wait of over an hour. That said, we had nothing to complain about the quality of food at Hometown.
Barbecue is the type of food that you can’t really do wrong, but then you can’t quite perfect either. Hometown’s classically smoked meats on oak wood, a shout-out to the southern influence, was very close to perfect. I still can’t think enough of the wonderful brisket that I probably should’ve ordered a full pound (instead of the half pound), and enormous beef rib, at $30 per pound, was another thing of beauty that Jun and I very much enjoyed. For Jun, the Jamaican jerk baby back ribs were her favorite meats of the night, and she eagerly savored her each bite until she had nothing left but bones. For the sides, while there wasn’t anything special about the hometown slaw, the smoked pit beans with brisket burnt ends were outstanding. For dessert, we brought home banana cream pudding (along with leftover meats) that turned out to be quite delightful without being too sweet (compared to the one that Jun loves at the Magnolia Bakery).
There is a full bar that you can take advantage of while waiting at the line to gulp down a pint of beer (there are cocktail and wine options too, but beer seems to be the way to go for barbecues). The crowd at Hometown is fairly diverse, from a family of four to a group of buddies looking at get their hands on these amazing barbecues. I try to rate a restaurant purely based on the quality of food in my reviews, but I think the whole painful rite of passage that you have to go through until you triumphantly arrive at the counter seems to have somewhat diminished our level of joy from otherwise very good barbecue meats. Will Hometown ever consider adopting a system that allows reservations or other means to reduce the wait times? I hope they do, but based on their immense popularity, I don’t see them having a proper incentive to do so.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 454 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Telephone: (347) 294-4644