“Why is Brooklyn barbecue taking over the world?” Vice asked in a headline this weekend, only to learn that the world disputes the premise.
The article contended that Brooklyn — a fast-growing suburb of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. — had invented a style of barbecue that was, Vice wrote, “spreading, very quickly and without warning, to every f—ing corner of the world.”
“I think we started a wave of a more modern, urban, nontraditional BBQ,” the founder of Brooklyn’s Fette Sau restaurant told Vice, which illustrated the article with a photo of what looked like dry brisket rationed out on a prison tray.
The meat was coated in an espresso-based dry rub, Vice noted. “What’s more New York than that?”
The Vice writer had visited barbecue restaurants in several countries and discovered that they were either inspired by or strongly reminded him of Brooklyn. Its vaguely defined but refreshingly nonconformist style of meat grilling had spread to South America, Europe and Japan and could be on its way to Israel next.
“I walked into La Fama — which calls itself the first Southern North American BBQ restaurant in Bogota,” the author wrote. “The strings of Edison bulbs, picnic table style seating, and exposed brick walls had me second guessing exactly where I was.”
Some reacted skeptically to Vice’s story. While Brooklyn has lately become known for its arts and cultural scene (it is home to the folk rock band Begushkin, for example), it has not been traditionally recognized as an international barbecue mecca.
So people from Texas, Tennessee, Missouri and other states that are not New York were quick to inform Vice of their own regional barbecue styles — even if they were not so renowned as Brooklyn’s.
Some New Yorkers thought people were letting their emotions distract from what Daily Beast reporter Max Tani called the city’s “vast, fluid, and superior food scene.”
Eventually, the debate became tribalistic.
“There is no such thing as Brooklyn BBQ,” wrote Red Cup Rebellion. ” ‘Brooklyn BBQ’ is merely some mustachioed f—wit’s take on what has already been perfected in the Carolina low country.”
A few people noticed that the Brooklyn barbecue article was actually written four years ago; Vice had just changed the dateline and republished it on Sunday for some reason.
The story was ruthlessly mocked in 2014, too, especially on the blog Racing to a Red Light, by a writer “outraged at the sheer notion that Brooklyn BBQ is anything more than narcissistic myopic dreamland.”
Red Light touched on the history of barbecue, which dates to the first slave populations in the Americas, if not thousands of years earlier in other parts of the world. (Brooklyn did not exist thousands of years ago, according to Wikipedia.)
Red Light’s comments sections filled up with other examples of New York food arrogance, including a photo of a man in a fedora flame-roasting meat on a grass lawn.
(Brooklyn is known for fedoras.)
Four years later, it’s still questionable whether Brooklyn barbecue has taken over the world. One of the original New York restaurants mentioned in the Vice article seems to have shut down and refocused its business model on chicken, though you can still get black angus beef brisket at Fette Sau for $29 a pound.
But #BrooklynBBQ at least took over the Internet on Sunday — to the point that the original story’s author disavowed the “clickbaity headline” Vice had put on it, even as he stood by its underlying message.
“I was just pointing out that this one bbq restaurant in Brooklyn was the one inspiring places abroad,” wrote Nicholas Gill, who no longer reports for Vice. “Wasn’t saying it was right or wrong.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly located Brooklyn in the Canadian province of Quebec. It is in New York.