As a barbecue fanatic, I’ve followed the steady growth of good barbecue in NYC since its first inception at Stick to Your Ribs in Long Island City in 1992. I try to visit every new place, and thus was excited to check out Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbeque when it debuted on Hoboken’s main drag in December, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the mayor and other dignitaries. My appetite had been whetted by an announcement three months earlier that sent me scurrying to research the question: Who is Myron Mixon?
I wanted to know a little about the pitmaster before I launched into a review of his barbecue. It turns out Mixon had appeared here a few times a decade ago at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, where he first arrived bearing brisket in 2010. Since then, he has published several barbecue cookbooks, and appeared on TV shows like BBQ Pitmasters and BBQ Pit Wars. He also operated a barbecue school in his hometown of Unadilla, Georgia, where he finished up a four-year term as mayor in 2020. By his count, he and his team have won 200 grand championships, 1,800 trophies, 30 state championships, and 11 national championships on the competitive barbecue circuit.
But my unfamiliarity was understandable. I rarely watch food TV and don’t follow competitive barbecue, which seems a lot like professional wrestling with its throw-downs and taunts. I prefer brick-and-mortar establishments, where you can walk up anytime and score a sandwich or a platter.
This Hoboken barbecue and its Alexandria, Virginia, predecessor are his brick-and-mortar establishments. With a frosty beard and crown of curly hair, Mixon looks like Kenny Rogers. His visage adorns the front door, and flickers on monitors that replay episodes of his TV shows.
Despite the lack of a smoky smell, the place looked promising as I stepped up to the counter at the rear to place my order. Behind it I could see a big black smoker. The menu offered five kinds of barbecue: beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, and baby back ribs — a doctrinaire roster with the exception of the smaller ribs, which belong more to bar food than barbecue.
There was a nifty special called the family meal with around a half-pound of each of the barbecue choices — plus three sides and some thick slices of supermarket white bread scattered at strategic locations — heaped on a metal tray. At $70 it was quite a deal, especially considering the generous servings of sides. The menu also offered sandwiches, keto bowls, and 12 dishes that fit into overlapping sides and snacks categories, including the usual — such as collards, potato salad, and coleslaw — plus some unexpected items.
Two pals and I dived into the family meal one evening and found there was more than we could finish. The best dish was pork shoulder, pulled off in big hunks with little bits of brown adhering. It was as good an evocation of the Carolina Low Country style as we currently have, especially if you sprinkle on the thin red “vinegar sauce” — one of five table sauces that also included hickory, hog, tangy sweet, and sweet heat, the last a rare appearance of the mustard style of sauce popular in South Carolina. Whether you like sauce on your barbecue or not (I usually skip it), these sauces were well-conceived and represented a diversity of Deep South and Midwestern styles of barbecue.
The brisket, something of a Mixon signature, wasn’t as good as the pork. There was no smoke ring and it simply didn’t look or taste juicy, though it was edible enough with a piece of white bread wrapped around it. The baby back ribs were dry and flaky, while the cheese-flecked sausages, though a little wrinkly and tired, were still tasty. In fact, next to the pulled pork, the sausages were the best thing. The chicken had shrunk to the size of a game hen, and exhibited a dense and slippery texture and orange-pink color that wasn’t particularly appetizing. Getting servings of barbecue past their prime is a common-enough experience at lesser barbecues.
Mixon’s cookbook authorship meant that he’s spent time modifying and inventing side dishes to fill out his recipe collections, and it shows in the enhanced roster available here (two come free with a platter, one with a sandwich, otherwise $5 per cup). But to appreciate many of them, you’d have to be a sugar freak.
The French fries came dusted with cinnamon and sugar, while the baked beans had slivers of canned peaches in them. A giant tray of pork rinds ($9) — unusual for a barbecue, but quite crunchy and filling — came sprinkled with tabasco-flavored honey and blue cheese, the latter easy enough to brush off. Best of all was a Brunswick stew, a Georgia specialty that uses tidbits of barbecue in a tomato-based vegetable casserole. Sweet, of course, but lovely nonetheless.
The colorfully named “loaded baked potato salad” was the usual mayo-laced concoction, owning nothing to baked potatoes, but better than average for a barbecue — even at great barbecues the sides are often forgettable. The coleslaw was similarly mayo-dominated even though I wish it had been a vinegar slaw instead, since that would have permitted the construction of a North Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich. The mac and cheese was good for its type, creamy and tasting of processed cheese.
I returned a week later early in the day to retry the meat, and both the brisket and sausage were marginally better but still not up to the quality of a Hill Country or a Hometown Bar-B-Que. My favorite item was a griner sandwich ($15): a bun piled with layers of beef brisket and mac and cheese. It sounds awful, but was quite good, cheesy and beefy at once. And in contrast to my experience on the previous visit, the brisket was every bit as fatty as I like it.