Those who love barbecues know that a common fate that befalls them is burning to the ground, smoking not only the meat but the entire premises. It’s happened to so many barbecues I love across the country that I’ve lost count. It happened to our own Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue, which opened on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights early in 2013. It served up long-smoked meats in the Texas style, including exemplary brisket that had lingered in the pit 16 to 18 hours, with a sweet homemade barbecue sauce that you really didn’t need to enjoy the meat, and an amazing beef sausage dotted with jalapenos.
But one morning in January 2021 flames broke out in the kitchen and spread to the apartments above, resulting in a three-alarm fire. Officials later determined that the blaze began in the ductwork above the smoker. The place would be closed for nearly two years before reopening two weeks ago. I decided to pay a visit last weekend to see if Morgan’s was as good as ever.
I walked in as the place opened at noon, and was happy to see that, inside and out, Morgan’s had been restored to its previous gritty roadhouse elegance, with a stamped tin ceiling, battered cast-iron columns, and distressed walls. The place doubles as a drinking spot and sports bar, and the staff was busy tinkering with the big screen monitors hanging up near the ceiling.
I was determined to stick with the old stuff, rather than sample new additions to the menu like brisket cheesesteak, so I ordered the holy trinity ($39), which includes brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. The scent of smoke arose from the tray the bartender placed before me. While in Texas you might expect white bread or soda crackers, here the kitchen offers a small cast-iron skillet of cornbread dripping with butter, along with a couple of dill-pickle spears and a grilled yellow pepper, more sweet than hot.
The sausage pre-fire was stumpy and slashed at intervals to facilitate smoking; the new one, described on the menu as andouille and equally as spicy, was of imperial length and uncut. One bite and I was hooked: On a roll, this could be an excellent lunch. The ribs were good too, tender and photogenically perfect, but not quite as smoky as I’d like. They weren’t as sweet as pork ribs sometimes are and I appreciated the ample black-peppery spice rub.
As Twitter commenters point out, the beef brisket had been imperfectly cut with the grain rather than against it. But this did not affect the taste. With a choice of lean or fatty brisket, I’d picked the latter and the flavor was smoky and rich in equal proportion, and the meat slid down the throat like a sled on an icy slope — utterly delicious, though it begged for a side of bread and raw onions.
I’ll be returning to try the Frito pie, pork belly, beef ribs, and steak tacos. But until then, be assured that Morgan’s has rejoined NYC’s brief list of great barbecues, up there with Hometown, Hill Country, and John Brown.