Delaney Barbecue was born out of a curiosity about process and an appreciation for provenance.
Most believe our business began with a summer long recipe development series called Brisketlab, which took place in 2012. However, there are a few chapters before that.
In 2008, I set out on a journey with a car, some camera gear, and a few close friends. The goal was to showcase the rising number of street food vendors in the nation. In 2009, we launched VendrTV, a web video series about food trucks, which was produced for two years.
While filming this show, my lifelong love of BBQ began to develop into fanaticism for BBQ. You see, when not eating at food trucks, our team would feast on whatever was local. As we got further South, local was spelled b-a-r-b-e-c-u-e.
The pivotal moment for me came when we were filming a food festival in New Orleans, where festival organizer Michael Stern introduced me to Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX. Wayne offered up a piece of brisket so mind blowing that it made me reconsider all the barbecue I had enjoyed prior.
Our crew eventually made our way to Austin, where we filmed with the now legendary Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, while he was slinging meat out of a trailer off I-35. His commitment to high quality proteins and to the techniques pioneered by decades of tradition were also certainly inspirational!
No Smoking On the Roof
No Smoking on the Roof!
Back home in Brooklyn and armed with a new appreciation for America's oldest food form, I bought a small box smoker from the local hardware store. (I didn't know it was crappy then.) I set it up on my roof, and started making bad barbecue. Nothing worked. The fire would go out, things would take hours to cook, and were almost always finished in the oven.
Eventually that smoker was put to rest, and I brought a bigger one home. My interest was getting more serious, and the meat more copious. With that, BK CUE, a small barbecue supper club was born. Once a month I'd fire up the smoker, invite people over, and put together a meal inspired by a different regional style. The meals were OK. It was a start.
Things were about to change.
Hauling from the Lone Star State & Brisketlab
After a super rainy 2012 stint at South by Southwest in Austin, I bought an 18' offset smoker and, with my buddy Florian, (illegally) hitched it to the back of a UHaul truck filled with Post Oak (also illegal) and hauled it up to NJ (just plain scary). There it sat while I calculated my next move.
In the summer of 2012, armed with a giant smoker, I called upon my buddy Hunter up to help get started on a meat smoking adventure that would be known as Brisketlab. With the help of some friends from college, I built an elaborate pre-ordering mechanism, where folks could buy pounds of meat they'd later redeem at these pop-up barbecue parties. The goal was simple: practice. We wanted to practice making barbecue with the volume the smoker could handle... which is a lot of meat!
The pre-ordering site went live with an inventory of 3400 lbs of brisket, each pound set at $25 per pound. To everyone's astonishment, the whole inventory sold out a whopping 48 hours!
The planning began! My friend Angela joined Hunter to start putting together the 32 labs we ultimately hosted in just in 60 days. Each lab would be at a different venue in NYC, paired with a local band and donated beer.
At that time our schedule was an intense one. Each day we'd trek to NJ to get meat, commandeer my parents' kitchen where we'd trim hundreds of pounds of brisket, then carry it out to the backyard smoker where we'd watch the fire for hours, often sleeping in rotation in my childhood bedroom. The process took upward of 20 hours at the time. Then we'd pack up the meat, head into NYC, host the lab, drive home, sleep, and do it again the next day.
Through it all, there were major leaps in my understanding about how to make barbecue. We went from producing something mediocre, to something we were truly excited about. People loved it, and I new it needed to become a permanent thing.
While walking around South Williamsburg, just blocks from my home, I found a small store for rent that would eventually become BrisketTown. The space, which was originally going to be a pop-up, turned into our full restaurant. On October 1st, 2012 I signed the lease and, just 6 weeks later, opened up shop. That certainly wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the design smarts of Evan and Oliver of hOmE, and Drew and David of Precision Innovations. Take a look at some of the before and after photos:
Since opening, the restaurant has undergone a slew of changes. The most notable was a shift from counter service to table service, which took place in October '13. Today the restaurant is open seven days a week for dinner, and brunch on the weekends. For more information on BrisketTown click here.
In April of 2013, we opened our second location: a food stand on The High Line in Chelsea that we dubbed SmokeLine. The mobile outpost to our Brooklyn location focuses more on grab and go options that can be easily eaten while strolling in one of Manhattan's most beautiful parks. For more information on SmokeLine click here.
Although we're extremely proud of our growth and success this year, we know we're just getting started and have a lot of learning to do! I'm confident that the future is bright. Be sure to visit us at BrisketTown or SmokeLine, and keep your eyes tuned to our blog and event listing to find out about future happenings.
Thanks for reading, see you soon!
– Dan Delaney