Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Legends Bar and Grill: Jackson Heights's Diamond in the Rough
"Queens is so farrrrr!"
"There can't be anything to eat out there...past Astoria, anyway."
"Barbecue is so expensive, and the good places are only in Manhattan."
I hear this sort of yammering all the time, and you know what? DON'T COME TO QUEENS. Because if this place gets super popular or something, and I can't come here anymore, I will be PISSED.
I was introduced to Legends by my friend John, who was born and raised in Jackson Heights, where this amazing place resides. And, over time, it's become my absolute favorite barbecue spot in all of New York City.
A couple of weeks ago, a group of friends and I went to the NYC Honey Festival over at Rockaway Beach. We spent pretty much the whole day there, tasting various honeys and working up a serious appetite. We weren't sure what to do for dinner, so John suggested that we trek up to Legends for a savory barbecued feast. The Manhattanites in our crew exchanged some dubious looks.
Suggesting Queens as somewhere to go to for dinner, will definitely get you some side eye. It was hard enough to get these folks all the way down to Rockaway, and now they were being asked to go even further into this big ass borough. Since I hadn't been to Legends in months, I lobbied hard. I knew that if they just gave this place a chance, they'd love it. Of course, I wasn't wrong.
The kitchen is basically run by Marilyn, a vivacious middle aged Dominican woman. As soon as you sit down, you hear her trill: "Mi Amoorrrr!" I think some of my crew were taken aback, but I was used to it. That siren's song means there's a good meal ahead.
As we waited for our meal, I looked over at the counter and saw that beautiful hunk of brisket that you see in the picture above. Being the creeper that I am, I skipped over to take a picture. Marilyn motioned over to me before I went back to my seat. "Come, come!" she said. She pointed to behind the counter.
SAY WHAT! With my head covered, of course (I know how to behave inside a professional kitchen, after all, I work in one), she led me behind the cover so I could take an even closer look at the brisket. The look, the smell, everything about that piece of meat made me want to grab it and run out the door. Thankfully, I refrained. Then, when I was about to sit down again, she tapped me on the arm.
"No sitting! The smoker is back here."
DOUBLE SAY WHAT!! She was taking me to the holiest of holies, the most precious place in a barbecue joint. The pit smoker.
The huge smoker is fed with logs of mesquite wood....
Even short ribs are thrown in this thing, and smoked low and slow all day long.
I'd never been that close to a pit smoker before, and I was so happy to get a peek. But, alas, my stomach was calling something fierce, so I went back to my table to eat.
We shared some wings. I tried very hard to eat only two....but I snatched a third because I couldn't resist. Imagine the best buffalo wings you could ever eat, lightly dressed in barbecue sauce. Crunchy, savory, spicy, sweet.
And then...the best part, and pretty much the ONLY thing I order when I come to Legends: The Jimmy's Junk platter.
Pulled pork, smoked kielbasa, brisket, and pork shoulder. Nary a vegetable in sight. I mean, there were outrageously good sweet potato fries and onion rings...but the meat took precedence.
Everyone can keep their Hill Country and Fatty Cue! Stay away from my Legends. Well, you can come and have some food, but that's it.