Where there’s smoke, there’s mouth-watering food — and angry neighbors.
A clandestine back-alley grilling operation is turning out delicious jerk chicken — and turning neighbor against neighbor in Flatbush where a war has broken out between residents who can’t stand the smell wafting from what they claim is a smoky outdoor barbecue run by famous Caribbean restaurant.
The legendary Peppa’s is smoking out the neighborhood as it prepares its famously charred jerk chicken, say neighbors who believe the succulent dish is so popular the restaurant sometimes has to fire up a grill in a back alley late into the night to keep up with demand.
“No one on the block has a consistent reason to barbecue for hours at a time night upon night [but them],” said Tim Thomas, who started the conflagration when he complained about the smoke on his blog, “The Q at Parkside.” “Seems like there should be a solution, but I can’t get them to talk to me.”
But the chefs of the traditional Jamaican dish that is made by marinating the chicken in spices before charring over a high flame say they only use their indoor grills to make the magic happen.
Even when reporters from the Courier spied a couple of men barbecuing in an oil-drum-shaped grill in the alley just behind Peppa’s, the jerk kings at the counter denied it was their’s.
“You see that?” said Omar, an employee, pointing to the flames behind the counter. “That’s the only thing we use.”
Of course, our team sampled a dish plated for us at the joint New York Magazine has called the “neighborhood’s go-to spot for chicken” — as we kept a watchful eye on employees who placed the raw birds on the inside grill.
But as we licked our fingers clean, we heard from others who said the smoke was a problem.
“It seems egregious,” said Winthrop Hoyt, who says the smoke is pervasive enough to make it into his apartment on Clarkson Avenue, across the street and down the block from Peppa’s. “You can see it in cars headlights and streetlights.”
Thomas, who also lives across the street from Peppa’s, argued that the smoke was health issue, and a big enough problem that his pregnant wife had trouble sleeping because of it.
But as long as the grilling is done on restaurant property, it’s legal.
Outdoor grilling of food is permitted in New York City, provided the food being cooked is stored properly, according to the Department of Health.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection also inspected the place four times in the last year after receiving eight complaints in 2011, but said it hadn’t found any violations.
— With Alfred Ng