It’s a meat-zvah!
Mill Basin has a kosher barbecue joint. Four friends from the neighborhood opened Main House BBQ — the area’s first smokehouse serving rabbi-approved fare — in mid-November. The restaurateurs developed a taste for the goyish Southern cooking style while spending childhood summers upstate, and they wanted to create a version that they and fellow observant Jews could really sink their teeth into, one of the owners said.
“Barbecue has blown up over the past few years in New York City, and I think people who keep kosher have been cognizant of that and recognized that, and there has been a desire to have that type of food applied to the kosher palate,” said Richie Grin, one of the four owners — all of whom keep kosher. “Us bringing that into the community has been amazingly well-received, just because there has been a request for different types of cuisine outside of the standard.”
Barbecue styles are regional — iterations from Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, and the Carolinas all have their distinct hallmarks — but the guys behind Main House aim to forge their own Brooklyn style, which (like the borough itself) is a melting pot, Grin said.
“Barbecue being a new thing to New York, there’s no reason why we can’t create our own style and take what we love best from each region and create our own standard for what we want our Brooklyn barbecue to be,” he said.
Of course it helps to have Hill Country Barbecue pit master Dale Buchheister acting as their executive chef, Grin said.
“What we liked about Dale’s resume, he had different types of styles. We were looking to create this idea of Brooklyn BBQ that wasn’t steeped in any specific region of barbecue,” he said of the Kansas native.
Buchheister may be able to bring home the proverbial bacon, but he sure can’t make it kosher, so the guys need a team of special kitchen supervisors called “mashgiachs” to make sure that the ribs and roasts meet religious standards — one of the unique challenges of running the smokehouse, said co-owner Elan Strobel.
“That’s what makes it more difficult to run a kosher barbecue place. According to strict laws, mashgiachs always have to be on site to observe and monitor the food activity — whether it’s checking veggies for bugs, or turning on the fires, or making sure the meats are certified kosher,” he said. “We are constantly running the smoker, and someone always has to be on site.”
Main House has three different mashgiachs that rotate shifts 24-6 (everyone takes off the Sabbath) and it definitely makes running a restaurant a little trickier, Strobel said.
The diet also proscribes eating meat and dairy together, so owners got creative with some of their sides — for instance substituting brisket fat for milk and butter in their “shmaltzy mashed potatoes.”
And speaking of dietary restrictions, the joint even has smoked tofu for vegetarians. Just don’t ask for pork.
Main House BBQ [6001 Strickland Ave. at E. 60th Place in Mill Basin, (718) 673–8773]. Sun–Thurs, noon–10 pm. Friday, noon–3 pm. Closed Saturdays.