354 Metropolitan Ave, between 4th St & Havemeyer St, Williamsburg
Getting There: G to Metropolitan Ave.
Restaurant Review: Fette Sau
For years the closest New Yorkers could get to tasting traditional style BBQ was on a cable television travel show. And it’s a good thing that times have changed. One of the main proprietors of New York City’s ‘Cue’ revolution sits in the popular and steadily changing Williamsburg section of Brooklyn along Metropolitan Avenue. The half indoor, half outdoor tribute to all things smoked is Fette Sau, a no joke, no frills joint serving the locals authentic barbeque which rivals some of the big talkers south of the Mason Dixon line. It’s been said that Yankees don’t know barbeque but Fette Sau is here to prove them wrong.
The nondescript pink sign overhead is hardly illuminated bright enough to be all that noticeable by passersby, but the energy overheard by hungry meat indulgers is infectious- from their shiny greasy cheeks to the toasting of growlers from opposite sides of the lengthy wooden picnic tables surrounding the restaurant’s exterior. Beside the tables is usually an extended snaking line which you should jump on immediately upon arriving, while the rest of your party divides between loading up on beer from the bar, and finding ample space to get comfortable at the first come first serve style restaurant. Needless to say, reservations here do not exist. Inside, tables are placed almost everywhere in order to bring the number of hungry patrons to maximum capacity, while the bar has counter-side stool seating coupled with craft beers by the gallon and an oversized list of whiskies for your sipping pleasure.
As we traversed the line, wafts of different varieties danced toward our sense of smell, yielding what would be a delectable selection of smoked goods waiting ahead. Part of the ambiance of Fette Sau is its casual, do-it-yourself style. While waiting on the line, the restaurant tends to run out of some different cuts of meat, forcing more improvisation than you’re probably used to. But that aside, and the arrival at the meat window for a glimpse at what’s available is like feasting for the first time- a climax of excitement following such anticipation. Like placing your order at a butcher counter, each cut of meat is served to order, and weighed according to personal preference. The sides, simply enough, are served in either small or large sizes, and priced accordingly.
While on line we had plenty of time to study the menu, so it was easy to make our selections despite some of our choices selling out. It’s important to keep in mind going in, that all of Fette Sau’s meats are smoked in-house and prepared with the restaurant’s own house made dry rub. And their menu literally changes daily, so don’t fall in love with what you’re about to read. Make sure to call ahead first or prepare to be surprised. During our Friday night visit, the wait was a manageable one. Opting to taste a few different meats, we ordered up the “Hand Pulled Berkshire Pork Shoulder ($16 lb.),” a juicy platter of tenderly shredded pork, expertly cooked to burnt ends, and smacked down on a thin sheet of brown butcher paper. Delicious enough on its own, a few dollops of tangy barbeque sauce really opened up the pork’s naturally delicious flavors. The “Beef Brisket” ($16 lb.) also provided some tasty burned to a crisp ends, with a rich, deep smoke-filled taste, while the “Berkshire Sausage” ($3 link) provided a juicy saltiness, with just enough spice to make us reach for a slug of beer. The sides proved just as essential to rounding out our meal as our main dishes did. “Dante’s German Potato Salad” ($3.25 small; $5.25 large) was downright outstanding, mixing a lighter sweeter salad than we’re used to with the creamy profile of the potatoes. The large order of “Guss’ Pickles” ($1.50 small; $3 large) and the sweet small helping of “Burnt End Baked Beans” ($5.25 small; $8 large) gave us an array of tastes offered up by these Williamsburg grill masters.
Patrons not used to fending for themselves for tables and fare may scoff at the idea of such informal dining. After all, Fette Sau is a feasting experience in the most casual sense of the word. But there is perhaps no establishment more suited to a neighborhood. From the easy going staff (do not speak to them until you’re at the counter ready to order though), to the laid back vibe, to the affordably priced meals, Fette Sau is a place that just exudes cool whether you’re stopping in for a quick bite or making repeat trips to the bar and staying awhile. And they’ve effectively demonstrated that you don’t need to travel all that far to taste the kind of barbeque worth traveling for.