CLOSED: Fort Reno
699 Union Street, near 4th Avenue, Park Slope
Getting There: N to Union Street
Restaurant Review: Fort Reno
(This restaurant has since CLOSED)
The recent trend of meat appreciation city-wide is a truly remarkable sea of change. In the past five years many city dwellers have changed their eating habits, trying new and exciting fare and elevating their respective palettes. While there’s always seemingly room for experimentation, it’s traditional barbecue that sits amongst our very favorite dining options in and around our city. Chef Jacques Gautier, owner of the Pan-Latin restaurant “Palo Santo” of Park Slope, Brooklyn has been innovating the way meats of all types are prepared and served. And to expand his style into distinctive realms, Chef Jacques has entered into a second venture located literally across the street. It’s “Fort Reno,” the nearly year old BBQ joint providing ‘Cue fans and newbies a new-wave Brooklyn take on this very much American dish.
We ventured into Fort Reno on a weekday in the late afternoon hours. The exterior of the ‘Cue joint is covered in light colored wood, making it look remarkably like a roadside stop. If that isn’t enough to spark your interest, large letters with illuminated light bulbs spelling out “BBQ” allow passersby from at least a block away to know what’s being offered inside. Travel through the doors and you will find that same roadside feel paired with modern Brooklyn ingenuity and style. The cozy space is split up to provide an easy going flow for customers. All food is ordered from a counter space featuring blackboards with what’s on the menu and their corresponding prices. This area also provides a small view into the kitchen where all of the smoked meats are carefully prepped. We chose to take a seat at the bar which serves up a great selection of beers like Peak Organic, Brooklyn Brewery, Sixpoint, and Carton Brewery, to name a few. The highlight of the bar however is their impressive list of mixology style cocktails. The knowledgeable bartender walked us through many of the available options, including the “Cherry Bomb” ($10), a bright red cocktail mixing New Amsterdam Gin, fresh cherry and blueberries, Heering, and tonic. It is a true summer-style cocktail, delivering tons of fresh outdoorsy flavor but with the needed punch of booze you would expect from a strong drink. We also sipped on a “Bobbito Burns” ($10), which paired perfectly with the hot pig and cow that was about to hit our plates. The complex and smokey glass featured Vida Mezcal, Averna, Benedictine, Meat Bitters (which are prepared in house) and finished with lemon rind, sharing similar characteristics to a Manhattan, a perennial favorite of ours.
With “Bobbito” in hand, it was time to try some tasty barbecue. During our visit we sampled the “St. Louis-Style Ribs” (1/4 $9 / 1/2 $15 / Full Rack $29), “Pulled Pork” (1/4 $6 / 1/2 $11 / Full LB. $19), and “Fatty Brisket” (1/4 $8 /1/2 $13 / Full LB. $24) respectively. Whenever our team goes out for ‘Cue we make it a point to take one bite and instantly talk about the flavors we are receiving. We unanimously agreed we were getting a distinct sweetness paired with the smokey notes you look for in a rib. The agent of the ribs sweetness was confirmed by “Reno’s” friendly chef/pitmaster as a hearty helping of molasses. The rib meat easily tore from the bone, while retaining a great savory chew. The brisket was next on the docket and even prior to taking our first bite, we could spot the two traits of any well smoked brisket- 1) a thorough amount of marbling; and 2) retaining the necessary amount of fat to infuse the taste of the meat. The pulled pork meanwhile was a delicious Carolina style preparation in a vinegar based sauce. This allows one to really taste the meat without it covered in a typical dark barbecue sauce. “Reno” receives only choice hogs, and never stops smoking and as they are serving up plates of meat to hungry customers, they are constantly prepping more to be served later on.
To pair with our hearty plates, we added some side dishes, many of which are meatless, perfect for the vegetarian eater at your table. The “Collard Greens,” “Mac & Cheese,” and “Cole Slaw” (Each $4 or plate of three $11) proved essential in combining so many different flavors. “Reno’s” kitchen team uses tart and crisp Granny Smith apples in their stand out slaw, that pair nicely with the crunchy cabbage and the added peppers thrown in the mix for some extra heat. With some additional hot pickles ($2) and corn bread ($2) ordered up, we ran the gamut of the traditional barbecue options, allowing us to try a little of everything.
With the barbecue options being served up all over Brooklyn, it’s time that the south stands up and begins paying attention to us “Yanks.” They many be the forefathers of what we know of as barbecue, but we are expanding the overall idea, innovating with our ingredients used and our methods of preparation. Chef Jacques Gautier and his team prepare a wide array of inventive barbecue options that are both affordable and vastly unheralded. If that’s not enough, Fort Reno is also the proud owner of a portable smoker affixed to a bicycle. So if you’re spending any time walking in the Park Slope area, don’t be surprised if you smell this smokey goodness peddle right past you. It’s the folks at Fort Reno hard at work.
Rundown of the Meal
St. Louis-Style Ribs (1/4 $9 / 1/2 $15 / Full Rack $29)*
Pulled Pork (1/4 $6 / 1/2 $11 / Full LB. $19)
Fatty Brisket (1/4 $8 /1/2 $13 / Full LB. $24)*
Sides ($4 ea; 3 for $11)
Mac & Cheese
Hot Pickles ($2 ea)
Cornbread ($2 ea)