BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

Exploring NYC Through 52 Cuisines: Kosher Barbecue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

I grew up in the South, so I love BBQ by default. It is, after all, religion unto itself. In a perfect world, I'd be vegetarian, but I'm not because there's barbecue. Suggest to a Southerner that your barbecue recipe more authentic or delicious than theirs, or the planet would be better off if we'd all just give up eating brisket, well, them's fightin' words.

Barbecue traditions span the continent, and word of amazing kosher barbecue drew us to Brooklyn, where Izzy's Smokehouse peddles serious addictions in Crown Heights.

Jacob and I trekked one hour and 40 minutes on the subway from Marble Hill to northern Brooklyn to eat barbecue with our friend David, who lives in a truly fascinating part of New York City (what part isn't fascinating?). Crown heights is replete with Jewish yeshivas and trendy bagel shops and odd body-shaping practices and Caribbean delis and Trinidadian roti restaurants. There is much to explore, but with the balmy winter suddenly turning frigid, barbecue was our main reason for riding the 4 Train all the way to its eastern terminus today. 

Let's get this out of the way: Izzy's has by far the most tender and delicious barbecue I can recall eating, at least since I moved from South Carolina 15 years ago.  

My family lives in Texas, where barbecue, like a country twang, is in people's DNA. I've eaten a lot of barbecue Austin and San Antonio and Midland and Big Spring. All of it has been tasty at best, not the stuff of legend, though it's natural for Texans to boast otherwise regardless of the evidence. I'm paying the Great State another visit in a few months, so Texas, I challenge you to serve up some 'cue more outrageously tender and tangy than the sliced wonders Izzy's put on my plate today. Are you up to the challenge? My money says Izzy's wins the bet. 

Who knew barbecue was a thing in New York City? BBQ joints are popping up all over the place. There's Mighty Quinn's in the East Village and scattered about Manhattan. Hill Country over on 26th St. There's even a barbecue joint inside the Whole Foods on Bowery. And there are many, many more. Izzy's opened in Crown Heights last summer. 

At Izzy's, the three of us split a 1/2 pound order of brisket and a 1/2 pound order of smoked turkey, which tasted deep fried to me. However they prepared it, both meats damn near melted in my mouth. The brisket wasn't even overly fatty. It's a good thing this kosher 'cue was extraordinarily tasty, because Izzy's isn't exactly a cheap date. Our pound of meat cost $32.50 and change, plus more than three hours of roundtrip transit time from home. 

Smoked turkey and brisket with sauce. What more could you want? 

It really was that good. That's the thing about good barbecue: The lengths you'll go to find it may be immense and unreasonable and insane, but like a good whisky, it's addicting and amazing and you care about little else than the preciously ephemeral flavor of that damn good food in front of you. 

The brisket and turkey came with pickled red cabbage and sweet pickles. It was as good as it looks. 

Izzy's is tiny, little more than a hole in the wall on Troy Avenue. I'll admit it's a little odd seeing a skull of a longhorn in Brooklyn. But that's why we love New York City. 

Yeah, these are New York City prices. But, for crying out loud, it's barbecue. Just do it.