We are always trepidatious when ratings, surveys and critical reviews give soaring accolades to a restaurant or any type of service establishment. More often than not, one’s experience fails to live up to all the hype and expectation.
Since 2009 Fette Sau has been hailed by Zagat as the best barbecue in New York City. In a city that now boasts around 60 barbecue restaurants, that’s a pretty remarkable and dubious feat. And so although skeptical, we ventured to Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg to see if the restaurant’s reputation for long lines and amazing barbecue bears out. Thankfully, only one of these is true.
Coming in a bit early before the dinner rush, to our delight, we found the lines non-existent. There were plenty of seats (well, benches) and tables available, and the serving staff was quite friendly and at ease.
There are two things that catch one’s attention immediately upon entering Fette Sau. First, diners are carrying paper-lined metal serving trays with various mouthwatering grilled meats plopped on them. Second is the equally mouthwatering bar that is illuminated by overhanging metal trumpet lamps that bathe the entire place in a warm amber glow.
Chalkboards high above the bar lists various beer and ale, including those available on tap. To other places that wish to showcase a similar wide selection of beer, wine or bourbon, take note, this is how it’s done.
The bar is genteel but cozy and welcoming. It has none of the condescending or intimidating air that are usual in specialty bars. It feels geared not for the pompous connoisseur but for the beer lover. And the result is self-evident. Even a novice is very much tempted to order a pint or two. The fact that drinks are served in funky old-fashioned pint jars only adds to the fun.
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The one tricky thing about dining here is figuring out where to order, what to order and how much. The food is sold per pound, so unless one has a firm grasp of how much meat one normally consumes it is almost impossible to figure out. Fortunately, the meat servers have much experience and, based on the number of people, will be able to suggest an average portion size—well, at least to start. Be mindful, however, it isn’t exactly inexpensive.
Having said that, the price is well worth it. The brisket is the most popular; it is smoky and flavorful and is certainly worthy of high praise.
The Berkshire pork belly is simply sinfully delicious. It should be declared a health hazard because, given the opportunity, we probably could have eaten that until we had a coronary. It is both succulent and tender and the charred and caramelized outer layer sends pleasure from your taste buds to your cortex. In a word, it is orgasmic.
The pork belly and the sausage pair well with the tangy and herb-fragrant potato salad. It allows you to keep digging in for more. But of the sides, the Burnt End baked beans is king. One can only do so much to keep from filling the complimentary roll and making a baked bean sandwich. Ever wonder why campfire baked beans was so popular among the cowboys? Well here it is. It is smoky and has a molasses like depth of sweetness without being dessert like.
The sign of a really good dining experience is an overwhelming desire to keep coming back, when one’s mouth waters just by thinking of very specific things on the menu. We may not know which piggy went to market or which piggy stayed at home, but we know this little piggy had brisket and sausage and baked beans and Berkshire belly and smiled and sighed all the way home.
Phone: 718 963 6404
354 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211