Restaurant Review: Simon Glenn's "Tchoup Shop" Has NYC's Best BBQ

June 25, 2012 4:23 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Tchoup Shop
Chef Simon Glenn's "Tchoup Shop" is the best BBQ in the city, no bones about it. (Photo: Brent Herrig)

Attention everyone ever: we're going to have to find a better word for "a restaurant with a temporary space" than "Pop-Up," simply because it evokes images of the exact opposite of the dining experience that any rational human being would enjoy. Sure, it's fun to be a part of a beta-test; even cooler to be able to boast, if something becomes successful, "I remember when the Unintentional House of Pancakes was just one dude griddlin' Johnnycakes in a Port Authority bathroom."

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But no one likes a case of the hiccups; especially hungry and hungover New Yorkers, and especially when those hiccups can (and often do) lead to catastrophic dining experiences-- ones that end with servers literally shrugging their shoulders and asking you to forgive them, because they're still trying to figure everything out. Since there are only nineteen numbers under 20% gratuity, let's go ahead and close the book of Pop-Up, with its empty, infantile panderings to the hip-and-trendy, and pick out something more adult and, quite frankly, less patronizing to all involved.

This proposition has never been easier than it is in the case of Simon Glenn's "Tchoup Shop," a weekend-only New Orleans Barbecue joint located in the sun-soaked backyard of Williamsburg's "d.b.a" bar. Sure, by definition, it's a pop-up, but it does so much more than re-define all of your pre-conceived notions about these shoddy little prologues. The quality of the food and service at Tchoup Shop soar so far beyond your wildest expectations for any venue just getting its sea-legs that you cannot and should not think of it as anything but a restaurant-- a glorious one at that, albeit markedly understaffed.

But when the product is new, and the singular vision of one very talented man, it's easy to understand why you wouldn't spoil-the-broth with just anyone claiming to know his pinch from his pint. Mr. Glenn is the only one doing the cooking, the grilling, and the watermelon salad-tossing here, so it's very easy to forgive him for getting a little backed-up in the kitchen. Any and all complaints and impatience are mitigated by the well-stocked bar inside, the game on TV, the smoky smell of wood chips, and the friendly atmosphere of d.b.a in general. If you wait for longer than expected-- and you probably will-- you won't feel a minute of it or even care.

And that wait, the only complaint that can be made about the place, is so utterly irrelevant in the face of such transcendent food. The menu, which changes each week but always factors the tax into its prices, came to us a vibrant shade of yellow and went back into the kitchen covered in drool.

The influence of a NOLA-Creole approach to cooking is immediately apparent, with the menu's offerings of peel-and-eat Simon's Famous NOLA BBQ Shrimp (at $10, the second most expensive thing on the menu) and Chicken and Andouille Gumbo with Okra and Rice ($8, every table ordered it but ours, so take note). But what was unexpected, and admittedly unexplored by my team, were the Thai influences here-and-there, like on the Evil Jungle Prince Pork-Crab Meatballs, which come with a coconut-crab curry and jasmine rice, or the Crispy Confit Pig Tails which come with red curry and basil. As a New Yorker, I'm tired of being inundated with Thai flavors, which so many other places either do or do well, so I erred from options like those in favor of the down-homier stuff: the aforementioned shrimp, the Fried Catfish Po'Boy ($12), the Watermelon and Bulgarian Feta Salad ($5), the Jumbo Lump Crab-Okra Hush Puppies ($7) and the Hot Buttered Corn on the Cob ($4).

The watermelon salad was the perfect way to start the meal: juicy bites of ice-cold, fresh fruit were nicely complimented by the salty feta and the slight spiciness of the dressing drawn loosely from a hint of aleppo pepper. The occasional bite of Thai basil in the dish was clever, but cilantro would have accomplished more than the basil could have ever hoped to do.

The corn-on-the-cob came next, and we wished it never left. A perfect cob of sweet, tender corn, piping hot, topped with just enough butter, and bursting with creole seasonings, tells you everything you need to know about the man behind the grill: his attention to every nook of detail is immediately apparent here, and his confidence in his ability shines in his opting out of over-seasoning and over-buttering. Both are acceptable, especially when it comes to eating summer corn, but the stark perfection of the bite proves that nothing, and we mean nothing, can compete with technique.

The shrimp and the hush puppies came next, and both were equally remarkable. The shrimp was just a little too hot to be peeled, so we dipped those hush puppies in cool remoulade and popped them in our mouths and melted into a puddle of bliss on the backyard floor. The typical mealiness of the common hush puppy here is saved by the idiosyncratic softness of the okra, one of the most alien vegetables we serve up regularly here in America, and the generous bites of fresh crab. It's awesome, awesome, awesome.

And once our shrimp cooled, we dug into those. The Creole flavorings here took the backseat, letting the sweetness and tenderness of the shrimp come center-stage. And once the performance was over, we used the slices of warm bread that came with our order to sop up the sauce at the bottom of the bowl. Just writing about it is making me wish it were the weekend again.

And then, at last, the final piece of the meal; the one that brings this restaurant into "go-or-what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-you" territory: the catfish po'boy. The sandwich comes to the table split-faced, so you can gape in awe at the fried catfish piled almost impossibly high. Once you force your sandwich shut and take a bite, you understand everything there is to know about life and its many splendors: the symphony of spicy pickled cabbage, scallion mayo, and the perfectly salted-and-peppered catfish all come together to give you the single most satisfying bite of food you'll have in-- well, if I hadn't just had Yuji's Ramen at Smorgasburg the day before, it'd be hard to think of any other time I'd had anything that good.

One of the folksier taglines this place has come up with for itself is "Bring Yer Mom and Dem." Never has a tagline felt like such an imperative. Bring everyone you know, and they'll never stop thanking you. It's a good way to get them to forgive you for ever suggesting to them that they spend money at Lodge, or any of the other B-burg C-brunch spots that need to start nervous-sweating immediately (Fette Sau, Fatty Cue, et al.).

It seems perfectly natural to see Mr. Glenn in this backyard, and we hope he becomes a permanent fixture of the ever-upwards upswing of the North Williamsburg scene. We'll be back in one week's time, and we hope that to see you there, too.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Simon. Get comfortable.

Grade: A+

Tchoup Shop (Currently located in the backyard of d.b.a)

113 N. Seventh Street (btwn. Berry and Wythe)

Brooklyn, NY 11211 


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