It seems appropriate that Hell’s Kitchen now has a proper wood pit barbecue joint where low and slow is the name of the game.
Jax-B-B-Q “is not fake barbecue — this is real,” promises owner and pitmaster Nick Accardi. “People seem to think unless you’re in the backwoods of Georgia, it’s not real barbecue. That’s not so — as long as you’ve got a wood pit and use traditional methods, you can get really good barbecue.”
Now open at 496 Ninth Ave., the Americana-infused roadhouse is Accardi’s 10th restaurant in the city, which have spanned from Italian food at Tavola to American bistro fare at Viceroy. But it’s barbecue that gets him fired up, first at the West Village’s dearly departed Bone Lick Park and now Jax.
His passion for soul food started when he lived in Central Florida decades ago, “back when it was Southern.” Accardi learned to be a pitmaster at the hallowed smoker of Mike Mills, a Barbecue Hall of Famer from southern Illinois known for his baby back ribs, after the two met at the Big Apple BBQ in Bryant Park.
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The menu at Jax is a little bit of everything from the geography of Accardi’s life. The dry-rubbed barbecue is smoked with white oak, birch and cherry woods and served with a Kansas City-style sweet-tangy sauce made in-house. Florida is represented with alligator tail fritters and Key lime pie. There’s New Orleans-style fried catfish, of course. And because this is New York, there’s the on-trend burger menu ranging from dry-aged black angus beef to wild boar and the Impossible Burger, all on brioche-style Orwasher’s buns.
Instead of the barn vibe of most barbecue places, Accardi brought his vast collection of vintage Americana into Jax for a more roadhouse-style feeling, with 1930s barstools and classic porcelain enamel signage. His niece, artist Victoria Accardi, also contributed a tattoo mural.
The drinks menu features a respectable list of craft beers, of course, as well as a lengthy tequila list and a selection of frozen margaritas made with real fruit. “They’re fun,” Accardi says with a laugh. And shouldn’t that be the point of a barbecue joint?