116 E. 27th St. between Park and Lexington
The Foodie can sniff-out a BBQ place from miles away. Combine it with live jazz, and I'm hooked. (By the way, I was a regular at Blue Smoke long before Bobby Flay pronounced it his favorite New York City BBQ.) The restaurant is on street-level. The high ceilings, huge windows, tables spaced far apart, exposed brick and ancient (looking) wood floors tend to belie the fact that this place is right smack in the southern reaches of East Side Manhattan on E. 27th between Park and Lexington. I go for lunch; it's not quite as crowded and the menu is essentially the same.
Of course, given their location they have no choice but to cater to the dainty, so there are salads, fish entrees and a veggy burger (yuk!) on the menu (the Shrimp and Grits is actually quite good, but not as good as Salt Air here in Rehoboth Beach). But you go to Blue Smoke for the BBQ. Yes, I have had better in Nashville, Memphis, Virginia and North Carolina (including from my own Brinkman Smoker), but theirs is well worth the cab ride. Three cuts of ribs populate the menu: Kansas City Spare Ribs (also known as the St. Louis cut), Memphis Baby Backs and Texas Beef Ribs. If you remembered to pack your emergency Lipitor, order the Rib Sampler (the “Tickle Your Ribs” Platter at the Foodie's BBQ restaurant from long ago). You can also try out the “Rhapsody in ‘Cue” (BBQ pork, chicken, KC Ribs and sausage). The Sesame Slaw is a bright and crunchy surprise (please, get it on your sandwich!). It adds a bracing, acidic “bite” to the smoked meats.
Jazz Standard is downstairs. You can get the BBQ goodies down there too. Space is very tight (like most jazz clubs–ever been to Blue Note?). Add that to people sucking on rib bones and eating saucy BBQ sandwiches, and know that this spells disaster for your good clothes. So if you plan to simultaneously eat at a table that's about the size of a dinner plate, listen to jazz, clap after solos, etc., dress accordingly. By the way, this is not that reverb-soaked “smooth jazz” pablum you hear on the radio. The acts are mostly true jazzers like Joey DeFrancesco, Pablo Ziegler, the Mingus Big Band (their live album from Jazz Standard is up for a 2011 Grammy), Maurice Brown, Patricia Barber, and others of that ilk.
Call Blue Smoke at 212-447-7733 and Jazz Standard at 212-576-2232. Of course, seats in the live venue are by reservation only. Click here to see Blue Smoke's dinner menu. (L., D., Bar) Price range: Moderate + (by NYC standards, of course).