Of course, the best person to inspire is yourself. “We’re using all the different ingredients with our newer dishes, we’re doing more market stuff, more local stuff, introducing that and trying to meld it to the Southeast Asian flavors we use,” he continues. Those market flavors are the core of what’s building the legs for the table that will one day host a legitimately New Yorky BBQ feast. As the continuing flight from tradition dovetails with other general restaurant world trends, NY’s 'cue kings are going local like everyone else. That, of course, means sourcing beef and pork from nearby, but it also follows that the local market is the go-to place for the spices that go into rubs and sauces. If you live or run a restaurant in Astoria, you’re going to be a lot closer to Greek seasonings than someone who buys their Punjabi spices around the corner from their place in Jackson Heights.
This actually nuzzles against BBQ tradition more than one might ever think. Age-old styles developed in their steadfastly unique ways precisely because the stuff the other guys used wasn’t available near them
. "Whether it was down South, where it was a lot of African slaves on plantations using Native American techniques to cook the pork that would come from Europe, or whether it was the German families in Texas,” says Will Horowitz from the boundary-pushing East Village goat-neck provider Ducks Eatery
, which also trades in dry-aged and cured fish and spends plenty of time at Russ & Daughters picking up smoked salmon. “It’s the same thing here, but times hundreds, because of all the different cultures we do have here -- it’s the most ethnically diverse place on earth."
Considering the pure abundance of other cultures rubbing up against each other, plus the ready availability of their raw materials, this unhinged flavor evolution was basically inevitable
. "If you're a serious eater," declares Fisher, "which I think you have to be as a cook, you can't help but go from a Turkish kebab, to a Malay curry [spot], to a dim sum parlor. Those flavors linger, and they're available in the markets that we shop in. So you get fresh dried chili in Astoria, and you can get goat, and you go from Mexican grocer to a Middle Eastern butcher, and suddenly you throw that into your pit with local wood, maybe hickory or oak, from your backyard.”