To the average diner, the words “express” and “barbeque” do not normally go together. Express BBQ, located at 27 Park at the intersection of Park Place and Church Street, could change that misconception.
The tiny venue is well-suited for downtown Manhattan’s busy students and workers. At first glance, the eatery looks drab; it has a dull yellow awning with no design to the block letters. It also feels a bit dingy inside, as there are only three counter stools and an odd stump seat. The counter is lined with cheap decorative logs as if the owners felt they had to add at least a little Southern flare. The food, however, makes up for the aesthetic shortcomings.
The menu ranges from classic ribs to non-traditional fare, such as wraps. The eatery offers sandwiches and wraps of pulled pork, beef brisket, sausage and pulled chicken ranging in price from $4 to $5.50. The meat is roasted in an oven and carefully pulled by the employees. Paired with a creamy cole slaw, the sandwiches are mouthwatering but a little small for the $5.50 price. The wraps, which cost $4, consist of BBQ meat, lettuce and a little bit of mayonnaise. Ribs are offered on platters, which come with two sides and cost $6.99.
The sandwiches aren’t as big as their price may suggest and the platters, while sizable, would probably cost too much for a student on a budget. The pulled pork, the most popular item on the menu, is especially good and surprisingly tender. Sides of baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, and corn on the cob range from $1 to $3. The sweet baked beans go well with the excellent iced teas, which are made with real passion fruit, mango, lemon, and tangy blackberry ($1.29). I recommend any pulled pork paired with the blackberry or passion fruit iced tea. Passion fruit and blackberry are novel ideas for iced tea, and they nail it.
Although there is no student discount at the moment, head employee Alfredo Aguilar brought out a card, saying, “We’re trying to work with these customer appreciation cards.” With one of these cards, a customer can receive a free platter or sandwich on his or her sixth visit.
Junior David Gong was quite satisfied with what Aguilar called the “specialty”: the pulled pork wrap. “This is better than I thought,” Gong said between big bites. “I thought it was going to be like another chain restaurant.”
Lines do form, which can be uncomfortable in the cramped space, but service is quick and the employees are friendly. While a bit too far to go to for lunch, Express BBQ is great for winding down after a long day. They don’t call it comfort food for nothing.