Three Pulled Pork Sandwiches


The original title of this post was: “The Best Pulled Pork Sandwich In New York is at The Gramercy Tavern” but I didn’t want to give it all away in the title; so now I just gave it all away in the first sentence. Yes, that picture you see above is the pulled pork sandwich from the front room of The Gramercy Tavern and it’s not only the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve eaten in New York, but it may very well be (dramatic pause) the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever eaten in MY LIFE. (Giant gasp.) I know! But I’m serious. I can’t imagine a pulled pork sandwich being better. First, though, let’s look at two other pulled pork sandwiches I ate recently and then go back to Gramercy for the gold.

The bronze definitely goes to the pulled pork sandwich I ate at The Smoke Joint in Fort Green last week:


My producer, director and I had just come from a photo shoot with Bobby Flay and we were hungry. So we stumbled into The Smoke Joint and I wasn’t sure but I thought I’d heard that The Smoke Joint had one of the best hot dogs in New York.

“Ok,” said my director. “I’ll order a hot dog for all of us to share, and then we can all get our own food.”

So that’s what we did. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich you see in the picture above, Matthew ordered ribs and Rachael ordered a catfish sandwich. The verdict? The ribs and pulled pork were “eh”; my pork was way too dry and the sauce didn’t really help. I think Rachael liked her catfish. But we all agreed that the hot dog was dyn-o-mite:


Alas, it was New York Magazine that crowned it The Best Hot Dog of 2008. According to them, it’s an all-beef brand of dog called Hatfield and the casing is all-natural; the dog is grilled and it’s loaded into a top-loading bun. It’s definitely worth a trip for the dog, but we’re here to talk about pulled pork sandwiches and in that regard, I’m sorry to say The Smoke Joint places third.

Placing in second isn’t a restaurant, but a friend. Well two friends. And a baby. Meet Josh, Krisse and Mason:


This happy young family (who you may remember from our trip to Cape Cod two years ago (geesh, time flies–Mason was growing inside Krisse on that trip)) invited Craig and I to dinner last Sunday and we gladly said “yes!”

On the menu was–you guessed it–pulled pork sandwiches, fried pickles, coleslaw, and twice-baked potatoes. (It’s good to have friends like these.)


I’ve gotta say it–and you may not believe me, because these are friends–but this sandwich was pretty righteous. I mean, I’ve tasted many pulled pork sandwiches in my day (especially having lived in Atlanta) and this one rates very, very high. Josh grilled the pork shoulder on a charcoal grill for three hours until it was fork-tender and then he coated the cooked meat in BBQ sauce. All of us eating it were instantly smitten; this was pulled pork at its best, and even though it gets the silver medal, it stands closer to the gold than The Smoke Joint stands to the silver:

Even baby Mason agrees:


On a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed Josh and Krisse’s appetizer: skewers with watermelon, feta (or ricotta salata?), and mint. You should try it:


It’s instant refreshment on a hot summer’s day.

And now, let us come back to Gramercy.


First, let it be said, that The Gramercy Tavern–which won the James Beard Award this year for best overall restaurant–is kicking some serious ass right now. I’ve gone twice in the last two weeks; the first time with my friend Lauren, who ordered the sandwich we’re touting in this post, and then again this past Friday with my parents and my dad declared the meal to be one of the best of his life. That’s serious praise and well deserved: the food, under the leadership of Chef Michael Anthony (who came out to talk to us that first night) is flawless. Look at some of the dishes Lauren and I ate that first night there…

Grilled Octopus:


Roasted Cauliflower:


House-made kielbasa:


A chocolate tart with BACON for dessert!


Any restaurant that puts bacon on its chocolate tart deserves high praise in my book, and such is the case with Gramercy Tavern, a mature restaurant with an adventurous spirit. And now, at last, let’s talk about their pulled pork sandwich:


According to Chef Anthony, two things make it great: (1) the pigs, and (2) the bread. The pigs are farm-raised Ossabaw pigs which you can read all about here on Serious Eats. Essentially, Ossabaw pigs have been here at least 400 years, they have exceptional amounts of body fat (fat = flavor!), and are acclaimed for their distinct taste. Combine that with (2), Balthazar bakery’s potato bread grilled and coated in a luscious BBQ sauce and you have the best pulled pork sandwich of your life.

Yes, it’s a bit daring to crown a New York City pulled pork sandwich the best around, but I dare you to eat at Gramercy and not, at least, smack your lips in delight, declaring to your tablemate: “I hate to admit it, but this sandwich here is the real deal.” Go try it for yourself and report back–who knows how much longer it’ll be on the menu! [Note: we’re talking the front room of Gramercy, which is more casual and doesn’t require a reservation; the back room is formal, requires a reservation, and probably won’t serve you a sandwich of any sort.]

19 thoughts on “Three Pulled Pork Sandwiches”


    Pulled pork sandwiches are delicious. If you are ever in Eastern North Carolina, try Parker’s in Wilson, NC or Alan & Son BBQ in Chapel Hill or Durham, NC. That’s the best I have ever had. In NYC head uptown to Brother Jimmy’s, they have some decent BBQ and in three locations. Check them out.

    I am going to try the Watermelon Skewers and fried pickles next time I make pulled pork.

  2. JB in San Diego

    The Food Monster beat me to it, but I’ll reiterate for emphasis (hmm… great name for a band, or maybe a restaurant).

    North Carolina has the best pulled pork in the world, and please don’t claim otherwise until you have been there. I’m partial to pork BBQ in western NC, starting with Lexington just outside of High Point.

    The pork in NC is treated with an especially acidic vinegar sauce, so I’m sure the taste is subject to personal preference. It works for me (and I spent 5 years in Atlanta).

    And, following TFM again, the watermelon skewers are screaming summer to me and I will serve them to my family on our vacation next week.


  3. i am a regular at the smoke joint and i usually love their pulled pork so maybe it was a bad day, but i’ve never tried their hot dogs so i’ll have to check them out. and their wings are great. not buffalo wings, but sooo good.

  4. Nice post AG – it’s funny, I just watched a great little featurette: Sandwiches You Will Like (available on netflix, by the way – and your writing of the glories of a great pulled pork sandwich reminded me of it a lot. This is truly an inspirational post for the many of us with grills who are itching to get on into the summer mode big time. Hell, I’ve made decent pulled pork in a low and slow oven before as well. Pulled Pork sammiches here we come…

  5. dancing kitchen


    You can fork holes in an in bone pork shoulder… massage with 2 tsp salt and pour liquid smoke over it at about 2 tbsp…slide it into a slow cooker or crock pot on low for about 20 hours and instant decent pulled pork. It cooks in it’s own juices and the liquid smoke. Choose hickory or mesquite both are tasty. Try it sans bbq sauce first…the flavor is excellent(I remove the fat). Add the bbq sauce that you like the best and find or make some decent buns. Simple cheap and easy, and it doesn’t heat up your already hot summer kitchen.

    Try it Adam, I think you’ll like it.


  6. I don’t know, Adam; these pulled pork sandwiches look tasty, but can they really compete with Fat Matt’s Rib Shack in Atlanta? I am just not sure.

  7. Bacon and chocolate sounds fantastic. I feel like I may have been a pioneer in the bacon/sweet revolution. A few years ago I had the shake chef at my company’s cafeteria blend me up a bacon vanilla milkshake (frappe) and it was fantastic.

  8. It is hard to believe that New York has the best pulled pork sandwich. In my home town of Tulsa, Ok we have a half dozen establishments that have incredible juicy & tender meats smoked with different types of wood. And traveling in the south I have had some tasty pulled pork sandwiches.

  9. Well, you did say it was the best in New York, not the US. The bread used for that sandwich looks really good, but the meat looks like it has too much sauce. I like to taste the smoky meat, not just sauce. I’ll give it a try next time I’m in NYC. I should try it before I knock it. I grew up in NC and truly believe that Eastern NC BBQ is the best. I now live in Atlanta and can’t get enough of the pulled pork at Fox Bros on Dekalb Ave. They also serve fried pickles. Yum!

    By the way, Adam, I loved your book!!

  10. My friends Laura and Michelle make a version of Greek salad using watermelon instead of tomatoes – watermelon, feta, tons of mint, olives, and red onion. It is so amazing, perfect for a beach picnic. I’m gonna have to try the skewer version soon – it looks so good!

    I absolutely love pulled pork sandwiches. Potato bread sounds like it would be the perfect match. Mmmmmm.

  11. I totally agree with your dad, Adam. I had one of the best meals in my life in the Gramercy Tavern a few years ago (a full-on spring tasting menu in the dining room) but sadly, I haven’t been able to go back since. Next time I find myself in NY I will definitely try a pulled pork sandwich in the front room.

  12. VERY happy to see someone writing about The Smoke Joint. I adore this place and they really have great BBQ which is rare and impossible to find in those parts of Crooklyn. Their BBQ’d chicken is great too. I love that’s it’s usually really chill and relaxed in there.

    nice one.


  13. You know, I think those prized pigs that make the Gramercy Tavern sandwich so good may have come from my neck of the woods! I just did a story for our newspaper about local food producers and talked to a woman at Eco-Friendly Foods in Bedford County, Va. who sells her Iberico Ossabow pigs to the Tavern. So even if the sandwich itself was made in the Big Apple, I think the oinkers were made down South ;-)

  14. You know, I don’t think we have pulled pork, lamb or anything else in Australia. It always sounded a bit rude to me. And I still don’t know what it is..! :)


  15. Say what??? Gramercy Tavern? Don’t get me wrong, I love this place, but the best pulled pork sandwich? Well, at least this gives me another reason to go back to try for myself before I knock it that much more, but…this girl from Alabama is having a hard time beleiving it!

  16. I just smoked some in my weber and finished them in the oven and had a great time. They came out smoky tender. Love your site as always and enjoyed seeing you with Ann Burrell on Food Network online.

    If you have a minute would love for you to come take a look at my pork, haha, and give me your opinion.

    Really appreciate it… I will be back!

  17. Best pulled pork sandwich I have ever had….was recently at The Hotel in South Beach Miami. Really , just perfect…tender, sweet, spicy.

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