Austin's Franklin Barbecue to Pop Up in New York City
Has nobody else in New York food media seen this? And if they have, how has the excitement of brisket-loving New Yorkers who have finally gotten a taste of the real thing not reached fever pitch since Aaron Franklin tweeted about his trip to New York City yesterday afternoon? One of America’s most heralded brisket wizards is doing a pop-up in New York City. "New York Cit-ee?" No, no need to get a rope. Austin, Texas’ Franklin Barbecue is going to be doing a pop-up at one of the city’s best barbecue spots, Elizabeth Karmel’s Hill Country Barbecue (celebrating its six-year anniversary the day before, incidentally — one hell of a way to party). Barbecue Jesus himself didn't tweet the news, but Franklin's Twitter feed did the good deed yesterday (is Barbecue Jesus the best Twitter handle ever?).
looks like we're heading to NY again!!! tmbbq.com/events/tmbbq-p…
— Franklin Barbecue (@FranklinBbq) May 22, 2013
There’s much more information available at TMBBQ.com under the heading "TMBBQ Smokes Manhattan" (seriously, how can you not love Twitter?).
"We love Texas barbecue so much we want to share it with the rest of the world. And with the TMBBQ Pop-Up Joint that’s exactly what we’ll do. Think of it as barbecue evangelism. On June 6, TMBBQ and Aaron Franklin, owner and pitmaster at Franklin Barbecue, our number one joint in the state, are heading to New York City. Aaron will be smoking meat at Hill Country Barbecue Market, and sharing his hard-won barbecue wisdom. Guests will enjoy Franklin’s legendary brisket, ribs, and sausage, as well as visit with Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn [most coveted job ever?]. And when it’s all over, we suspect we’ll have converted a few more to the gospel of Texas barbecue. Come on out, New York City, and see what the fuss is all about."
If you haven't tasted Franklin brisket, you're forgiven for not having made the pilgrimmage... for now (some lucky New Yorkers may have sampled Franklin's fare at his pop-up a few years ago). But truly, if you’re not familiar with the fuss, you probably don’t really care very much about barbecue. In that case, you should. Franklin is generally (and for good reason) considered some of the best in America. People start queuing at 9 a.m., forming a 150-person-long line that have caused the spot to sell out before it even opens. Texas Monthly recently (and quite ceremoniously) put it at the top of its list of The Top 50 Barbecue Joints. And yes, it is that good (read on for the details).
With New York's Big Apple Barbecue Block Party going on just a few days later (June 8 and 9), and the Potlikker event going on at Blue Smoke on June 7, New York City is just about to be Southerned and barbecued up. Tickets for the pop-up include admission, all you can eat BBQ (while it lasts), and all you can drink Shiner, Lone Star, tea, and soft drinks. We have our tickets. See you on line. We'll be taking "all you can eat" seriously by the way. Fair warning.
Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor. Read more articles by Arthur, reach him by email, or click here to follow Arthur on Twitter.
What to eat in Austin right now
From TV personalities to people you actually know, everyone is eating in Austin these days. The city largely known for its live music, self-proclaimed weirdness and access to barbecue country is now where Asian influences dominate, small plates abound, former food trailers (and trucks) have opened non-mobile homes — and the homage to pork, in name (Bacon, Barley Swine, Salty Sow, etc.) and on the plate, endures.
Even if you didn’t know Austin was the nation’s third-fastest-growing city in population, it’s no surprise that its food scene is expanding in size and range. Uchi and Congress still impress, but they’re so yesterday’s news. So while you’re standing on line for a Tipsy Texan at Franklin (that’s a gooey chopped beef sandwich with incredible sausage and slaw we know we can’t talk you out of a barbecue stop), map out the rest of your trip with this new and different list.
Egg and Chorizo Taco at La Fruta Feliz
3124 Manor Road 512-473-0037
Finding the best breakfast taco in Austin is a contentious and subjective search. But when handmade corn and flour tortillas — pressed to order — enter the equation, and breakfast is served all day, the answer is clear: You must go to La Fruta Feliz. This is what locals call Interior Mexican (as opposed to Tex-Mex), and it’s up the street from another burgeoning restaurant row: Manor Road (pronounced Mayner). Of the nine breakfast taco options, egg-and-chorizo, $1.50, is the top seller. It’s clear why. There’s enough chorizo to add salt and zip to the eggs, without overpowering the essential eggy-ness. Of course, just about anything could taste amazing in these tortillas. And did we mention the size? Huge. Everything’s bigger in Texas, right down to the cheapest of eats.
Soup Can Bread at Foreign & Domestic’s Bake Sale
Foreign & Domestic’s killer gruyere popovers are a classic, but the Soup Can Bread, $5, is the must-have of the moment. By the time the Bake Sale opens at 9 a.m. three Saturdays a month, there’s already a line of carb lovers, bikes and strollers through the parking lot. Pastry chef Jodi Elliott knows her bread. She got her start with Claudia Fleming at Gramercy Tavern and worked her way around NYC before returning to her home state, where her in-can zucchini bread, lime and coconut coffee cake, jalapeño cornbread, and brioche are exciting young and old. “I’ve never seen adults so thrilled by the thought of getting to keep a soup can,” Elliott says. Of course, they’re often empty before they leave the lot.
Dirty South at Gourdough’s Public House
2700 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-607-6568
Its Flying Pig, $5.75 (bacon with maple syrup icing) has attained Austin icon status, but in its new industrial-ranch-chic permanent home, the made-to-order donut gurus at Gourdough’s can offer much more.
“There’s only so much you can do out of a trailer,” co-owner Ryan Palmer says. “We evolved and wanted to expand on the idea of people showing up with six-packs to try with donuts.” At Public House, it’s the Dirty South, $12, that’s got everyone clucking. It’s a chicken fried steak atop a mashed-potato pancake atop a hot donut covered in white gravy and cranberry habanero jam that loosely melts across the layer cake-like, entree-size offering. It’s a pretty awesome variety of texture and flavors (none too sweet). You’ll never limit donuts to coffee again (beer, please!).
Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows at Fête Accompli Booth at Saturday/Sunday Farmers Markets
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: 400 W. Guadalupe, Republic Square Park and Barton Creek, where S. Loop 1 (Mopac) meets S. Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) behind the mall
Chef Quincy Adams Erikson’s Hot Chocolate with a Farm Egg Marshmallow, $5, is all about the highest-quality chocolate (Venezuelan El Rey, 70.3 percent) and milk (Mill-King heavy in butterfat, from three types of cow) she can find. “Every week we have a different best seller,” Erikson says, referring to the rotating enhancements of her base brew, like New Delhi (ginger and cinnamon) and Hot Cha Cha (ancho and chipotle). Whatever you choose (three options weekly), add an impossibly delicate marshmallow. Ask for the suggested pairing or trust your gut. Candied Jalapeño is a knockout.
Tongue Katsu at East Side King at the Grackle
In October, James Beard Award and “Top Chef” winner Paul Qui and partner Moto Utsunomiya re-opened their spot outside the Grackle, with a new trailer and a new menu. Gyu Tongue Katsu Sando, $7, is beef tongue marinated in Red Boat fish sauce, breaded and fried, served on toasted Easy Tiger bread. This tasty, high-class drinking sop-up is the result of a 14-hour sous vide. “It’s a cruise ship and a pirate ship at the same time,” Qui says, describing both the dish and his career. Next up, the East Side King team’s first “real” kitchen, inside the weathered Hole in the Wall bar, in December, and a 60-seat restaurant next year.
Jungle Curry at Sway
1417 S. First St. 512-326-1999
Austin’s buzzing in anticipation about this gorgeous, 150-seat mostly Thai restaurant from the team behind local hot spot La Condesa. And you can expect Sway to bring the heat when it opens Dec. 9. Chef Rene Ortiz’s mouth-tingling Jungle Curry lives up to the pre-hype. “Customers were asking us for heat and spice,” owner Jesse Herman says. So they channeled Australia (both worked there), where Thai is as ubiquitous as Mexican in Texas, and delivered. Like all good curries, this one — with Texas Wagyu short ribs, eggplant and baby corn — is rich with flavor beyond the chilies and peppercorns. Seating at Sway will be mostly at large, square communal tables in view of one of the biggest and most open kitchens (nearly half the entire space) you’ll ever see and hear. The clatter of spoons hitting woks, says Herman, should be part of the fun.
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9. 12 Bones, Asheville, North Carolina
Photograph: Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn
With a quirky, bumper-sticker-embellished, white interior, friendly staff and top-notch barbecue, 12 Bones is the place for central Carolina-style barbecue. We had a rack of its inventive blueberry chipotle sauce baby backs, with sides of corn pudding and incredible smoked potato salad ($22), as well as a mighty Hogzilla sandwich ($7.50) – slices of brown-sugar bacon, a big, spit-grilled bratwurst, pulled pork and melted pepperjack cheese on a hefty hoagie roll that tries its best to hold it all together.
Chef and co-owner Shane Heavner puts his stamp on hand-me-down recipes from the matriarchs in his family. The barbecue scene is male-dominated, but this is a familiar tale of how women shaped the development of barbecue across the US over the past 100 years (albeit sometimes behind the scenes).
Pecking House, NYC’s Most In-Demand Fried Chicken, Launches First Pop-Up This Weekend
Chef Eric Huang is taking his mega-popular fried chicken delivery business Pecking House offline this weekend for the shop’s first in-person pop-up. Pecking House will be setting up shop at the Market Line at Essex Crossing this Saturday, where Huang will be offering the business’s regular takeout and delivery menu — including the famed crispy chile fried chicken — from 5 p.m. until everything is sold out.
Huang launched Pecking House last fall to near-instant acclaim, with thousands of customers lining up virtually to get on the takeout-and-delivery shop’s ever-expanding waitlist, which currently stretches up to eight weeks out, Huang tells Eater New York. And if the Market Line pop-up sells out in a minute, don’t worry: The chef says that he hopes more in-person pop-ups and collaborations with other businesses are in Pecking House’s future after this weekend.
Similarly, the Market Line also hopes to keep highlighting more popular, pandemic-born food businesses in the future. Later on in the month, Bryce Shuman of sell-out barbecue delivery service Ribs n’ Reds will be running a similar pop-up at the food hall.
In other news
— French bakery chain Maman is on an expansion tear. The company just signed a lease on an upcoming spot near Grand Central Terminal, and it is running a Mother’s Day pop-up this weekend out of two other new locations, in Cobble Hill and the Upper East Side, that will be opening in full shortly.
— Nonprofit Send Chinatown Love put together a digital cookbook featuring recipes from beloved city restaurants including Wing Hing Seafood, Kam Hing bakery, and Flushing’s Noodle House. Downloads are free with a $15 suggested donation, and proceeds are donated to NYC Chinatown businesses in need of financial support.
— NYC-based home cooking and food media brand Food52 has acquired cult-favorite Scandinavian housewares brand Dansk. It plans to revamp and relaunch the brand through Food52’s e-commerce arm.
— Milu staffer Doryann Sanchez is taking over the kitchen for a special Cinco de Mayo menu this Wednesday. Dinners are $40 for two people and $72 for four people, and include cochinita pibil, roasted summer squash with poblanos, corn, and mozzarella, licor de elote flan, and more. Pre-orders for takeout and delivery available here.
— NYC Hospitality Alliance executive director Andrew Rigie tells the Post that as long as social distancing requirements are still in place, eliminating capacity restrictions later this month doesn’t change things all that much for NYC restaurants.
Frankly, I can't wait to see the new EMP vegan gimmicks.— Greg Morabito (@GregMorabito) May 3, 2021
An interactive "foraging" course in Madison Square Park?
Nut milk White Russians, mixed tableside?
A single, perfectly poached lichen, lowered to the table via drone?
A hearty pat on the back from Humm himself?
Here’s Why the Price of Brisket Is Creeping Up at New York City Barbecue Restaurants
Half a pound of moist brisket, a couple of beef ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread, and tap water (all served after waiting in line 45 minutes for counter service): $75. That was the total bill from a recent lunch stop at a popular BBQ restaurant in Brooklyn. Long considered a food of the people for its use of tough cuts that respond magically to long, slow cooking methods, barbecue has become, in NYC, an expensive (and time-consuming) proposition. What gives?
After digesting both the meal and the sticker shock, I wondered if what had just occurred was a classic Manhattan phenomenon: A city restaurateur justifiably capitalizes on booming demand for a cuisine (e.g., $18 for three pork-shoulder tacos at Empellón Taqueria), and prices hit the stratosphere. At times, it seems like everything our grand city touches, no matter how humble its culinary roots, becomes outlandishly expensive.
In this case, though, the rising cost of brisket runs deeper than New York City economics, so don’t expect to see your local pit master manning a Tesla Roadster anytime soon. The culprit lies in the confluence of several forces: a shrinking cattle population, the increased popularity of Texas barbecue, and, oddly, the introduction of Arby’s brisket sandwich.
Yes, Arby’s is partially to blame for rising brisket prices. Jon Stewart might pop off a joke here about suffering from a roiling case of indigestion, but the reality is that this fast-food behemoth (sorry, “fast-casual restaurant”) has exerted pressure on an already strained market with a wildly successful sandwich. Last year, Daniel Vaughan, barbecue editor of Texas Monthly (yes, that job exists and it sounds amazing), speculated that Arby’s swallows approximately 5 percent of the available brisket nationwide. If his number is close to correct, it presents as a significant demand on the domestic market.
Vaughan spoke with the Voice about the cattle shortage that initiated the problem. Extreme weather conditions out west, specifically a deep drought, resulted in a water shortage for animal stock. Before ranchers sell cattle to feedlots, they raise them on pasture. When a drought hits, grass and water sources for the animals dry up. As Vaughan sympathized, “put yourself in the shoes of the rancher…all of a sudden you have to pay for what was previously free. Do you pay to truck in water and buy hay?” Consequently, ranchers thinned herds by selling off large portions to cope. The total number of head of cattle across the country has dropped to its lowest since the 1950s, but there are now a lot more people to feed, said Vaughan.
While the last year has seen some improvements in pasture conditions, cattle populations can’t rebound as quickly, as, for example, pigs can. The time frame from pregnancy to raising a calf to marketable weight is over two years, and there’s only one calf per pregnancy (unlike pigs, which birth a litter and need only eight months to get offspring to market).
On February 5, 2015, the Houston Chronicle reported that Texas cattle herds “grew last year after eight years of consecutive decline caused by drought. Statewide bovine inventory hit a 48-year low in 2014, but rebounded six percent according to January 2015 numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.” That may be good news in the short term, but unless you’re living under a rock or vote Republican in Florida, you’ve probably read the news that the American West’s long-term weather forecast does not call for rain and rainbows. Scientists warn of an 80 percent chance of a “megadrought” hitting the Southwest and central Great Plains in the second half of the century if we remain on our current greenhouse emissions trajectory. Which means a brisket sandwich may be a relic of America’s culinary folklore by the year 2100.
Price pressure also stems from the growing popularity of Texas-style barbecue across the nation. From California to New York, the country is consuming more brisket now than ever before. Beef prices are going up across the board, but the level that brisket has risen to is unlike any other beef cut, according to Vaughan. “As an example, Franklin BBQ in Austin, Texas, goes through 40 briskets, or 20 head of cattle, a day. Multiply that by all of the existing and opening barbecue restaurants around the country. That’s a lot of cattle for two cuts of meat,” he said.
Vaughan published a piece in January titled “The End of Cheap Beef.” In his column, he reported that Texas A&M professor of ag economics David Anderson predicted to a roomful of BBQ joint owners “[to] plan on two or three years of elevated pricing.” By the numbers, whole, choice brisket during the week of January 6, 2015, was $3.45 per pound, up from $2.14 a year earlier, reported Vaughan.
What effect will the wholesale market have on steak and BBQ restaurant economics around NYC? According to Joe Carroll of the Carroll Group NYC, owner of Williamsburg restaurant St. Anselm, known for reasonably priced cuts of meat, and Fette Sau, a popular BBQ joint, he’ll have to raise prices. He cautions that he “must be sensitive to raising them too high too quickly. For example, if our increase in cost is 25 percent, we won’t raise our prices by 25 percent all at once, we will do it gradually over a couple of months.” He also notes that his prices are already a bit higher than other barbecue places because he uses naturally raised, heritage breed animals from small farms. As he put it, “any increase in price is tough for us.”
Perhaps the future of BBQ trends lies in the pork-based traditions of the Carolinas. A slow-smoked, succulent pig shoulder, shredded and served on a bun with tangy sauce and slaw, provides a respectable, delicious alternative to the brisket sandwich — if it comes to that.
Yes, BBQ Cafe has pork enchiladas with mole sauce on their menu. Yes, I was surprised too, and I had to try it. It may have been the most unexpected dish that I tried, but it was possibly my favorite of the day. It was definitely the dish I was craving the most when I was picking through my leftovers the next day.
Make sure you visit BBQ Cafe! While primarily a takeout restaurant they do have some tables outside if you want a sit-down meal. They are also partnering with College Merchant, so make sure to ask for a discount on your meal if you're a student! And what could be better than a discount on barbecue?
Houston gains on Austin in Best BBQ search but has things to learn
I hadn’t even finished driving home from a day trip that would see four friends dine at four of Austin’s highest profile barbecue joints (and Shake Shack) before a restaurant owner who’d been following along on Instagram wanted to know what I thought of the experience.
After all, for as much as Houston's barbecue scene is on the rise, Austin is still widely considered the better town for Texans's favorite food. Just a few months ago, Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn placed five Austin joints on his list of the Top 25 New and Improved Barbecue Joints in Texas. Houston only had three.
“No,” I replied. “It’s not light years ahead, but we could definitely learn some things from them.”
In terms of the fundamental act of smoking meat, Houston’s best barbecue joints match up well with the four Austin spots we visited: La Barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meats, Freedmen’s Bar, and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. Only La Barbecue’s fatty, smoky, well-rendered beef rib and celebrated hot guts sausage tasted better, by which I mean more intensely seasoned with better texture, than what I typically find in the Houston area.
On the other hand, we found both the beef rib at Micklethwait to be weirdly bland, although supremely well prepared in terms of the meat’s consistency and how well-rendered the fat had become. Similarly, the brisket had a bit of that undesirable pot roast texture. At $80 for a three meat plate, a two meat plate, and a beef rib, those disappointing meats were literally and figuratively tough to swallow.
Austin restaurants clearly lead the way in the diversity of their sides and their commitment to preparing just about everything in house. Micklethwait may operate out of two small trailers, but it still serves freshly baked bread, non-traditional meats like strip loin (pleasantly chewy, nicely medium) and barbacoa (sadly sold out), and sides like jalapeno cheese grits that blend classic Southern fare with Texan influences.
Similarly, both Micklethwait and Valentina’s show a willingness to bend genres by serving, respectively, brisket Frito pie and smoked brisket tacos, which arrive wrapped in a freshly made flour tortilla and are topped with creamy guacamole and red salsa. Both are such brilliant combinations it’s hard to believe they aren’t available just about everywhere.
Then again, nothing in Austin that we experienced incorporates Korean or Indian flavors like Blood Bros does with its gochujang burnt ends or Pappa Charlies does with its masala-spiced lamb. Those Asian-inspired touches are still uniquely Houston.
La Barbecue, Micklethwait, and Freedmen’s also make their own pickles, and they’re all a noticeable improvement over the flabby specimens typically found in Houston. In particular, Freedmen’s pickles had a solid crunch with just enough acidity to cut the rich, fatty brisket and sausage we tried, and the pickled jalapenos delivered the right balance of tart and spicy.
Even more than its pickles — or its jalapeno cheese spread and decadent smoked banana pudding — Freedmen’s overall concept is one that could make someone a lot of money if it came to Houston. Instead of being a trailer like the other three establishments, Freedmen’s is a bar with table service and a full liquor license that allows them to stock a solid selection of bourbon. After standing outside and waiting in lines, being able to sit down and pair barbecue with a Sazerac or an Old Fashioned felt like a real luxury. It’s also open for dinner, which is mostly unheard of in either city.
Lots of Houston pitmasters are bourbon enthusiasts. One of them needs to step up and develop a local version of the barbecue bar.
On the other hand, Austin could learn something from Houston restaurants about respecting their customers’ time. Despite a line that snakes through the food trailer park it occupies, La Barbecue only has one person cutting meat and one register to complete transactions. If a friend hadn’t held a place for us in line at 10 am, our arrival at 11 am would have meant waiting an hour-and-a-half or more to eat. At both Micklethwait and Valentina’s, we sat for roughly 15 minutes after ordering (and waiting in line) before our food arrived.
Say what you want about the line at Killen’s Barbecue, but at least that restaurant employs a platoon of people to serve food. That operation isn’t physically possible inside a small trailer, of course, but waiting for food after ordering it was my least favorite aspect of the whole day.
While some may think Houston has reached what Chronicle barbecue columnist J.C. Reid has dubbed “peak barbecue,” I think we still have more to accomplish. Thankfully, the immediate future offers lots of strong prospects. At a recent pop-up to preview Midtown Barbeque, chef Eric Aldis served an extensive selection of pickles alongside pitmaster Brett Jackson’s meat. At RodeoHouston’s annual Best Bites competition, upcoming Montrose barbecue joint The Pit Room served its version of pastrami with fiercely spicy housemade mustard and a pickle of its own. John Avila, a Houston native who worked for Austin's celebrated Franklin Barbecue, could blend both city's cultures once he opens El Burro & the Bull inside Conservatory downtown.
Admittedly, these are small steps, but they’re the kind of developments that will raise the bar and push the scene forward. After all, Austin may not be “light years” ahead of Houston, but the city still has some catching up to do if wants to overtake the capital as the best barbecue city in Texas.
2 Men Charged in Killing of 1-Year-Old Boy at Brooklyn Cookout
Investigators believe the men charged in the death of Davell Gardner, the city’s youngest gun violence victim last year, were part of a deadly feud between gangs in Brooklyn.
It was a heart-rending killing in a summer of overwhelming grief: Davell Gardner, a 1-year-old boy sitting in his stroller last July during a nighttime barbecue in Brooklyn, was shot in the stomach after two gunmen hopped out of an SUV and opened fire on the gathering.
Davell died at 2:30 the next morning and became the city’s youngest gun violence victim last year, two months shy of his second birthday. The shooting, captured on surveillance video, jolted a city already beaten down by the pandemic and roiled by unrest over police brutality.
On Thursday, 10 months later, police announced charges against two men in the killing: One is accused of being the gunman and is also charged in connection with two other murders, and the other is accused of being the driver.
Dashawn Austin, 25, who is accused of being the gunman, was among 18 young men facing murder, conspiracy and weapons charges in a 63-count indictment unsealed Thursday morning in Brooklyn, which detailed the violent gang feud behind the killings.
Mr. Austin and the other defendants are members of the Hoolies gang, who have been engaged in a bloody rivalry with the 900 gang in Bedford-Stuyvesant, according to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. The conflict has left at least six people dead, 14 wounded and many others fearing for their safety in the neighborhood since 2018. Nineteen members of the 900 gang were charged in January.
In a major breakthrough, the police obtained Hoolies group chats on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, where members plotted shootings and alerted each other about rivals in the neighborhood.
Investigators also pieced together hours of surveillance footage, including identifying unique items of clothing that members wore, and gathered intelligence around the Hoolies headquarters in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
At a news conference on Thursday, Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, said he had spoken with Davell’s parents before the charges were announced.
“I hope today’s indictment and accountability will be a small measure of solace for the family as they seek justice,” he said.
Police officials believed Thursday’s takedown targeted the leaders of the Hoolies, including some founding members, but they said the gang still had dozens of recruits. Prosecutors are working with community advocates to address concerns about the arrests potentially unleashing a violent succession battle among younger Hoolies to fill the leadership void.
Much of the violence occurred over the last year amid a historic surge in shootings that has left New York and many other cities reeling. The Police Department recorded 1,531 shootings in 2020 — almost double the 777 recorded in 2019 — and Davell was one of 468 people killed, the most since 2011.
Shootings have continued their sharp rise this year, jumping to 416 through May 2, from 227 over the same period last year, according to police statistics — an 83 percent increase. Murders have increased slightly. The violence has become a key issue in the mayor’s race as the city struggles to mount an effective response.
The takedown was one of two gang operations announced on Thursday, as federal prosecutors in Manhattan brought racketeering and weapons charges against seven people believed to be members and associates of the 800 YGz in the Bronx.
Police and prosecutors say that gang investigations allow them to bring more serious charges against a small number of people who are responsible for most of the violence in the city.
But some lawyers and researchers say the authorities take credit for tackling crime while scapegoating gangs and using aggressive policing practices that sweep up large numbers of young Black and Hispanic men.
Babe Howell, a law professor at the City University of New York, has closely studied four indictments charging a total of about 200 people since 2014. She said the cases show how law enforcement officials often highlight an “exaggerated narrative that holds whole groups responsible for the conduct of individuals.”
“What we see is cases that are solved basically using cooperators who are facing sentences based on conspiracy charges that could mean 20 or more years,” she added. “It’s so worrisome because there’s no other world where we bring in all your friends for something you did three years ago.”
The young men charged in the Hoolies and 900 gang takedowns, who range in age from 16 to 33, dueled through rap songs posted on YouTube and in tit-for-tat shootings, according to prosecutors. Many of the shootings involved victims who were innocent bystanders or were mistakenly believed to be rival gang members.
The feud escalated on the afternoon of Dec. 4, 2018, when the Hoolies leader, Jahlil Grant, 21, was shot in the neck and killed in front of the Roosevelt Houses, where the gang operates. Investigators believe the 900 gang was behind the shooting.
Eight hours later, prosecutors said, the Hoolies retaliated and killed a man walking in front of the Sumner Houses nearby — 900 Gang territory. The victim, Tyree Walker, 35, was not involved in the feud between the Hoolies and the 900. He was shot in the back of the head by assassins he never saw, the police said at the time, and left behind a wife and four children.
A new restaurant with Franklin Barbecue cred looks at Houston opening
Tucked away in a far corner of the Houston Barbecue Festival stood a pit master with a Franklin Barbecue pedigree. While festival attendees waited in long lines for big names like Killen's Barbecue, Corkscrew BBQ and Louie Mueller Barbecue, John Avila only fed a few folks at a time. Avila was at it again Monday night at The Flat, serving barbecue and other dishes as a preview for a new restaurant called El Burro & the Bull, which he intends to open in the Second Ward.
While even the hardcore barbecue fans at the festival may have overlooked Avila, El Burro & Bull has lots of potential. Avila tells CultureMap the new restaurant will pay tribute to the diverse array of food he grew up eating.
"It wouldn't be true to who we are to make it a smokehouse," Avila says. The menu will include some barbecue items alongside tamales, Frito pie, tortas and desserts inspired by Mexican pastries. At Monday's pop-up, expertly smoked pork ribs shared a menu with a kale and apple salad. Sides include familiar barbecue beans but also Mexican elote.
"I've passed up home so many times. This seems like the right time."
The menu may sound diverse, but all of the dishes will be united by what Avila describes as a respect "old school" ways of doing things. "If I'm honest about what I'm doing, I'll be alright," he offers.
In addition to his food, Avila's resume offers further reasons for optimism. He began his career in barbecue at Austin's celebrated Frankin Barbecue where he prepared meats and tended the pits. From there, he helped Torchy's launch its successful Houston expansion before going to Brooklyn to open The Elbow Room, a mac and cheese concept. He got back into a pit at Morgan's Barbecue in Brooklyn, which earned praise from Eater critic Robert Sietsema.
After all the traveling, he and his wife Veronica Hernandez are ready to come home. They bought a house off Navigation and are "looking aggressively" for a space for El Burro & Bull, which he'd like to open by the end of the year.
"I've passed up home so many times," Avila says. "This seems like the right time."
Still, Avila is considering one more opportunity that could push back Burro & Bull. A London-based restaurant group wants him to consult on a chain of barbecue restaurants that would spread across Europe. He's spending four days there this week to meet with the investors and consider the possibility. If he does, his Houston restaurant would be delayed for a year, but Avila isn't sure he wants to wait.
"It's going to take a lot from London," he says. "Houston feels meant to be."
The 15 Best Barbecue Joints in America
America may be a melting pot, but if there&rsquos one food that we can truly call our own, it&rsquos barbecue. (OK, fine, apple pie is pretty patriotic, too.) And we&rsquore not just talking about throwing some burgers and dogs on the grill. We mean real meat, cooked low and slow over an open fire, and probably served with a pile of baked beans and mac and cheese. Every region has its own style, and everyone thinks they do it best. But who are we to discriminate? Here are our 15 favorites, from sea to smoky sea.