Pitmaster/pwner Nick Accardi has brought a new concept to Hell’s Kitchen with JAX B-B-Q, a destination for real wood pit barbecue, craft black angus burgers, frozen margaritas and craft beer. The interior was designed with a rockabilly Americana garage sensibility in mind, featuring partially exposed brick walls, antique gas station signs (including a massive Mobile flying Pegasus), original stools from a 1930’s Woolworth and black leather banquettes with red piping. JAX is a fun place to kick back with a drink and enjoy real-deal barbecue and top-notch burgers.
The neighborhood may know Accardi for Tavola (his acclaimed Italian Trattoria) but before he was firing up pizzas he was pushing out some of the city’s most notable pulled pork and ribs at Bone Lick Park in the West Village (he was also behind Chelsea favorites Cola’s and The Viceroy). Accardi first learned the art of wood pit cooking in Vegas from pitmaster and bbq legend Mike Mills, who taught him the intricacies of “slow and low” smoking and the importance of specially crafted rubs and seasonings.
The menu is straightforward and razor focused, but don’t let its ostensible simplicity fool you. Each dish is prepared with carefully considered ingredients and an emphasis on authenticity. Starters include deep south delicacies like alligator tail fritters (an homage to Accardi’s time spent living in central Florida) and crawfish hush puppies, in addition to Texas link sausage sourced from Esposito Meat Market down the block—one of Martha Stewart’s favorite butcher shops.
Smoked meats, however, are the stars of the show. Accardi stokes his pit with white oak, cherry and birch woods; a mixture aficionados will recognize for its minimal impact, allowing the natural flavors of the meat to shine through. Memphis-style spare ribs are dry rubbed using a custom 18-ingredient spice mixture and smoked for 8 hours, served in a half or full rack and dressed lightly with specialty house-made bbq sauce (slightly sweet and tangy). Carolina pulled pork—also prepared with the house dry rub and sauced sparingly—is smoked for 12 hours, yielding impossibly moist and flavorful results. There is a forthcoming smoked meat of the day, which will feature a different protein Mon-Fri and might include lamb, quail, turkey leg or other options. Each entrée comes with house-made cole slaw and a side, from choices such as burnt end baked beans—dotted with the literal burnt fatty outer portions of a cut of meat, adding sweetness and depth of flavor. Ultra-creamy Vermont cheddar mac & cheese and stewed bayou okra round out the offerings.
Southern specialties sans-smoke are equally well-prepared: catfish is breaded in cornmeal and fried to perfection, and buttermilk fried chicken thighs are butterflied off of the bone, crisp on the outside and irresistibly moist on the inside.
The burgers stand alone at JAX; in lieu of over-cheffed monstrosities, Accardi has created a lineup of straightforward crowd-pleasers. Each is hand-pressed, made with a custom blend of one hundred percent grass-fed black angus beef on a brioche-style Orwasher’s bun, and served with house-made slaw and lettuce, tomato and onion on the side. Options include the Jax Classic Burger, bolstered with a house-infused truffle ketchup and caramelized onion, and the B-B-Q slab bacon burger with hand-cut slab bacon, Vermont cheddar and house barbecue sauce.
Non-beef options include The Pilgrim (custom spiced turkey, portobello, herb aioli, cheddar, avocado spread) the Greek Tycoon Lamb Burger (feta, mint, arugula, pickled cucumbers & caponata) and the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat” burger made with an Impossible Foods vegetarian patty. There is also a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with moist, tender thigh meat butterflied off of the bone, sriracha slaw and house-made pickes, cornmeal fried catfish on a bun with poblano aioli and pickled onions, and a Wild Boar burger with roasted pepper and provolone.
The dessert section features a variety of pies: real key lime (made with actual key limes), Mississippi mud, and chocolate pecan, in addition to banana ‘Nilla pudding.
The bar is an integral part of the experience, offering a laidback lounge atmosphere with retro chrome stools perfect for killing time with an infused frozen margarita made with real fruit. Imbibers will have their pick of a notable tequila list, and distinct selection of craft beers on tap.