In a city with exceedingly few uncharted restaurant concepts left, the thought of a kosher barbecue joint definitely stands out. Which is why—despite a proliferation of standard smoked meat spots, in more commercially viable sectors of the borough—a migration to Izzy’s seems almost obligatory; no matter that it requires a trek to the (for most of us), utterly unfamiliar area of Wingate, sparsely settled with Jewish nursing homes, the occasional barber shop and an Organized Kashrus, the world’s leading kosher certification agency. Izzy’s Brooklyn Smokehouse (née Izzy’s BBQ Addiction) is located directly next to—and under the hashgacha of—the latter; which scrupulously supervises their kashrut status, overseeing everything from the turning on of pilot lights to the inspection of vegetables to the cooking of proteins, which naturally precludes pork. No matter, being that the cornerstone of Texas barbecue is brisket—the pride of many a Shabbat table—it all makes an intriguing sort of sense.
One of the purest pleasures of stepping into a barbecue restaurant, kosher or no, is being immediately enveloped in a potent cloud of smoke. And Izzy’s does not disappoint, although instead of the aroma of beef fat-saturated wood, what we noticed was a pervasive odor of the cannabis variety. (We wonder what the rabbi would have to say about that?) And in lieu of customers on a recent visit, a stream of (workers?) continually wandered in and out, disappearing into the mysterious back room, where, if an actual smoker does exist—generally a point of pride at ‘cue destinations—it remains curiously hidden. Without a behemoth mesquite-fired pit holding court, the remainder of the 25-seat room is, to put it mildly, sparse; outfitted with a requisite steer head on one wall, and a shelf with cubbyholes on the other, stocked with Heinz ketchup, glass cleaner, and someone’s wadded up shirt.
With a furtive prayer that this has all been mashgiach approved, you’ll place your order at the counter, where the only evidence of food prep is a sample bowl of cubed challah, and a cutting board on the counter, encrusted in meat detritus from Yahweh knows when. Advertised as the “Chef’s Choice,” brisket sells for $20 a pound, and emerges from… somewhere, shrouded in a mass of highly spiced char masquerading as bark; more akin to the congealed grease and toast crumbs scraped from the bottom of one’s oven. A fork slides easily through the meat (you’ll need to fetch your silverware from wall dispensers, affixed half an arms distance from the bathroom), but that’s because it bears the signature slump of long-braised beef, left to wither on a steam tray. With pig products off of the table, the rest of the menu is devoted to poultry, including smoked turkey, bbq chicken, and smoked, fried chicken sandwiches, which comprise colossal balloons of bread cradling aggressively seasoned segments of bloated bird, wainscoted with coins of sweet pickles and even sweeter mayo. It may all be kosher, but sadly, that doesn’t make it good.
397 Troy Avenue, Wingate