With the exception of Robert Pearson, who first brought Texas barbeque to Long Island City, it’s pretty safe to say Kansas City native Josh Bowen has done more to popularize low and slow traditional American barbeque in Queens then any one man. Five years ago he opened John Brown Smokehouse in Astoria. There in a tiny space hard by an auto body shop, he turned out sumptuous chunks of that K.C. classic, burnt ends, double-rubbed and double-smoked nuggets of meat candy. A few years later, he pulled up stakes and moved John Brown to L.I.C. turning into a full-fledged barbeque restaurant complete with a backyard featuring live blues. On Mondays and Fridays Bowen takes to the stage himself. His next act? A little something called Mothership Meat Company, an encore of the acclaimed Alchemy Texas BBQ.
Queens Dinner Club is proud to partner with Bowen and Mothership for a very special “sneak peak” dinner later this month.
Where did the idea of Mothership Meat Company come from?
It came from our Alchemy days, kind of R&D Texas barbeque and my partner had a property in Astoria that he wanted to make into something. So here we are.
What about the name come from? Are you a fan of George Clinton?
That’s a weird one because that one just literally came out of the the ether. We’d needed a name and I was like ‘Mothership,’ that sounds good. I mean, I like Funkadelic, but it just sounds like a cool name warm and homey, but also sort of out there a little bit. And I think that represents the food we’re going to be doing there.
What’s the food going to be like?
It’s going to fairly standard traditional Texas barbeque, traditionally cooked, but you know it’s New York so Kalustyans still exists here. There’s no Kalustyan’s in Austin, Texas. So we use things like garam masala in our brisket rub. The interesting thing about garam masala is it covers cumin, cardamom, and turmeric. We also like to use pasilla pepper.
We’re going do lots of different stuff duck, quail. Everyone loved the frog at Alchemy so we’ll bring that back. Anything that’s meat, but we’re not going to cook lion.
Call it Texas style if you like, Josh, but it sounds like Austin via Queens to me. Tell us about the menu you have planned for the upcoming Queens Dinner Club.
We’re going to have all sorts of goodies. There’ll be brisket, short ribs, duck, even some whole hog. The Mothership and all its meat is gonna land in a big way.
So what are you be smoking on at the new joint?
Well we’ve got a J&R Oyler pit, which is every little BBQ boy’s dream. It can cook 2,000 pounds of meat at a time. We also have a smaller pit. One of things the test kitchen has revealed to me is you can’t throw 10 logs in and go home. You’ve got to throw one log in at a time. We’re using native Long Island white oak and some honey locust.
What are some of your favorite places to eat in Queens these days?
I’ll shout out Arharn Thai, because I eat there three times a week. I like the kra pow, basil sauce with garlic and the pad ped. I eat a lot of Mu Ramen. I also love pabellón criollo at Arepas Cafe.
Do you think people in Kansas City—barbeque people—know what you’re doing out here in Long Island City, Queens?
I met Lindsay Shannon, the owner of BB’s Lawnside BBQ, a couple of months ago, which was really cool. It’s been there for a while, he did the Kansas City Blues Show for like 30 years. I remember listening to that show back before I was even a blues fan. You’d go into his restaurant and there just happened to be some world class blues artist just playing on a Saturday afternoon. That’s where we get this entire concept for John Brown from.