Billy Durney wants you to know that it took 27 months to perfect the fried chicken that will be served at his Hometown Tavern, opening in Red Hook, Brooklyn, in October. “We tried every kind of starch, every kind of fat,” he said, to achieve the smooth, crisp crust he fell for at chicken joints like Gus’s in Memphis and Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans. “I think we got it.”
Mr. Durney has reason to be hopeful. As the founder of Hometown Bar-B-Que, in Red Hook, he is a triumphant minority of one: the guy who successfully synthesized Southern tradition and modern flavors into the closest thing New York City has to a local barbecue style. Mr. Durney also wants you to know that he is a native son of Brooklyn, with all the diverse eating habits that implies: Jewish delis, Italian street fairs, Vietnamese banh mi shops.
“It’s kind of beautiful that I have six countries represented on my menu,” he said by phone from Ireland, part of an itinerary of barbecue workshops he teaches in Europe each summer.
“All over the world, there’s a fever pitch of interest in American barbecue,” he said, mentioning that several cooks from Noma participated in the workshops this year. “They are serious about it; these people want to learn meat science and wood combustion.”
Mr. Durney knows how to do serious. Since his relentless inquisitiveness about barbecue has paid off, he has turned that attention to some other Brooklyn favorites.
The tavern, in an airy old produce market, will have amenities like tables, chairs and waiters (Hometown Bar-B-Que has trestles, benches and trays). If you don’t want fried chicken, you will have a burger, carefully matched to Mr. Durney’s favorites at Minetta Tavern and Peter Luger Steak House. He always has a goal in mind when developing new recipes, and is something of a purist. “Seven or eight ounces of meat, warm bun, pickle, onion.” he said. “That’s it.”
Similarly, at his new sandwich shop, Hometown Deli, the only bread you will get for the pastrami and corned beef sandwiches is a classic rye. It will open in Industry City, a giant complex of old commercial waterfront buildings in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, that is being nurtured back to life, partly by local food businesses like Ample Hills Creamery. The new space will also accommodate parties (people keep asking to have weddings at Hometown Bar-B-Que) and a commissary kitchen.
But Mr. Durney is almost as excited about its past as its future. “This is the first place where Topps baseball cards were made,” he said. ”For a Brooklyn kid who loved baseball, how cool is that?”
Hometown Deli 87 35th Street (Third Avenue), Sunset Park, Brooklyn, October.
Hometown Tavern 329 Van Brunt Street (Sullivan Street), Red Hook, Brooklyn, October.