Alibi V.28 No.1 • Jan 3-9, 2019 

Restaurant Review

Chef Jon Young’s BBQ Brainchild

ABQ BBQ is changing the way you think of barbecue

Move over Texas, Kansas City, St. Louis and North Carolina, there's a whole new style of barbecue in town, and it's as New Mexican as green chile and enchiladas.

ABQ BBQ’s brisket, green chile cheddar roll and elotes
ABQ BBQ’s brisket, green chile cheddar roll and elotes
Eric Williams Photography

That's the dream that Chef Jon Young is making a reality at his North Fourth Street restaurant ABQ BBQ. And there's no mistaking you're any where else but New Mexico as soon as you walk in the door.

A hot air balloon gondola is suspended from the ceiling, Route 66 memorabilia and New Mexico license plates adorn the wall above the bar. Paintings by local artists, including Young himself, hang on the walls.

"I wanted people to realize they're not in Texas and they're not in Kansas City. My whole mission is to create a New Mexico style of barbecue and I wanted the decor to be New Mexico-themed," says Young.

The menu he's developed for his lunch and dinner offerings draws from elements of other regional styles familiar to barbecue aficionados—brisket, pulled pork, apple cider vinegar—but he infuses them with the red and green chile flavors and other traditional flavors of New Mexico.

Young, a third generation Corraleño, grew up fascinated by the mysteries of the kitchen. "I was the geek who was watching Julia Child instead of cartoons," he says.

He had his first experience in a real world professional kitchen as a teen at the high-end Casa Vieja restaurant right in front of his family's Corrales home. He learned his craft under Chef Jean-Paul Gozard who opened Old Town's La Crêpe Michel in the ’70s and was later chef at Casa Vieja for many years. Young eventually succeeded Gozard and was the Casa Vieja chef for a decade.

Young honed that experience in two subsequent ventures—Fresh Bistro, a French/Italian restaurant nearby on Fourth Street, and Fresh: a Mobile Bistro—which he closed to focus on his barbecue dream. ABQ BBQ opened in June of 2018.

"How many opportunities does a chef get to create their own genre?" Young says, "This will be a great thing for our community to get the word out that New Mexico is not just about rice and beans and enchiladas."

His brisket is smoked with apple wood which, he says, gives it a sweeter, less "in-your-face" flavor than hickory or mesquite wood, traditionally used for barbecuing.

Chef Jon Young chows down on some dry-rubbed ribs
Chef Jon Young chows down on some dry-rubbed ribs
Eric Williams Photography
The pork is roasted slowly over many hours, similar to the New Mexico matanza tradition of cooking a whole pig, Young says.

He draws inspiration for his ribs from the St. Louis style of barbecue which uses a dry rub. Young has adapted that, creating a carne asada-style rub with elements of citrus and chile pepper.

Of course, no barbecue meal is complete without side dishes. ABQ BBQ offers traditional side dishes like potato salad, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and rolls, but with a distinctly New Mexican twist. The potato salad includes green chile and bacon. The rolls have the savory-sweet flavor of a traditional brioche recipe, enlivened with green chile and cheddar cheese.

Creating a local style coleslaw posed a challenge, Young says, since New Mexican cuisine lacks its own variation of this de-rigueur barbecue side. So, he looked to calabacitas, and turned his dish into a coleslaw with squash, onion, grilled corn and green chile.

"Everything here should be like you're at your grandma's house—artisan but homey," he says.

Of course, it's almost impossible to say the word "barbecue" without adding the word "sauce." Young has experimented with the traditional New Mexico chile flavors to create six sauces to accompany his dishes. The red chile, green and "Christmas"; chile-flavored barbecue sauces labeled "local" have a higher heat quotient tailored to those whose palates have become accustomed—some would even say addicted—to a chile fix. The sauces labeled "original" are tailored to those who prefer a milder sauce experience.

The red chile sauce has a richer, fruitier flavor along with the heat. Young says the green chile-based sauce, which incorporates more vinegar, makes an excellent marinade.

His barbecue plate offerings include a side dish and green chile cheddar rolls. Rib plates range from $13 for a four-rib dish to $30 for a full rack. The pork ribs are so tender they fall off the bone. Pulled pork, equally flavorful and moist, ranges from $8 to $11 per portion. Sliced apple smoked brisket is $12 for a small portion, $16 for the large. Chopped apple-smoked chicken ranges from $8 to $11.

Young's mac-and-cheese is deliciously gooey with just the right amount of heat. Other sides include a moist green chile corn bread, roasted elotes with cheese and lime, potato salad with green chile and bacon and red chile baked beans.

The menu also offers options outside the standard barbecue menu such as tacos with pulled pork, brisket and chopped chicken, a pulled pork frito pie for $10, and various sandwiches. The $12 Jack Burger, with all the usual trimmings, is made from ground brisket.

"We are a no waste kitchen," Young says, explaining how they try to use all the ingredients in as many ways as possible to avoid wasting food.

For anyone that still has an appetite after consuming the main dish, the Chingon cobbler-style desserts with roasted piñon crumble at $6.50 offer a choice of cherry, blackberry and peach fruit fillings.

Mindful of those with dietary concerns, Young has included options for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes.

ABQ BBQ is not just about food. The restaurant typically has live music on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9pm with the Duke City Ceili Band, and speed dating events on Sunday afternoons.

Young will be holding a cooking course "Five Mothers with Chef Jon" which focuses on how to make the five French sauces key to classical French cuisine. The course begins Sunday, Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. Cost $75 per class or $300 for a package of five.

ABQ BBQ

7520 N. Fourth Street, Ste. A,
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque

Hours: Tue-Sat 11am-9pm
Sun 10am-5pm
400-4790
ABQBBQNM.com

Vibe: Homey and casual, like all good BBQ joints are
Alibi Recommends: The sliced brisket, pork ribs and the cobbler-style dessert, the chingon.