Gwen Fowler



BlackJack Barbecue a big hit in the Big Apple

Posted 6/25/2011 4:36:00 PM

The best smells in New York City June 11-12 were coming from Madison Square Park, where Jimmy Hagood of BlackJack Barbecue in Charleston and 15 other pitmasters cooked for a massive and hungry crowd.

About 125,000 people attended the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, and Hagood sold 8,000 plates. That’s a barbecue sandwich every 5 seconds, he said.

The BlackJack team cooked 3,000 pounds of pork shoulder, made 800 pounds of cole slaw and used 100 gallons of barbecue sauce. All that cooking went on in the “Big Red Rig,” his 30-foot rig and cooker.

In fact, he could have sold a few more sandwiches if he hadn’t run out of food about an hour before the event ended. It was his fifth consecutive year to be there, and he based his cooking on past years.

“They put us in a real good spot, at the corner of 25th and Madison,” he said. “People saw we were from South Carolina and figured it was good barbecue.”

The party stretched around Madison Square Park, down Madison Avenue from 23th Street to 27th Street and down 26th Street to Fifth Avenue.

In addition to the barbecue, there was music throughout both afternoons.

But it was the barbecue that drew the enormous crowd to the ninth annual Block Party. Throughout the park, people were chomping on ribs and barbecue sandwiches. And it was such a great deal: Admission was free, and plates were $8 each.

“It’s every Southern boy’s dream to cook barbecue, but to do it on Madison Avenue is incredible,” Hagood said.

Hagood began cooking barbecue in local competitions about 1993 as a hobby, and in 2002, he opened a catering business. Now he owns Food for the Southern Soul, a company that includes BlackJack Barbecue, Tidewater Foods & Catering, and his own lines of Southern food products, Charleston Favorites and Rockland Plantation.

Even though Hagood has been serving his barbecue for years, there wasn’t a place you could go get his barbecue whenever you wanted it. That will all change this week, when Hagood plans to open a barbecue concession called Food for the Southern Soul at the renovated Charleston City Market. It will be sort of a kiosk, which he calls a “cue-osk.”