Just off Fourth Avenue, there’s a roadhouse sign promising three things: B, B and Q. It might as well stand for “booze, brisket, and quintessentially American things of a certain industrial heyday.” That includes a barrel smoker rigged up to a bicycle parked just outside, classic cocktails with a greenmarket twist, weathered bronze pipes propping up the bar’s shelving and tap handles, honky-tonk tunes streaming from the speakers, and lots of mason jars—lining the bar, and serving as light fixtures hanging overhead.
The place is called Fort Reno BBQ, though you wouldn’t know without stepping inside the tiny space, and it indeed serves up a concise barbecue menu fit for a man. The drinks outnumber the food options, however, with fourteen cocktails suited to all tastes. Toss away suspicions when you come to the Bobbito Burns, which rather boldly lists, as one of its components, “meat bitters.” There are no bits of brisket floating around in this clear, Benedictine-stained cocktail, but rather a potent dab of local Bitters Old Men’s “gangsta lee’n bitters,” made with orange peel, smoked almonds and bacon. The smoky, porky flavor is conspicuous but doesn’t drown out the spicy flavors of Mezcal and Averna.
The bar’s owner is Jacques Gautier, the chef-owner of the local food-sourced Latin bistro Palo Santo just down the block. Without a cocktail program at the latter outfit, Fort Reno BBQ appears to be his intoxicating new playground: fresh herbs appear in several cocktails, and current specials include blackberry preserves, strawberries and rhubarb syrup. The Fort Warwick combines upstate-based Warwick gin with the distillery’s own Bartlett pear liqueur, and the drink is subtly balanced with a snip of tarragon. The cocktails are so varied that you almost forgive the bar for its small, so-so beer list, or its nearly nonexistent wine program (a bartender didn’t push wines, stating only that there was a house red and white). For those less discerning, a late-night special offers a can of Rheingold with half a pulled meat sandwich for $5 total.
There’s no table service, and very few tables. With a facade of doors opened onto Union Street, you may feel as if you’re dining al fresco on the busy intersection. Small, square tables along the wall opposite the kitchen may be cozy for an intimate dinner, after the early rush of Park Slope kids. Order at the counter for a smattering of meats and sides, served Texas-style on a tray lined with butcher paper when someone shouts your name. The bargain combo, “Hot Mess,” is reminiscent of a KFC Bowl: layers of mac and cheese, pulled pork, beans, crumbled cornbread and coleslaw are topped with spicy pickles. Only, it’s served in a mason jar.
Fort Reno Provisions
Inside the Park Slope joint.