Seeing as I grew up in the heart of Texas bbq country, I'd been eager to get in and try the fare at Wexler's, the new Financial District spot with cuisine "informed by" cooking traditions of the American South and Southwest. Now I knew better than to expect bbq itself, especially since last spring I took Wexler's chef Charlie Kleinman back to aforementioned home for an inspirational little two-day bbq tour, where I got familiar with Kleinman's concept, which is not easily summarized. Certainly "bbq-informed" is not the most romantic sounding culinary description. Luckily, none of that matters, as the final result speaks for itself. No, it's not bbq--not even close--but what I had was very good.
Midway through my meal at Wexler's, I joked with the server that I wanted to start a new drinking game: every time he said the words "smoke, smoky or smoked" I was going to drink. Had I done so, however, my one touch-too-sweet but ice-cold mint julep would hardly have been enough to sustain me through the course of the meal. Because this restaurant so staunchly resists categorization, I'm going to go ahead and call it a smoke restaurant, with elements of Southern and Texas-style barbecue, along with a hefty dash of—you won't believe it, I know—farm-fresh California.
Oh, the joy of being a restaurant publicist in a city where a BBQ joint is never just a BBQ joint—chefs opening places where "BBQ is the end product but it’s not the marquee."
Watch the video below to see chef Charlie Kleinman of the soon-to-be Wexler's explaining his BBQ-but-different concept to Jared Rivera of Rivera P.R.
Now, the kicker: How to explain his restaurant concept in one sentence or less. Any takers? (As an editor, I'd disagree. Symantics are everything.) But let it be said right here and now: Wexler's is NOT a rib shack!