>> Wednesday, October 18, 2017

(edit: the stools are better now! I claim responsibility.) 

113-30 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(728) 520-8600

Queens Bully, the Southern-inspired gastropub on Queens Boulevard that opened this Summer, is literally around the corner from where my girlfriend lives, so walks to her place are often filled with the sweet smell of barbecue smoke. Once upon a time, the location was home to the oft-derided Baluchi's Indian restaurant and, indeed, Queens Bully is owned by that same family.

I've been to Queens Bully about a half dozen times, allowing me to get acquainted with the place and see how it's ironed out its opening day kinks. Facebook at the time was alight with people complaining about waits of two-plus hours, turnover in the kitchen, and of course a cold bathroom. These grumbles have mostly subsided, except on Yelp, which is all but expected.

I happen to like Queens Bully, but I don't love it. So this review is going to be chockablock with criticism not out of negativity, but because I want it to succeed. I will try not to be petty, though I will probably fail. 

To start off, I like the interior. A lot. It's big and airy and dimly lit without being dark. It feels just right for a gastropub that does barbecue. That said there are two aspects of said interior that I hate. The bar stools are awful. They're uncomfortable, hard to move, difficult to get in and out of, and their height relative to the bartop is too low. Maybe the bar is too high? Whatever the reason, as someone who almost always prefers to eat at the bar instead of at a table, these stools are a huge negative. And speaking of sitting at the tables, many of them have four legs instead of one in the center. So you can't move. You can't cross your legs or shift. I've twice asked to move to the large communal tables where at least I don't bang my knee every two minutes.

The menu is a decent size, but there isn't any focus. Queens Bully likes to call itself a barbecue restaurant, but that's not really true. There's barbecue, but it's not close to majority of the menu. It's more Southern than anything else, but there are also empanadas, tacos, naan pizzas, a Mediterranean mezze plate, ceviche, Korean wings, a Bavarian pretzle, fish & chips... No. NO NO NO! This is supposed to be barbecue! If one goes to the website, the first thing that pops up on the screen is BBQ CULTURE... in all caps! Barbecue and fish & chips do not go together. Barbecue and a mezze plate do not go together and the result is the menu having little to no flow. The last time that I went (last week), Lutsy (girlfriend) stared at the menu for, I shit you not, a solid twenty minutes trying to decide what to order. If Queens Bully wants to be a barbecue place, great. They need to shitcan half the menu.

Look at that Instagram-worthy shot! You should probably follow me on Instagram.
Take those critiques how you will. What about the food itself? 

The Avocado Fries, served with a light breading and a side of both BBQ and chipotle aiolis are crazy good. There's only four, so savor them. Chew slowly. They are amazing. I went in thinking "this'll be meh" and could not have been more wrong. Order them. I order you. The Truffle Mac & Cheese is okay. Honestly, when I went with a buddy of mine the servers brought everything out to the table at once (which we told them to do; it wasn't a fuckup) and by the time I got to the mac & cheese I was so full and so half plastered that I couldn't have finished it if my life depended on it. That said, I give it a B and think it should lose the breadcrumbs. Meanwhile the Ill Bully BBQ Poutine - french fries with bacon, a beer gravy, and a blue cheese crema, was pretty good, but not poutine. I like poutine. Nay, I love poutine. I traveled to Montreal just to eat poutine. This was more like glorified cheese fries, which is fine, but it doesn't look so good on a menu when you put it that way. I liked it and would get it again, but the dish would be improved 1000% by using fat steak fries instead of thin fries. Thin fries and gravy turn to mushy potato slop.

One day, I ventured over all by my lonesome, attempted to be healthy, and ordered the Kale & Beet Salad, a plate of kale, quinoa, beets, and bacon thinking "kale, beets, quinoa? Sure there's bacon, but that's three superfoods against one super-villainfood." Learn from my failure. This was less a salad than a veritable mountain of ultra-diced fried kale with enough quinoa to fill a hippie's breakfast bowl. It literally crunched like it was granola. The whole thing was a disappointment. But I ate it because A) I paid for it and B) I'm sure that there was a vitamin in there somewhere.

Most recently, my trip with Lutsy was win win, the Chicken & Waffle was fantastic. Fried chicken atop a waffle, with a chipotle aioli and syrup. While the menu says it comes with "upstate maple syrup", do not let that lie fool you. As someone who only buys the real thing, I know fake when I get it. Menu bullshitting aside, it was delicious. Lutsy got the Fried Chicken BLT, a buttermilk fried chicken breast with bacon, pepperjack cheese, and a chipotle aioli. She gave it a thumbs up but I give it three thumbs up. When I went with Seth about a month ago, we ordered Bully Burgers, a chuck and short rib blend of meat with a "secret sauce" (McOohlala), cheddar and pork belly. "Yup, it's a burger" Seth said. And he was right. It was a burger. Yum, but not oh my God yum.

On the barbecue side, I was personally less impressed, though Lutsy disagrees. I ordered a half rack of Off The Bully Baby Back Ribs, which came with fries, slaw, and a cube of cornbread. The cornbread was good and it was nice to have that little layer of honey on top for added sweetness. But the ribs, while certainly better than anything I could have made at home, were far too dry. There is no comparison between this and Dinosaur BBQ, though this is within walking distance. Maybe I got a dry batch, but I was let down (BBQ CULTURE should mean fall off the bone tender). However, Lutsy got a half pound of the Chopped Pork Shoulder, served with the same sides, and she was enamored. She liked it more than the fried chicken sandwich, which I did not see coming, and still talks about how she wants to go back and get it again.

In conclusion, Queens Bully has some edits to make and some misses to swap for hits. But I like the joint overall and while I don't see myself as a hardcore regular, I so see myself there again soon. The beer list is decent, the service is very good, the lines are shorter. But I'll be at the bar, cursing the stools.

Appetizers average $13, sandwiches average $15, naan pizzas are $13, cocktails are $12. The most expensive single-person thing on the menu is $25.


Jordan October 19, 2017 at 2:03 PM  

I am so glad someone else commented on the TERRIBLE bar stools. They have a backing that is no more than 2-3 inches high, but the way it is designed, it cuts right into the buttocks of whoever is sitting, at least in my experience. I'm not a particularly large-bottomed gentlemen, so I can only imagine how a larger person would sit there. I asked a bartender about it once, and he said that no one else ever mentioned anything about the stools.

Anonymous,  October 31, 2017 at 11:29 PM  

been there many times:

Love the ribs
the shrimp and grits (currently off the menu)
country vegetables (currently off the menu)
the wings
mac & cheese
the plate that has brisket, chicken and pork belly
the bourbon nan pizza and the pesto pizza

had the burger at the very beginning and was shocked how ordinary it was.

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