By Charmaine Tadalan
For Filipinos whose idea of barbecues are thin pork slices marinated in sweet concoction of sauces, skewered on bamboo sticks and roasted over charcoal, seeing an American barbecue would be a big surprise to them.
Theirs are slabs of slow-smoked meat: pork, chicken, sausage and, most especially, beef. And in the U.S., Mighty Quinn’s Slow Smoked Barbeque has emerged as one of the best barbecue restaurants.
Since opening in 2012 in East Village, Mighty Quinn’s now has eight branches in New York and New Jersey. Earlier this year, it opened its first Asian store in Taipei, Taiwan.
And this month, it has landed on Philippine shores, bringing with it “the brisket that built Mighty Quinn” alongside other smoked meats such as Burnt Ends, Brontosaurus Ribs and Pulled Pork.
The slow-smoked barbecues are on the pricier end, albeit worth paying.
Briskets and Burnt Ends, two beef slabs grilled to butter-smooth perfection, both cost P495 per single serving and P1,290 by the pound.
The mouthwatering Brontosaurus rib, on the other hand, costs an equally hefty P1,450.
Pork meats, ranging from P435–P 495 per single serving, P1,160–P1,290 by the pound, also whet appetites. For those looking for healthier fare, chicken meat is also on the menu, costing around P405–P685.
The barbecue can be served either with a sandwich or with Mighty Quinn’s original “Manila-inspired” dirty rice—which includes smoked beef fat, beef, scallions, garlic and calamansi. No less than Mighty Quinn’s founder Hugh Mangum and his executive chefs in New York and Manila came up with this, a testament to his panache of playing around with local flavors.
Putting aside the Filipino twist, Mangum’s gourmet barbecues are a nod to his Texan roots and the barbecue methods in the Carolinas where his wife Laura hails. Every barbecue is cooked the old-fashioned way with “wood and time.” Meats are smoked for 18 to 24 hours with wood and seasoned with just the right amount of salt and spices.
Barbecue seems to run naturally in Hugh Mangum’s blood. His father, a proud Houstonian, bonded with him over barbecue weekends in his youth. When he became a musician in Los Angeles the late 90s, he would often treat his band mates with barbecues.
Mangum eventually left the band and traveled to New York City to pursued his passion for cooking. He studied at the French Culinary Institute and apprenticed at top restaurants. There he met Laura and, later on, raised a family with their three kids.
Struggling to make ends meet, in 2011 Hugh and Laura made a huge gamble of putting up a barbecue shop at the Smorgasburg flea market of food stalls in Brooklyn with only $600 in his pocket. To his surprise, his smoked briskets, pork butts and racks of ribs sold out in just 90 minutes.
This encouraged Mangum to open a brick-and-mortar barbecue shop at Manhattan’s East Village in 2012 along with stepbrother Micha Magid and Magid’s brother-in-law Christos Gourmos; it was renamed Mighty Quinn’s, after Mangum’s oldest son.
Over the years, the restaurant has earned one glowing review after the other from foodies and critics, and customers queued up to get a taste of its famed barbecues.
Mighty Quinn’s may have gone a long way now, with Mangum himself touted in one newspaper as the Big Apple’s Barbecue King. But he acknowledged that like his own barbecues, achieving the sweet and savory taste of success takes grit and time.
“I think there’s something to be said in putting in your time and doing the work,” the Mighty Quinn’s pit master told the Manila Bulletin.
“When it all went crazy and everyone started to take notice of Mighty Quinn’s, unbeknownst to me, I kind of looked at the timeline after this… and realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve done 10,000 hours of work on the smoker when it magically happened’,” Mangum said, alluding to the 10,000-hour rule from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which suggests it will take 10,000 hours of work for someone to begin to master the craft.
Imbued by this principle, Mangum shares this to the people close to him.
“My wife, she’s an artist as well and she does ceramics and every time she does something that’s awesome, she gets happy, [but] when she makes mistakes, she gets frustrated,” Mangum recalled. “But my point always is: in the mistake, you learn something. So it’s part of the 10,000 hours.”
Mangum, despite striking gold, remains humble and continues to pour more hours into his dream, much like the barbecues Mighty Quinn’s prepares.
“I’m in no way calling myself a master of my craft, I think I’m still always learning.”
Mighty Quinn’s is located at the 3rd floor of Mega Fashion Hall of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City.