It's tough to find authenticity in Times Square. Since the big changes in the mid nineties, the place has become a plastic playgound and show case for national brands. In many ways, it's simply a kid-friendly Las Vegas.
Toys R Us, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the Hershey Store, and similar businesses make it a destination for thousands of tourists a day. The bright, plastic nature of Time Square can be fun; but it's not entirely trust worthy.
Sure, the fake watch dealers are authentic. And the end of the world prophets are certainly real. Crazy, but real. The stand up comics barking about their upcoming shows and passing out flyers are also authentic with a helpful mix of anger, cynicism, and pure bitterness.
But how authentic is the other stuff? I still wonder if the Naked Cowboy is actually a corporate plant for Hanes. Is the sparkly police station actually about Law Enforcement, or is it for those who never got over the cancellation of Cop Rock?
Which brings me to Virgil's Barbeque. The large, two story restaurant is on 44th ST, just off Broadway. And it is awesome. I've waited up to an hour for a table there, though recently got right in. The ribs are meaty and tender. The wings are spicy hot, large and still have a strong enough flavor to push through the heat. The pulled pork is full of flavor. The mac and cheese is great.
The waitress was refreshingly honest. She specifically discouraged one of the specials, and didn't miss a beat when asked whether the Peanutbutter Pie was better than the Blueberry Cobbler. She recomended the Pie and it was right.
Go there if you get the chance.
It's not the best barbeque I've ever had, but it is definitely up there. I don't know if I can call it real, though. Most Barbeque places (including the legendary Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City) are classic hole in the wall places. Virgil's can afford Times Square rent.
It's southern food in the middle of Manhattan. On the other hand, excluding hot dogs cooked in 9 year old fetid water, all the food in New York comes from someplace else, and New York is still the greatest food city in the world.
Virgil's isn't a chain, which does lend itself an air of authenticity. However, it is owned by the same restaurant group that operates Carmine's Italian, Artie's Deli, and Gabriela's Mexican.
I don't know if I can call Virgil's real Barbeque in New York. I don't know if I can call it authentic. What I can do is call it good.
I'm going to go lick my fingers now.