Meatopia: A Smoked Meat Carnivore's Dream with a Side of Celebrity Chefs

Gorgeous weather and view from the ferry I'm at Governors Island...
On my way to Governors Island

Meatopia. I would describe it as Big Apple BBQ but smaller (it’s on Governors Island) and arguably, a bit more chaotic as I’ve observed over time. But at least the weather was glorious for grilling, socializing and barbecue. I left my house early to meet up with my eating companion to Governors Island for three reasons.

Tickets/pass to Meatopia
My Meatopia tickets and pass

*1) It’s always packed with a ton of hungry masses (it’s publicized by the big media venues like NY Times, Time Out New York, etc.) and (2) food always runs out early. (3) And hell, pictures are better with less people in them.

Here are my highlights (and the least liked) of the 25 restaurants and pro barbecuers (and there were other vendors, will note) from this event:

Chef Joey Campanaro of The Little Owl Now THAT is beef Baron of Beef
Chef Joey Campanaro (top); That is BEEF; the dish: Baron of Beef

I highly respect Chef Joey Camapanaro’s food of The Little Owl based on my previous experiences eating at his cozy Mediterranean restaurant in the West Village. I had high expectations of his Baron of Beef and it was met. It’s a wedge of crisp focaccia bread, layered with shaved red onion, arugula and a slice of rosemary encrusted prime rib. A good ratio of bread to filling, wonderful textures of crisp, chewy and juicy and the intense flavors.


If you wanted some pyrotechnics during this smoked meats event, you got it at Ilili‘s tent. That’s if you caught the action on time. Supposedly, the cooks wanted some extra char on their lamb by squirting water on to their coals. I haven’t tried their lamb shawarma since I had eaten their food recently at their restaurant. I know it’s good but I need to reserve precious stomach space for things I have not tried before.

Joe Mizrahi's working on the La Caja China Roasted Pig The La Caja China Roasted Pig Cup of La Caja China Roasted Pig with corn and black bean salsa
Joe Mizrahi and the pig (left); La Caja China Roasted Pig

La Caja China Roasted Pig from Smokin’ Joe’s True-Blue Texas Barbecue was a thing of beaut to look at. A large whole hog, bronzed to a gorgeous deep golden brown lacquer contrasting with creamy white, juicy meat. Oh, be still my porcine loving heart. The best part was the crispy skin that’s coated with a lovely layer of adipose tissue.

Country-style Pork Ribs with Tomatillo Salsa
Country-style Pork Ribs with Tomatillo Salsa

Abe & Arthur’s‘s Country-style Pork Ribs with Tomatillo Salsa was delicious. Generously portioned, tender, meaty ribs with a sweet glaze and the tomatillo salsa was refreshing. They deservedly win first place on the pork category.

Chef Amanda Freitag and her sous grilling The Harrison's char grilled English lamb chops Celeb/Exec Chef Amanda Freitag of The Harrison and the English lamb chop

Waiting for the English lamb chop from The Harrison, Chef Amanda Frietag’s fare didn’t disappoint. A large slab of lamb chop that’s both lamb-y/gamy yet intensely flavored with rosemary. It’s not a dish for everyone, as it might be too intense for some people.

MLTs (mutton, lettuce, tomato) from Resto

If I had to pick something I didn’t really care for from this event, it had to be Resto‘s MLT (mutton, lettuce, tomato). The bread to filing ratio was way too high for my liking that it sucked the flavor out of the mutton. And it didn’t help that the bread was on the dry side.

Sam Barbieri and his pastrami brisket House cured brisket pastrami, stout mustard, pretzel roll
Sam Barbieri and his pastrami brisket sandwich

As I walked up to the Waterhouse Ale’s Fuhgeddaboutit BBQ‘s table, the cooks were playful as they see my take my photos and wanted to partake in the fun. After my brief photo shoot with them, I tried their house cured brisket pastrami slathered with stout mustard between a pretzel roll. Goodness, the brisket was amazing. Very well spiced, meaty and juicy and the mustard gave it a good kick while the pretzel roll matches very well with the spices. As I found out later, they took top prize of the Meatopia cook-off as Grand Master. A hard-earned title for the crew.

Chef Seamus Mullen
Boqueria's Whole Roated Lamb...that stares back at you Boqueria's Whole Roasted Lamb with ricotta cheese, basil, cherry tomatoes on a rosemary toast
Chef Seamus Mullen and the Roasted Lamb

Witnessing the lamb roasting process at Chef Seamus Mullen’s Boqueria‘s area earlier that morning, it’s hard to pass up a plate of their whole roasted lamb. The cooks grill up their halved loaves of ciabatta, slather it in rosemary infused oil and toast it to a lovely golden brown, slather on a bit of ricotta cheese, a few slices of perfectly roasted lamb, and finish it with fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. If I have to pick my favorite bread that I ate at this event, they took the prize. It’s a great open-faced sandwich.

Lines to The Hurricane Club (left) and the Porter House (right) Toss up... Draining the deep fried baby back ribs Plate of Honey Glazed Baby Back Ribs with Thai Basil & Mint with Lotus chips
The lines… (top); It’s deep fried ribs…; Honey Glazed Baby Back Ribs

During this time of the afternoon, I was getting stuffed but kept seeing people carrying little trays of ribs. And me being the impetuous eater, I must have it. Waiting on the long line, getting toasted and melted in the hot sun, I finally gotten the tray of honey glazed baby back ribs. I did take a sneak peak behind the scenes and found out that they were fried. Of course, almost anything fried would taste good. Frying did enhance the lovely fatty, succulent ribs and did add a slight crispness to them and the honey glaze did have the Asian flair making it sweet and savory. The Thai basil and mint made this dish interesting.

The Bent Spoon The cup with all the flavors
The Bent Spoon’s trio of flavors

As always, I must have dessert and ever since summer rolled in, I’ve been having an awful ice cream obsession, both eating and making my own. Spotting The Bent Spoon‘s tent, I made a beeline for ice cream. Serving a trio of flavors, my eating partner and I ordered it all and shared a cup (our stomach capacity is reaching to the dangerously full mode soon). My favorite was the blue apricot sorbet made from locally grown apricots (from Philly) and Jersey blueberries. Smooth like ice cream and bracing/refreshingly tart. My favorite topping (it’s the only one, if you order the maple bacon ice cream) candied maple bacon; both ingredients were from New Jersey. My spine was tingling with joy to eat that pork candy.

Robicelli's Cupcakes
The Tina...bitten The Yvonne, bitten
Robicelli’s: The Tina vs. The Yvonne cupcakes

At the VIP tent, Robicelli’s cupcakes were there to sample out their sweets. When I read down their cupcake flavor list, I saw my name (The Tina)! I talked to Matt Robicelli (the co-owner & co-founder) and asked what was his favorite (The Elvis) and mentioned that of the ones are on display, he liked the North Fork and the Tina. Thinking that I did take the North Fork, I accidentally got the Yvonne. Oh well.

The Yvonne (photo on the right) is late harvest Rieseling cake with buttercream with blueberry-Thai basil compote. It sounded great on paper but it’s slightly on the dry side (bad batch, most likely) and the Thai basil was on the tamer side, as I was hoping for a burst of flavor. As for the cake named after me (not really, it’s a woman the owners know), it fared a bit better. The chocolate cake was moist, and the frosting was balanced but again, not really punching with a lot of flavor. In all, they do have good cupcakes: the buttercream is at a great serving temperature (it’s hot as hell for butter at 90 degrees or so) and it’s not cloyingly sweet.

Making espressi My iced redeye
Making espresso and my iced redeye

As my digestif, my eating companion and I went to Dallis Coffee for a redeye. I needed the additional caffeine kick to keep myself awake and get myself out of the island (left around 2 PM yet seen swarms of people coming out of the ferry as we’re walking to the station).

For more photos, please scroll through the slideshow below:

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I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

  1. Danny says:

    wow i gotta get to this next year. it just seems like you’d get baked to a crisp on governors island in t he middle of July. As far as value goes, do you think it’s worth it for what each ticket cost?

  2. Danny: Well, it was around 90-ish degrees that day and the sun was burning bright. So yeah, I probably got a shade or two darker than I was before this event. Value? I think it’s worth it (not for the VIP though, they didn’t have table runners as they promised). You’ll start to get full around plate #4. (Another tip: Buy the non-VIP/Prime tickets at the event since they can’t charge you the fees indicated on their site)

    I pushed my boundaries and ate more since I was sharing my plates with my best friend.

  3. Steve says:

    @Danny- The parade ground/quad area had a ton of trees so it was easy to find shade.

    i got the “Choice” ticket for $33 after the Blackboard Eats discount. Totally worth it. The portions were huge. We got there early so there were no lines.

    Not sure how it will be next year.

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