On the Fourth of July, New York Times dining critic Pete Wells gave two stars (out of four; and plenty get zero) to Hill Country, the Chelsea barbecue joint. Calling it “a state-of-the-art Manhattan homage” to classic barbecue joints in Lockhart, Texas (which is in Texas’s “Hill Country”), he concluded, “Hill Country may not be the real thing. But it plays the part better than anybody else in town.”
Hill Country is near and dear to my heart, and not only because the moist brisket is every bit as delicious as Wells claims. The establishment is owned by my cousin, Marc Glosserman (who recently opened one in Washington, D.C. as well), and was in fact the subject of my first-ever contribution to Tablet Magazine—an essay which, as I see re-reading it three-and-a-half years later, has foreshadowed how I’ve come to view being Jewish in America:
One frequently hears the term “rootless” thrown around to clarify the Jews’ condition as perpetual wanderers, especially as it existed in the pre-Zionist world that brought my family to the States, and some of it to Lockhart. But the example of Hill Country makes me realize that a far better term than “rootless” is “many-rooted.” While usually not assimilating fully, Jews frequently adopted the mores of the culture surrounding them, executing a process of replication whose intensity, earnestness, and fidelity to detail would be familiar to anyone who knows about Torah study, or to anyone who has been to Hill Country.