It’s been a while since there has been a barbecue restaurant on the SMU side of town. Twenty-two months to be exact when Snider Plaza’s Peggy Sue BBQ closed shop for good. Since then, new restaurants have opened in the area, and the building where Peggy Sue once resided was put out of its misery, too costly to repair.
Fortunately for us, just as it’s getting too dang hot to cook it ourselves, Peggy Sue BBQ is once again available, now cooked and sold at New York Sub, the iconic sandwich shop on Asbury owned by Highland Park grad, Andrew Kelley.
Kelley created Peggy Sue’s Market to sell sauces, sides, and meats vacuum-packed to grab, go, and reheat. Just this week, he started selling hot-off-the-smoker meats which are available Monday through Thursday between 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
The smoker perfumes the air behind his old-school sandwich shop, with neatly stacked rows of post oak and hickory nearby, ready to be sacrificed for the cause: beef brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey, sausage, and, of course, pork ribs.
New York Sub shop is a University Park icon. It opened in 1974 and had a good, long run before closing in 2014. Andrew Kelley bought it and reopened it the following year, upgrading the sandwich meats to all-natural and hormone free. He also spiffed up the west-facing mural that was first painted in 1978, the same year he was born.
Kelley is a trained chef and was the youngest front-line kitchen staff member ever hired by the ultra-luxury Park Hyatt Chicago. The recipes here are his, and his choices to use premium meats and produce come from his fine dining background. The sandwich and hotdog buns and jalapeno cheese bread are worthy, flavorful, and soft, made and delivered daily by Signature Baking Company.
The old-school décor is complete with vintage arcade games including a baseball game rescued from the Ball’s Hamburgers, another Snider Plaza institution that closed in 2008. The restaurant is frequently packed for lunch then a little slower, sometimes a lot slower at night. Not enough people order submarine sandwiches, hot dogs, or salads for dinner. Hence the barbecue. Barbecue drives dinner business and since Kelley started serving hot ‘cue on June 13, dinner business has been great so far.
The restaurant staff is familial. Kelley has a day team that focuses on the New York Sub business and a team led by “Chef Joe from Armstrong” who handles the Peggy Sue side of the kitchen and trains the high school students who, without prompting, professed to thoroughly enjoy working there. Chef Joe is a much-loved culinary figure for Armstrong Elementary School families. He knows the kids and parents from working in the school cafeteria and as a frequent chef for their private events. This place is very community centric.
New York Sub/Peggy Sue BBQ does not serve alcohol, but it is BYOB so feel free to bring in your ice-cold Miller High Life or a nice Zinfandel to accompany your barbecue. Your kids will like it too, with sides such as Liam’s macaroni and cheese, named for Kelley’s son, creamed corn, and a killer potato salad inspired by a little diner in Hico called Koffee Kup.
And then there’s the cole slaw, the subject of intense interest and debate on the neighborhood Facebook Chatter group. While hundreds of locals insisted that Peggy Sue had the very best coleslaw in the world, the reality is that when Andrew brought it back to Peggy Sue’s Market, it didn’t sell. It was an old recipe that was basically mayonnaise and a whole lot of sugar and, turns out, people’s memories of it were better than the actual taste of it. Peggy Sue’s coleslaw is now more vinegar based. It might still be the very best coleslaw in the world, but it’s not the original.
New York Subs and Peggy Sue’s Market are Park Cities traditions that have been refreshed by a new generation of business owners who grew up going to these places and wanted to revive those brands for generations to come.