An Evening at B.B. King’s: Chuck Berry Upstages My Three-Meat Nachos

by Jason Roth on September 18, 2009

So, you might say, he’s Chuck Berry. It’s no surprise that his performance at B.B. King’s would outdo an order of three-meat nachos. But hold on a second. You clearly don’t have all the information.

If you think the guy in the marquee photos is Chuck Berry, please leave this website immediately.

If you think the guy in the marquee photos is Chuck Berry, please leave this website immediately.

Before you criticize my ability to compare a rock ‘n roll icon with a popular American appetizer and bar food, let’s keep a couple things in mind. First of all, Chuck Berry is 83 years old. I wasn’t even sure the performance was going to be live. For all I knew, they were going to beam it in via satellite from some St. Louis nursing home. And second, and most importantly, the three meats on B.B. King’s nachos were chicken (big deal) steak (couldn’t really taste it), and (get ready for this) pulled pork, baby.

So, what exactly did I learn last Saturday? For one thing, I learned that B.B. King’s makes an above-average plate of nachos.

(Actually, if I may slightly digress, the nachos came from Lucille’s Grill, the restaurant within the restaurant. Why the hell they feel they need a name other than “B.B. King’s” for the restaurant inside B.B. King’s is somewhat beyond reason. But the goal is to help communicate (inarticulately) that you can dine in one of the restaurant areas even when a show is taking place in the main room.)

Another thing I learned was that even though I only sampled the nachos, I can also assume that B.B. King’s serves a pretty good pulled pork sandwich.

These two facts lead to the important conclusion that you can safely eat at B.B. King’s while you’re watching Chuck Berry, B.B. King, or Fokken Jackass, the world-renowned Dokkeneque Jackson 5 tribute band, one of the eight billion tribute bands that play regularly at B.B. King’s each month.

The other thing I learned is that an 83-year-old Chuck Berry can still play his guitar “just like a ringing a bell”.

Chuck might have been having even more fun than the audience.

Chuck might have been having even more fun than the audience.

The guy unequivocally brought down the house. Not only can the guy play, he’s also freakin’ nuts. He stopped in the middle of his first song to tune several times, apologized to the crowd, demanded that someone from management come to the stage (someone stuck their head out from the side, but didn’t walk on), and then eventually introduced the start of his show a couple songs into the set. He then played for an hour in front of a packed house (mental note: get to B.B. King’s early to claim a seat at a table), and ultimately had about 18 women dancing on stage during the finale after inviting eight young ladies. (“You don’t have to be young,” he said, “just a lady.”)

Amazingly, and I’m sorry I don’t have close-up video of his hands on his guitar, but doctors ought to study this guy. My amateur medical opinion is that when you more or less invent a genre of music and then proceed to enjoy every minute of what you do for a living, that sense of pride and joy does wonders in the war against arthritis.

Had I not been so completely entertained, I might have been pondering the nature of a good plate of nachos. Therefore, I will do that now. Here are the rules of making good nachos:

  1. Nachos must be covered with cheese. And this means every chip. Not just the ones on the top, you cheap, deceptive bastards. Covering just the top layer of chips with cheese is like burning my toast and serving it to me upside down. Completely unacceptable. And note that a sufficient amount of cheese is even more important than the quality of cheese, or even the quality or quantity of chips. If we lived in a world where cheese was consistently plentiful on every plate of nachos, we can revise this rule. For now, chefs, focus on giving us enough of the melted stuff and I’ll be happy.

Now that I think about it, that’s the only rule I’m going to commit to right now. Once I see improvement in this area, I’ll proceed to rule #2.

B.B. King’s did commit the sin of sweeping some of the uncheesed nachos under the proverbial rug. Fortunately, the plate was huge, and if you move faster than your wife (as a purely theoretical example) you’ll find that you’re able to stake your claim to plenty of it. The glasses of Magic Hat produced “B.B. King Brew” didn’t hurt either. Service was good, there are plenty of good seats, and overall, a decent place to see a show. (It would be nice if Me First and the Gimme Gimmes made a trip back.)

83 years young, and still giving Marty McFly a run for his money.

83 years young, and still giving Marty McFly a run for his money.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna February 5, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Somehow I missed this one, so I’m behind the times. But better late than never. As a friend I’m obligated to tell you that B.B. Kings has been cited for severe health code violations multiple times. That may not have been pulled pork you were eating. :)

That said, I have eaten repeatedly at the Pakistani place. So I clearly am not a germophobe.

Jason Roth February 6, 2010 at 9:01 am

For readers who may not know “the Pakistani place”, that refers to the restaurant you go to after closing down a bar, surveying your choices and opting against White Castle, and then getting into a taxi and directing the driver to take you to “the Pakistani place”. So far, only one taxi driver has actually known what I was talking about from that description. (Most seem to get their grub from Little India on Lexington Ave., so I often find myself acting as the shepherd leading them to greasy new pastures.) The “place” is actually called “Cuisine of Pakistan” and you can find my endorsement here.

I know you’re just joking about B.B. King’s, but just for the hell of it, I thought I would find out more about those health code violations. I recently downloaded an iPhone App called NYC Way and one of its many functions is the ability to check health code violations. After checking out the so-called “violations” of several of my local restaurants in Queens, I’m even more suspicious of the health code and health code inspectors than I am of the restaurants. For B.B. King’s, the worst thing listed is not that the food is improperly refrigerated, but that they did not “provide” an accurate thermometer. (I’m thinking “thermometer” translates to “payoff”.)

I then looked up restaurant Daniel to see if anything was listed. The last inspection date listed is 9/25/2008 and the violations include: “Food contact surface not properly maintained”. Hmm… maybe that’s an outlier for a top restaurant. Let’s try my favorite restaurant, Le Bernardin: “Food contact surface not properly maintained, or not washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred” (5/26/2009).

I think I will officially discount the mere existence of “health code violations” as having any import whatsoever. If someone sees a rat eating my dinner, on the other hand, please let me know.

Anna February 19, 2010 at 7:04 pm

You’re absolutely right. It’s virtually , which is why you’re allowed a certain number of violations before you are considered “actually” in trouble (although you do have to pay fines for those violations).

And not to beat this dead horse, but–BB Kings has cleaned up their act. Their Oct 2009 inspection was “passing” with 23 violations. A month earlier they scored a whopping 47 violations, including, “Evidence of, or live mice in facility’s food and/ or non-food areas.” Yummy. :)

Anna February 19, 2010 at 7:05 pm

That should read, “virtually impossible to achieve a spotless inspection.”

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