Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What makes you an expert on barbecue?
A: I'm not an expert on barbecue, I've never claimed otherwise and have never allowed somebody else's claim otherwise to go uncontested. I'm just a guy who's been to a lot of different Northeast barbecue joints, so that gives me some perspective, but that hardly makes me an expert. On the contrary, I'd say my limited travels to the South (I've had 'cue in the Carolinas several times, Virginia and Texas only one trip each, but never Tennessee, Missouri or Georgia) make for an incomplete resume. But even completing that resume wouldn't make me a barbecue expert, because there's no such thing.
Q: How do you get a job where you can just ride around and eat all day?
A: It's not a job; it's something I do on weekends and after work. My boss thinks it's something I do instead of my day job, but that's not true. Well, at least not usually.
Q: I expected someone who eats as much as you do to be a lot fatter. Why aren't you?
A: Gee, thanks (I think). My weight fluctuates and I'm not real thrilled with it right now, but generally speaking, I get a lot of cardio in and I don't eat the entire portion of everything you see photographed on the site. While it may seem like I'm eating barbecue 4 times a week, much of that frequency is on barbecue crawls that take me and a few barbecue accomplices to three spots in one day. Think of it as one three course meal, only each course is at a different restaurant. So it may look like three meals, but it's really only one. (That's what I tell my wife and my doctor, and they don't believe me either.)
Q: You travel to New York City a lot. Do you ever take the bus?
A: No, and the number 1 reason why I don't take the bus is the number 2 reason. Anyone who's ever done an extensive crawl with me knows what I mean.
Q: Why haven't you visited [fill in restaurant name here] yet?
A: There are several reasons why this may be the case. Geography and who I'm with are the two biggest factors—the closer ones are a lot easier than the farther ones, and when I go to the farther ones, I'm generally going with or meeting other people, so I wind up going to places that they've requested or are in their wheelhouse. Sometimes a friend's postponement of an intended joint visit has a ripple effect for months. I might skip that joint to keep it in play for the next time around, and then that next time around never comes around. Just as basketball has "tweeners" (a player not tall enough to be a forward and not quick enough to be a guard), so does barbecue: places like Smokey Joe's (Stamford CT) and RW's BBQ (Brookfield CT) had gone unvisited for the longest time because they were almost in New York City. Even though they were on the way back, they were so close that I'd still be full or not yet be ready for a pit stop. New Jersey is an area where I foresaw numerous visits at the time I created the site, but the work-related reason for the trips went away. I should point out that there's no necessary correlation between how frequently I go to a joint and how much I like it. I've visited Buck's in Auburn MA a lot more than I've visited Goody Cole's Smokehouse in Brentwood NH even though I like Goody's much more. Buck's happens to be the easiest barbecue restaurant to get to at lunchtime from where I work.
Q: Why were you so easy on [fill in restaurant name here] in your review of them?
A: The goal of the site is not to rip restaurants to shreds; it's to give an unbiased description of what they serve and an opinionated but honest account of how well they do it. Although my personal preferences play a big part in how much I enjoy any joint's 'cue, I've been increasingly attempting to factor out those preferences when assessing quality. I like barbecue sauce as an optional add-on rather than a necessary crutch, and I like ribs a little firmer than fall-off-the-bone tender. But if a joint comes through with a saucy, super tender product that's done really well within their chosen style, I'm not only going to give them credit, I'm probably going to like that too. I want to make the site useful to everyone—not just those whose tastes are very similar to mine. I also am somewhat sympathetic to barbecue's inherent inconsistency and try not to jump all over a place if two of their meats are good and one of their meats is dry. And I also don't judge a barbecue joint by how good the hamsteak is.
Q: Have you tried Famous Dave's yet?
A. Yes, I have. While it's probably the best of the national barbecue chains that have penetrated the northeast, it's not a place I have a hankering to visit all that often. And this site isn't about chains.
Q. Why are you so hard on Long Island barbecue restaurants?
A. I'm not hard on Long Island barbecue restaurants. Most of them simply aren't that good. I have a few theories on why that's the case, but I'll save them for another post down the road.
Q: Why don't you judge barbecue competitions anymore?
A. Questionable hygiene and questionable ethics equal questionable food. I'm not saying that's the case with all competition 'cue (the best of it is superb), but it's true of enough of it that I'd rather allocate my limited time, travel resources and calories to 'cue that'll serve as fodder for site content.
Q: Why did you visit a restaurant really close to me and never ask if I wanted to go?
A: This one's complicated, because there are many possible reasons, and none of them diabolical. The most frequent of them are: 1) I did already ask you and you didn't get back to me; 1a) I asked you on a previous trip and you didn't get back to me; 2) I was with my wife or family and wanted to keep it to that; 3) I had no idea I'd wind up where I did until I was practically there, and didn't want to complicate things with phone calls (not allowed while driving in Connecticut and New York), waiting or having to cancel last minute. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll offer a few less than innocent (but far from diabolical) reasons: 4) I generally prefer small groups and don't want to have to worry about endless planning that gets more complicated with more people; 5) You haven't expressed an interest in joining a crawl in several years; 6) Someone I'm already with can't stand you; 7) I can't stand you; 8) You have a track record of late arrivals, no shows, stingy ordering and/or stingier tipping.
Q. Why doesn't your site allow comments?
A. It's not that it doesn't allow comments, it's that it's a home grown site (not a full fledged blog powered by Blogger or WordPress or the like). There's a PigTrip Facebook page where I post any time a new review is available and also post news, leads, photos and commentary not available on the main site. Comments are more than welcome there.
Q: Why don't you have rankings or ratings?
A: Good question, and a question I ponder frequently. There should be rankings and ratings, but I've held off for these reasons: 1) For rankings, my depth of coverage varies area to area, so it's tough to rank joints I've been to only once and even tougher to leave out joints I've never been to; 2) Barbecue joints across the board vary so greatly from visit to visit that the rankings would be volatile and the ratings near meaningless; 3) I'm the king of procrastination; 4) In my quest to make the site just as useful for those whose style preferences vary from my own as those who have a similar palate, I'm hesitant to scare them off with ratings that might reflect my own biases. That said, I recognize the need to at least have rankings, so that'll be one of my next projects for procrastination.
Got a question or comment about this site? Got a BBQ joint lead?
Please feel free to contact me: GARYatPIGTRIPdotNET
Why I Started This Site
I like barbecue. I eat a lot of barbecue.
Because I’m obsessed with barbecue, I’m not satisfied just going to the same few places over and over again. Sure, I have a “rotation” of my favorites that I wouldn’t think of letting a few weeks go by without visiting. But I have this idealistic notion that the Northeast USA ’s best barbecue just might exist somewhere that I haven’t discovered yet, so I keep searching. Combine this idealism with my sick need to go to every BBQ joint (good or bad) I hear about strictly for completeness, and you have someone who scours every newspaper, every food-related website, every search engine, just to find new places to try. I figure, why not share both my list of places and my thoughts on the places I’ve visited.
Barbecue in the Northeast has never been more popular than it is now, so there are new joints popping up all the time. But you know what? It’s not that easy finding new places. The restaurant review TV shows in my area stick to the “usual suspects” whenever their once-a-year barbecue shows air. The popular Zagat guide seems to treat all barbecue joints the same way, focusing on generic phrases like “messy meat mavens moan…” instead of really telling you anything useful about the place.
Then there’s the web. The fact that you can spell it so many ways (barbecue, barbeque, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Q and a few others) makes doing web searches tough. Plus, Google and Yahoo are often out of date, missing places that I know exist and including places that have long since bitten the dust or that have nothing to do with barbecue.
So I rely on repeated and varied searches, local newspapers and leads from friends. They literally are leads, often as cryptic as “I saw a new BBQ place is going to open up across from BJ’s. I forget what town, but it was somewhere near Brockton.” And so I go, ferreting the place out.
Why should you trust my opinion? I like barbecue. I eat a lot of barbecue. I used to be on a competition team that placed well in KCBS-sanctioned contests. I’m a certified KCBS barbecue judge. I make my own rubs and smoke ribs, chicken and pork butts on my own smoker.
But seriously, don’t trust me. Take my opinion under advisement, look at the photos, combine the information from this site with other sources and decide for yourself whether a place is worth trying.
Goals of This Site
A lot of the BBQ postings I’ve found on bulletin boards seem to simply advocate one joint over another without stating why. This site will only present one opinion (mine) on each BBQ joint, but I’ll tell you why I like or don’t like a place. I’ll tell you what type of service (counter versus table service) each place offers. What kind of meats they have. What style of barbecue they do. Whether they offer beer and wine. Whether the menu is friendly for someone who isn’t as into barbecue as you are.
The whole idea is that you get not just my opinion, but also enough objective description and photos to form your own opinion of whether you’ll like a place. Walking past a pizza parlor, I can tell just by looking through the window at the slices on someone’s plate whether I’ll like that pizza. Hopefully, this site will do that for you.
My hope is that this site will soon be a resource for not only BBQ restaurant reviews, but also restaurant news and interviews.
One more thing. I know my web development skills suck right now. So this is as much an excuse to learn HTML as it is to eat and describe barbecue.
I like meat without sauce. I don’t mind sauce, but it shouldn’t be used as a crutch to rescue dry, reheated meat. I want to taste the meat. And if the meat is good, sauce can make it better, but I’d rather decide that for myself. There are some places that make several wonderful sauces, so why get every piece of meat covered with just one? That said, I still review what’s given to me. If a place serves up a slab of sauced ribs and they do a great job within that style, I give them credit. The idea is to describe how they do it and how well they do it, so you can decide whether to want to go there yourself.
I like ribs first, pulled pork second, brisket third. For a while, I wasn’t that into brisket, primarily because so few places did it well. Ribs are the easiest to master, brisket the hardest, so it makes sense to start with the meat that everyone should be able to do right every time.
Scope of the Site
The area this site covers is roughly all of New England, plus New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley. Realistically, I probably won’t often get to the northernmost points in Maine, the easternmost points on Long Island, and some of the most rural parts of Vermont. But if it’s in a city the size of Fairfield, CT or larger, I have every expectation to give any place a try.
Living and working in eastern Massachusetts, I’m obviously going to have more chances to hear about and visit places within I-495. But my travels take me to New York frequently enough that I have good opportunity to mine the best (and worst) barbecue along US-1 and I-95. Long the laughingstock of serious barbecue fans, New York City has seen a BBQ boom in recent years, with Blue Smoke, RUB, Daisy May’s and others receiving deserved national attention. While I’m not going to pretend to be as intimately familiar with the New York restaurant scene as a native New Yorker, I’ve eaten at enough of their BBQ joints to know the good from the bad.
Barbecue is one of those topics that breed disagreement. If you disagree with something I wrote, drop me a line at DISAGREEatPIGTRIPdotNET.
More importantly, if there’s a really good joint that you think I overlooked, send ideas to REVIEWTHISPLACEatPIGTRIPdotNET. I try to hit anything that I think might be good.
BBQ Restaurant Owners
If you are a restaurant owner and you have a new menu item, or a new event, or a new location that you’d like to promote for free on this site, send anything from full press releases to a simple heads-up to PROMOTEatPIGTRIPdotNET.