Your guide to BBQ joints in Boston, New York and everywhere in between

 

 

Recent Features:

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Wildwood BBQ Preview

Dr. BBQ Bash

Hill Country

Hill Country

Eric Devlin interview

Chris Schlesinger interview

 

Recent Reviews:

Pit Stop Barbeque

Fatty Beltbuckles

Sparky's Texas BBQ

Smokin' Q

Georgia's Eastside BBQ

Rick's Roadhouse

Smoken' Joe's BBQ

Danny's Little Taste of TX (update)

Pig Out Barbecue

MoJo's BBQ Shack

The Smoke Joint

 

Joints by Region:

 

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New York City BBQ

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Rhode Island BBQ

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BBQ by City:

(coming soon)

 

Albany NY

Arlington MA

Augusta ME

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Brooklyn NY

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Cambridge MA

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Archives: June 2008

 

 

(06/30/08)

Boston BBQ: Pit Stop Barbeque Reviewed

The site's 143rd review is now posted for Pit Stop Barbeque, the joint that's in Mattapan or Dorchester, depending on your source. This is one of Boston's oldest and longest running havens for ribs, chicken and soulful sides, so I'm glad I finally got around to visiting and reviewing this joint. See the review via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.

 

 

 

 

(06/28/08)

Connecticut BBQ: Connecticut BBQ Restaurants (Cookhouse, Wilson's) and BBQ Teams (Purple Turtles, QHaven) in the News

It seems like everyone's getting into barbecue these days, with newspapers jumping on the bandwagon like never before. Last week, several of the nutmeg state's best known personalities were profiled.

 

Monday's New Haven Business Journal featured Rob Rider of the Cookhouse (E. Hartford, New Milford, Darien), Ted Lorson of the QHaven competition/catering team and Pete the Butcher.

 

A Fairfield Business Journal story featured Nancee Gell and Greg Hunter of the Purple Turtles competition/catering team and pitmaster Ed Wilson of Wilson's Holy Smoke (Fairfield CT).

 

 

 

(06/27/08)

My Top 10 Favorite Cole Slaws

For some, green vegetables and starchless barbecue sides are avoided or merely tolerated. Me? I'm a collard green aficionado and an admitted cole slaw freak. There's something that just seems to be right about combining cabbage and pork, with a little vinegar to cut the fat. I lean more to the vinegar side than the creamy side, but I'm a fan of every variety of cole slaw.

 

As always, this is a "favorites" list, not a "best" list, because your mileage may vary. Here's what I'm liking:

 

1. Blue Smoke, NYC. Their cole slaw seems to be almost an anachronism on a plate of barbecue, because it's unlike any of the others. There's a nutty flavor in there, possibly from sesame oil. Whatever they're doing, I like it, and it's always got the right crunch.

 

2. BT's Smokehouse, Brimfield MA. This cole slaw is the kind your mother used to make if your mother was a chili head. It has a nice creaminess and an orange tint from more than just carrots. The highest praise I can offer this cole slaw is that I always bring at least one quart home with me whenever I visit.

 

3. Waterfront Alehouse, NYC. Here's another slaw with a very unique flavor, and it pairs perfectly with barbecue. Perfectly balanced between vinegary and creamy, it packs caroway seeds for an extra punch.

 

4. Uncle Willie's, New Haven CT and Waterbury CT. This is your basic everyday cole slaw, but perfectly executed. It's probably the most colorful of all the cole slaws I've tried, and like Waterfront, it's got the tangy/creamy balance down pat.

 

5. Smoke Joint, Brooklyn. This one doesn't hit you right away, but after several forkfuls you realize this is one of the good ones. The cabbage is sliced thin and there's a little heat to make things interesting.

 

6. Blue Ribbon, West Newton MA and Arlington MA. Their everyday cole slaw is solid and reliable. But their hellfire cabbage slaw that makes frequent appearances on the specials board is a thing of beauty. Combining garlic, citrus juices and a good dose of chili peppers, this slaw will pick you up and carry you home. That's why I usually make it a point to buy a quart of it and take it home.

 

7. Wilson's, Fairfield CT. This is another of those subtle slaws that tastes better with each successive bite. The vinegar lets you know it's there without knocking you over, and those celery seeds give it a distinctive flavor.

 

8. East Coast Grill, Cambridge MA. This is probably the best of the creamy cole slaws, with a thickness that doesn't overwhelm you with Mayo.

 

9. Buck's Naked, Freeport ME. Here's another creamy slaw that I realy like. This one has lots of herbs and maybe some sour cream in there too.

 

10. RUB, NYC. You've got to love a place that has two different cole slaws. Being a vinegar guy, I ordered nothing but the vinegar slaw for years, but I tried the Mayo slaw earlier this year and liked it a lot. It has just enough lubricant to let it mix while also letting you taste the cabbage.

 

(06/26/08)

Connecticut BBQ: Blues, Views and BBQ Festival Brewing in Westport CT

The town approvals have just been wrapped up for an exciting first year event called Blues, Views & BBQ, to be held September 20-21 on the banks of the Saugatuck River in Westport CT. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association, led by Bob LeRose of Westport's Bobby Q's barbecue restaurant, is putting on a two-day event that promises something for everyone and is an absolute must for the barbecue fan, judge or competitor.

 

click here to see event website

 

Competitions include a backyard contest (chicken, ribs, chef's choice) Saturday afternoon, an Iron Chef contest Saturday night and the traditional KCBS barbecue contest Sunday afternoon, along with a sauce contest. The total prize money for these contests is $10,000.

 

There will be beer sampling from a host of microbreweries, sauces and other specialty food vendors, family activities, street performers and live music both days. Barbecue will be available from Pennsylvania's Smoken' Dudes, Westport's own Bobby Q's (who'll be cooking with some surprise guests from Kansas City) and additional vendors. Westport restaurants will also be offering grilled fare. If you're just getting into barbecue, the cooking demos and barbecue education will be right up your alley.

 

For more information as the details come into focus, check the event website: www.bluesviewsbbq.com.

 

 

(06/25/08)

Laying Down the Law (BBQ Style)

As the presidential candidates start to accelerate their campaign rhetoric, the time-tested “tough on crime” chestnut is certain to make an appearance. I’m not running for anything, but if I were, my platform would be sure to include a demand for immediate legislation to fight these crimes, barbecue and otherwise:

  • If it ain't smoked, don't call it BBQ. There are too many so-called BBQ joints out there peddling oven-cooked, grill-heated fare as BBQ just because it's covered with BBQ sauce, but I'd never allow that under my watch. Their food might still be good (not usually), but it's going to be illegal to call it BBQ unless it is BBQ. In this era of pan-seared this and fire-roasted that in every upscale menu description, you can incorporate this approach to creatively describe how your chicken's really cooked, but you can't call it "BBQ chicken." One other offshoot of this law: an immediate cease and desist order if you bitch about how others confuse grilling and BBQ but constantly refer to your grilling contest as a barbecue contest.

  • “Award Winning.” I’ve covered this ground before, but now I’m seeking to pass legislation. If you’re going to describe your ribs, sauce or barbecue in general as “award winning,” it’ll be a felony if you don't specifically say what award you won. It’ll also be a felony if you brag about your barbecue that won awards on the circuit but try to pass off ersatz ribs (cooked with different woods in different equipment, using different rubs and sauces) at your restaurant. One more thing: if you try to just hire an existing barbecue team to cook under your name (cooking totally different food) to bring trophies into your restaurant—and I know this is being done in some circles—you’ll be doing hard time for life.

  • Chicken wings. There are two different wing crimes committed on an everyday basis at barbecue joints across the country. First, you can’t call them BBQ wings unless the wings are smoked (see above). When I’m in charge, all menus must declare whether the wings are deep fried, oven-baked or smoked. And then there’s the bigger crime: I’ll make sure you can no longer say “8 wings” on your menu if you only supply 4 drumettes and 4 wingettes, because that's only 4 wings! Eight wings means 8 whole wings, or 16 total pieces. It's time to end the deception.

  • Reviews. I see many restaurant websites with a separate page listing reviews, press or “What people are saying about us.” That’s great, but if you’re going to have one of those pages, you have to include all reviews, both the good and the bad. I recently started adding “Other Opinion” at the bottom of my reviews. If you have a link to a contrarian review, pass it along and I’ll add it to my review.

  • Table of Contents. OK, this one has little if anything to do with barbecue, but as a reader of food and other types of magazines, I’m constantly annoyed by the hide-and-seek approach to the table of contents. It shouldn’t take longer to find Jeffrey Steingarten’s Vogue column than it does to read it. My law: the table of contents has to start and finish within the first 10 pages or the magazine is off the stands.

  • "Ribs" means more than one. If you provide a big ass beef rib that stands lonely but proud, that’s great. Call it the best beef rib on the planet. But if you call the dish “beef ribs” and there’s only one, the customer gets another one, on the house, or I'm shutting you down.

 

 

 

(06/24/08)

Boston BBQ: I Smell Smoke, IQue and Uncle Jed Take Rib Wars Honors

For the third year in a row at the Rib Wars event at Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA), competition teams took home the hardware. In a split decision, I Smell Smoke team took the people's choice award, IQue was the people's second choice and Uncle Jed's BBQ was named the judge's choice.

 

I enjoyed all five rib entries, any of which would have been a worthy candidate to win the coveted Pabst Blue Ribbon award.

 

 

 

(06/23/08)

New Hampshire BBQ: I Smell Smoke Grand Champions at Merrimack; Lakeside Smokers Reserve Grand Champs

In competition barbecue, it was a repeat of last week's Peter's Pond results at yesterday's New Hampshire State BBQ Championships at Merrimack NH. Juggernaut I Smell Smoke again claimed the grand championship trophy and Lakeside Smokers again took reserve grand. I Smell Smoke also claimed a first place trophy in the pork category and Lakeside Smokers took home the trophy for first place ribs. Other category winners included Sexy Gino's for chicken and IQue for brisket.

   

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I Smell Smoke:

Carlotta Pini, Charlie Pini, Steve Farrin.

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Lakeside Smokers:

Mike and Kris Boisvert.

 

The only restaurant representative at the event was Andy Husbands of Tremont 647 in Boston. Normally a member of the IQue team, Husbands for this contest only cooked as the Share Our Strength Charity team. He was joined by Marvin and Dottie Ziskin, winners of an auction to benefit Share Our Strength, one of the country’s leading hunger relief organizations. The team took a fifth place ribbon for brisket and demonstrated enough proficiency in the other categories to earn a fifth place overall finish. IQue finished third; Transformer BBQ finished fourth.

   

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Andy Husbands and Chris Hart of IQue: opponents for one day.

The Budweiser brewery was

the backdrop.

 

 

(06/22/08)

Boston BBQ: Another Night at the Beach Party; Behind the Scenes With Tuffy Stone

I returned to the Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party last night, this time with my wife. The goal was to visit a few of the vendors that I hadn't tried two nights earlier, and to revisit two of the better vendors. I made a few additions to yesterday's random thoughts and observations post.

   

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Willingham's ribs.

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Johnson's ribs.

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Porky and Beans' ribs.

 

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Ribs at Cool Smoke-- the best

of the night on Saturday.

The highlight of the visit, foodwise and otherwise, was the stop at Cool Smoke. Their competition team is ranked #2 in the nation according to The Pickled Pig and #10 according to National BBQ Rankings, so I was eager to try them on both nights I visited. On Thursday, the ribs were good. On Saturday they were superb. Pitmaster Tuffy Stone was kind enough to give me a tour of his event kitchen, which included two smokers. He's literally counting down the days (69 as of Saturday) until his barbecue restaurant Q opens in Richmond VA.

   

Professional service.

 

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Ribs on deck.

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Cutting ribs.

 

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A closer look.

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Cool Smoke pitmaster Tuffy Stone.

 

One of two smokers.

 

 

(06/21/08)(a few additions 06/22/08)

Boston BBQ: Phantom Beach Party Tips, Random Thoughts and Observations

I may go back tonight (if I can sell my wife on this one), but if not, I'll get my stream of consciousness going right here, right now:

  • Given today's weather and tomorrow's expected weather, the lines will be pretty long tonight.

  • To avoid wasting time in lines and money on bad barbecue, be sure to circle the entire area, take a look at the food on other people's plates and determine what looks good to you. Don't be afraid to ask people where they got that plate of ribs from and whether they like them. Ask where else they've been. Chances are if they also like another place you liked or also disliked another place you disliked, you can put some weight into their opinion.

  • If you're going with a group, the best approach is to share line duty meet in a designated spot with the food. Unfortunately, there's not much seating, but good options include the upstairs bar area at City Hall, the steps facing the stage and any condiment table you can commandeer.

  • When choosing which barbecue vendors you'll patronize, look at their signage. Almost all of them try to impress you with a roll call of their many barbecue awards, but pay close attention to the details. If "Best Ribs 2005" is followed by "American Royal" or "Memphis in May," that's good. If it's followed by "Kankakee Pumpkin Festival" or "Myron Fafoofnick's Bar Mitzvah," that's not so good.

  • Save the long lines for after you've already hit a couple of stands and you're not too hungry. You can digest while in line, a key multitasking technique.

  • Be forewarned: you can't bring beer out of the designated areas. I figured I'd get a beer first and bring it with me while I waited in one of the longer lines, but was told I couldn't take it out of the area. They should have said this on my way in. They should also have said you can't leave the event and come back in. That policy is a shame, because with Fanueil Hall so close by, I can see some people wanting to hit the Beach Party in two waves, with some shopping in between.

  • Based on my experience Thursday night, I don't see much correlation between line length and quality.

  • Speaking of quality, as a general rule (there are some exceptions), I've found that quality here runs inversely proportional to the amount of schtick and spectacle exhibited by the pitmasters on the Phantom Gourmet preview show last Sunday (all that was missing was Mean Gene Okerlund).

  • One more thought on quality, both food and otherwise. On other sites and at the office water cooler, you'll find the pro-Andelman camp who love this event and you'll find the Andelman bashers who can't say enough bad things about the event. I fall right in the middle. It is what it is. I wouldn't equate this event with New York's Big Apple BBQ Block Party, whose participants included some of the most respected and legendary pitmasters in the business, but you'll definitely find something to like at the Beach Party.

  • One thing the Beach Party needs to borrow from the Big Apple Block Party is the speed pass concept, allowing you to pre-pay and bypass the long lines. It's good for the public and it's good for business, generating higher sales. I'd gladly buy a $100 pre-paid ticket and wind up buying more rubs, sauces and T-shirts than I would ordinarily.

  • The 3-rib sampler most stands offer (usually $7) is the best deal, even though you can get 6 for $12. Get this even if you're a twosome and one of you will only get one rib. It'll save stomach space and if it's not your cup of tea, you dodged a more expensive bullet. If it is your cup of tea, you can always go back. Think of that extra $1 as rib insurance.

  • Grab extra napkins ahead of time. They're not readily available at every stand, so the ones stashed in your pocket will come in handy.

  • There's an old addage: if you have bad barbecue, you try to save it by covering it with sauce. That strategy won't fool the barbecue connoisseur, but it does work all too often with a largely unsuspecting crowd. The popularity of some vendors at this event proves that if you have really bad barbecue, you cover it up with sauce, gimmickry and silly costumes.

  • There's more than just 'cue here. You can grab a slice at Sal's Pizza, clams at Firefly's and hot dogs from many of the barbecue vendors. Celebrities spotted Thursday night: Former Celtics great Cedric Maxwell (hanging with the Andelmans) and KCBS official Linda Mullane (offering some sisterly love to fellow Philadelphian Jack McDavid).

  • Avoid the platters that come with sides. Save that stomach room for more meat.

  • As Emeril likes to say, make friends. If someone asks you how you likeyour ribs and you have a boat of six, offer one. Again, you'll have more stomach room to try more items and the good karma just might come back to you.

 

 

 

(06/20/08)

Boston BBQ: A Night at the Beach Party

Work got a little crazy this week, so I didn't get a chance to hit the Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party until Thursday night. I was fearing Celtics celebration crowds making the lines unbearable, but for the most part the waits were pretty reasonable. I'm not so sure that will be the case Friday night or throughout the weekend.

 

I'll post some observations later on, but for now, here are a few photos.

   

Greeted with beads.

 

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Willingham's ribs-- probably the

best of the night.

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Pulled pork sandwich at Cool Smoke.

 

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Ribs at Cool Smoke.

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Jack McDavid's ribs.

 

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Chillin' with ribs and Jack McDavid.

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Butch's ribs, before applying

his Lip Smackin' sauce.

 

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Brisket at Cowboy's BBQ.

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Fried clams at Firefly's.

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Steve Uliss (right) of Firefly's

with Eddie Andelman.

 

 

 

(06/19/08)

New Hampshire BBQ: Rock'n Ribfest, New Hampshire State BBQ Championships at Budweiser Merrimack This Weekend

For the second year in a row, major BBQ events are being held in Boston and Merrimack NH on the same weekend. In Boston, it's the Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party; in New Hampshire, it's the sixth annual Rock'n Rib Fest organized by the Rotary Club of Nashua West.

 

 

Held at the Budweiser brewery in Merrimack, the festival offers ribs and other barbecue fare from a half dozen nationally renowned vendors. You can also enjoy carnival foods (cheesesteaks, burgers, onion rings, fried dough, fried oreos), specialty food vendors (hello, Doctor Gonzo), hot air balloon rides, aerial acrobatic performances, a Manchester Wolves Dance Team performance and musical entertainmentall weekend, with headliner James Montgomery taking the stage Saturday night. The Budweiser brewery will be open for tours and tastings, and you might even see a Clydesdale or two.

 

For many, the the weekend's focus is on the New Hampshire State BBQ competition, with the grilling event on Saturday and the KCBS barbecue event on Sunday. These are open to the general public for viewing, any of the competitors enjoy talking 'cue and technique with spectators, but be aware that local laws prohibit vending and sampling. Also remember that the competition is serious business, so please hold off on questions during those two hours of final preparation and turn-ins (11:30AM to 1:30PM).

 

www.rotaryribfest.org

 

 

 

 

(06/18/08)

Boston BBQ: Behind the Scenes at Blue Ribbon

It's been more than a year since my last visit to the Blue Ribbon commissary, so I checked in on the Saturday before Father's Day to catch all of the activity.

 

"Father's Day is our second-busiest day of the year after the Super Bowl," said owner/pitmaster Geoff Janowski. With graduation parties added to the mix, I could see why there were dozens of catering orders being processed throughout the 5,000 square foot facility hidden on a back street in an industrial area of Newton, several miles from their flagship store on Washington Street.

Blue Ribbon feature with photos, news, commentary

 

 

Boston BBQ: Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party Kicks Off Today

In typical fashion, Boston's City Hall Plaza will be mobbed with fans the day after the Celtics win the championship. Only this time, those fans will be connoisseurs of 'cue, gobbling their fair share of nourishment (and more than their fair share of schtick) from road warrior pitmasters hailing from all across the country and beyond. The second annual Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party starts today andruns through Sunday.

 

 

The line-up of pitmasters includes:

  • Joe Alexander (of Rasta Joe's, Indiana)

  • Dennis Carino (of Porky 'n' Beans, Florida)

  • Dallas Green (of Cowboys Barbeque and Rib Company, Texas)

  • Dan Johnson (of Johnson's Bar-B-Que, Virginia)

  • Butch Lupinetti (of Smack Your Lips BBQ, New Jersey)

  • Paul Mackay (Awesome Aussie BBQ, Australia)

  • Jack McDavid (of Jack's Firehouse in Philadelphia and co-host of Food TV's Chillin' and Grillin')

  • Tuffy Stone (Q Barbecue, Virginia)

  • Steve Uliss (of Firefly's BBQ, 3 locations in MA)

  • John Willingham (of Willingham's, Tennessee)

 

Steve Uliss, the only locally-based pitmaster, understands the "why visit him now when I can go to his restaurant anytime" approach that many of the attendees build into their strategy. That's why he's doing something to set him apart from the crowd: Southern style fried clams. His second-in-command, a veteran of Woodman's (Essex MA, inventors of the fried clam) will be manning the outdoor deep fryers.

 

I missed the Beach Party last year but plan on attending tonight or tomorrow, depending on my work schedule. Based on a combination of research and gut instinct, I already have my pecking order of pitmasters to visit.

 

For more details and tickets, see www.phantomgourmetbbq.com

 

 

 

(06/17/08)(second post)

Boston BBQ: Jed LaBonte is a Movie Star

Check out the latest video profile on Boldfacers.com, a weekly web publication "dedicated to uncovering Boston's up-and-comers from all walks of life." This week's video profile is none other than Jed LaBonte—pitmaster of Uncle Jed's Barbecue team, former President of the New England Barbecue Society, a mainstay of the Northeast barbecue circuit and all around bon vivant.

 

Jed's motto: "Everybody's gotta eat. Some eat better than others." I couldn't have said it better myself.

 

The Jed LaBonte video profile

 

 

 

(06/17/08)

Boston BBQ: I Smell Smoke Wins Peter's Pond, To Defend Rib Wars Title at Jake's, June 23

I Smell Smoke took grand championship honors at the Peter's Pond barbecue contest on Cape Cod last Saturday, also claiming three first-place trophies for chicken, pork and brisket. Lakeside Smokers were the reserve grand champions, also taking first place in the shellfish category.

 

I Smell Smoke: Steve Farrin, Charlie Pini, Doug Pini.

 

The line-up for the June 23 Rib Wars event (also known as the "Battle of the Bones") at Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA) has changed, allowing I Smell Smoke to defend their 2007 title.

 

Other competition teams will include Uncle Jed's BBQ (last year's second place finisher) and IQue. Although IQue members Andy Husbands and Ed Doyle have competed in previous years, this will be the first Rib Wars appearance for IQue lead cook Chris Hart.

 

Restaurant teams competing in the event include Jake's Dixie Roadhouse, Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Que (W. Newton MA) and Soulfire (Allston MA).

www.jakes-bbq.com

 

 

Pennsylvania BBQ: I Smell Smoke To Hold Cooking Class in Warminster PA, June 28-29

Steve Farrin and the I Smell Smoke team from Malden MA will be heading down to the BBQ Guru headquarters in Warminster PA to hold an overnight, hands-on barbecue cooking class on June 28. I Smell Smoke is the dominant team in the Northeast right now, with back-to-back New England Barbecue Society Team of the Year titles in 2006 and 2007, more than 20 grand championships and numerous trips to the prestigious Jack Daniels World Barbecue contest.

 

"This is the real deal," promises Farrin. "We'll be showing the class
exactly how we cook our entries for a contest and not holding anything
back." The class is limited to 40 students and will have a real competition setting, cover all of the aspects: meat selection, rubs, preparations, sauces, garnish, box presentation. Students are encouraged to bring their own equipment, but extra smokers will also be on hand.

 

The class runs from 12:00 noon to 12:00 noon andwill be held rain or shine. The $250 class fee includes a Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast. A $50 meat fee (optional) includes six chicken thighs, one rack of ribs, one bone-in pork butt and one whole brisket.

 

More information

 

 

 

(06/16/08)

New York City BBQ: Robbie Richter and Scott Smith to Serve Barbecue at the NYC Food Film Festival, June 19

Photo courtesy NYC Food Film Festival. Used with permission.

 

The second annual New York Food Film Festival kicked off this weekend at Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City, Queens. Organized by Harry Hawk and George Motz (Hamburger America), the festival screens food-inspired documentaries accompanied by related cuisine. This Thursday, the theme is barbecue, with Holy Smoke Over Birmingham, The Rise of Southern Cheese and The Sloppiest Burger in Maylasia are among the films slated for the bill.

 

Speaking of Maylasia, Robbie Richter (formerly of Hill Country and soon to be of the Maylasian barbecue joint Fatty 'Cue) will be on hand to cook some barbecue fare, along with Scott Smith, pitmaster of RUB. In keeping with the subject matter of the barbecue film, Richter will be doing his take on smoked chicken with Alabama white sauce. Smith will be serving RUB's pulled pork sandwiches.

 

Entrance to the festival is free; burgers, deep-fried hotdogs, fries and a full bar are also available each night. www.nycfoodfilimfestival.com

 

 

Weekend Wrap-up: A Return to Blue Ribbon, a Visit to the Offsite Commissary and a Beach Party Sighting at Firefly's

On Sunday I made another pilgrimage to Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Que (West Newton MA), where I tried another version of their Dixie Loaf sandwich. This rendition was tighter than the first—more closely resembling the smoked sausage fatty ideal—and bursting with sage and other flavors, like a breakfast sausage on steroids. But the more significant Blue Ribbon visit was on Saturday morning, when I stepped inside their offsite commissary to observe the action as the staff geared up for a full schedule of catering orders and a busy Father's Day Sunday. I'll have photos and commentary on Wednesday.

 

Friday night was a visit to Firefly's (Framingham MA), whose parking lot housed the large rigs that will be heading to Boston in a few days for the second annual Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party at City Hall Plaza. I saw not only the Firefly's rig but also the one belonging to Texas's Dallas Green. Inside, I got a chance to meet the "Beef Baron" himself, who was enjoying a big glass of red wine. I'm looking forward to trying his brisket at the festival later this week. As for my dinner, I tried an experimental batch of ribs that Firefly's honcho Steve Uliss prepared using a different rub. He's still tweaking it, so I'll hold off on any photos until it's a done deal.

 

 

 

(06/14/08)

New York City BBQ: Johnny Trigg and Rod Gray To Bring Barbecue Master's Class To New York City, August 2

Champion pitmasters Johnny Trigg and Rod Gray have agreed to share their most fiercely guarded secrets and methods with a barbecue workshop limited to 50 students at New York City's Pier 40 on Saturday, August 2.

 

Texan Johnny Trigg is the only competitor in the history of the prestigious Jack Daniels World Barbecue to win an unprecedented two Grand Championships, and he's been named Cook of the Year by the KCBS in chicken, ribs, and brisket. Kansas City's Rod Gray helms Pellet Envy, one of the top nationally ranked barbecue teams six straight years. Last year they had two perfect scores for ribs and were named Rib Cooks of the Year by KCBS.

 

During the event, these barbecue masters will prepare chicken, pork tenderloins and Boston Butt for pulled pork, steaks and briskets and much more, using both hot direct grilling and indirect Southern-style smoking. Each will reveal every ingredient and method of marinating, injecting, and rubbing meats with spices to achieve maximum flavor and tenderness. Instruction will employ equipment ranging from traditional barrel-style wood-fired barbecue pits, to high-tech automated pellet cookers. With the class held to only 50, everyone is guaranteed close-up, hands-on instruction.

 

Lunch will be catered by Chef Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May's BBQ.

 

This event runs from 8:00AM to 8:00PM and will be held rain or shine. The price is $1150. For more information, contact Penina Bareket at penina@dandrevents.com or (212) 331-8805.

 

Staten Island BBQ: True-Blue Texas Barbecue To Hold BBQ Pitmaster University Classes, July 19 and August 16

Staten Island's True-Blue Texas Barbecue, who've been serving critically acclaimed barbecue for 20 years, will be bringing their BBQ Pitmaster University training classes to historic Richmond Town on Saturday July 19 and Ssturday August 16.

 

True-Blue Texas Barbecue's Smokin’ Joe Mizrahi will be joined by long time BBQ buddy Stephen Harkavy, pitmaster for the award winning “Fuhgeddaboutit” BBQ Cooking Team. Both are accomplished pitmasters and Memphis in May (MIM) certified barbecue judges, having judged at both the MIM World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and the prestigious Jack Daniels Invitational Barbecue Cooking Contest. In addition, Harkavy is a Kansas City Barbecue Society certified judge.

 

The class runs from 11:00AM to 4:00PM and concludes with a True-Blue Texas Barbecue meal. Dinner will include slow smoked beef brisket, BBQ pulled pork shoulder, spare ribs, slaw, pit baked beans, cornbread and a specially prepared dessert baked on the open hearth in a reflector oven made at the historic village.

 

The price for the class is $75. For more information, see www.smokinjoesbbq.com

 

 

 

(06/13/08)

Long Island BBQ: Fatty Beltbuckles Closes; Fatty Beltbuckles Reviewed

I was planning to post my review of Fatty Beltbuckles today anyway, even before I learned that the Rocky Point barbecue restaurant had been closed for a week. I'm not going to speculate on whether recent criminal allegations against the owner and chef had anything to do with the closing, but it certainly couldn't have helped.

 

 

The site's 142nd review is now posted for Fatty Beltbuckles. See the review via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.

 

 

 

(06/11/08)

Joints Directory Madness

Here's the latest batch of Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time, there are six new joints (three of which are in Maine), one sale/re-opening and two into the dead pool.

  • Q Smokehouse (Methuen MA), the joint with both pizza and barbecue, is no more. Thanks to Mike for the info.

  • Freedom BBQ (Island Park NY) has mercifully shut its doors. It's been sold and re-opened two weeks ago under new ownership and a new pitmaster as Island Smokehouse.

  • Bob-B-Q's (Shrub Oak NY) didn't get a glowing review on Chowhound after its first week of operation, but we can always hope that the one poster's reaction isn't representative and that the learning curve will yield improvement.

  • Cowboy Jim's (Ayer MA) is another in a growing trend of BBQ joints operating out of a trailer or truck. In this case, it's a converted Wachusett Potato Chips truck with 320,000 miles on her, parked in the Gervais Ford accessory lot on Ayer Road. The offerings are more grilled than smoked, but there is a pulled pork sandwich on offer. www.cowboyjimsbbq.net

  • Grill Zilla (Damariscotta ME) is a seasonal BBQ joint a little north of Portland that's open Wednesday through Saturday. Thanks to Sully for the tip. www.grillzillabbq.com

  • BBQ Bob's Real Pit Barbeque (Bethel ME) is another trailer BBQ operation. Look for the orange trailer at the Good Food Store on Route 2. Thanks to Lowell for the tip.

  • Crazy Dave's BBQ (Ellsworth ME) is a yet another trailer operation, this one in the Super Shoes parking lot near Bar Harbor. Thanks again to Lowell. www.crazydavespitbbq.com

 

 

 

(06/10/08)

New York City BBQ: (Other People's) Coverage of the Big Apple BBQ Block Party

Some obligations here in the Boston area kept me away from the Big Apple BBQ Block Party for the second year in a row. I had been looking forward to this event for weeks, and now I'll have to look forward for 52 more.

 

I don't buy the claims that the event has "jumped the shark," though I can see how the novelty factor has worn off—especially for those without fast passes who waited in line ("on line" in the local parlance) in 90+ degree weather. For upwards of an hour per vendor for essentially the same roster as in years past. In its first year, the block party filled a void. Make that a huge void. Though you can argue, probably successfully, that the pitmasters present last weekend supplied a level of 'cue that surpassed what's on offer in the city on a daily basis, the gaping barbecue hole of five years ago doesn't exist anymore. And that quality gap was surely narrower than in the inaugural bash. But gap, gape or otherwise, if the names Mike Mills, Chris Lilly, Ed Mitchell and others have meaning to you, it was probably worth the wait, and I can't wait 'til next year.

 

If you missed the event or want a visual reminder of what you already enjoyed, here are some links to BABBP coverage:

 

 

 

(06/09/08)

Weekend wrap-up: Lester's, Cookout and Pearl Frank Fatties

On Thursday night a couple of friends and I visited Lester's (Burlington MA), where we tried most of the meats and had a great time talking 'cue with their pit dude Artie. He thought my review of Lester's was a little tough; I re-read it and thought it was pretty favorable. What do you think?

 

Saturday night was a cookout at another friend's house to celebrate a graduation, and they presented pulled pork and buns to make sandwiches. Given the logistics of the event and the heat that day, you really can't blame them for cooking the shoulders in an oven ahead of time. But it's tough to be put on the spot as "the barbecue guy" when they ask how it is.

 

Sunday, despite the high humidity and temperatures in the 90s, I fired up the WSM smoker. What do you make when you have hot dogs but no rolls? Pearl frank fatties, that's what.

 

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(06/06/08)

Contests: Grillin' On the Bay in Brooklyn Tomorrow

Tomorrow at the St Mark School in Brooklyn, teams from the tri-state area and Massachusetts will battle over high heat in the third annual Grillin' on the Bay. Sponsored by RUB, the grilling contest is a benefit for the school. Categories include chicken breast, fish, pork and chef's choice. There may even be some celebrity sightings, so give it a look. www.grillinonthebay.org

 

 

Long Island BBQ: Sparky's Cornbread Revealed

It's been a hectic last few weeks for me, so I've been doing much of my writing in spurts. That can sometimes lead to things slipping between the cracks. Yesterday I realized after reading my review for Sparky's Texas BBQ that I forgot to include a photo of the cornbread, the highlight of the visit. The review is updated.

 

 

 

California BBQ: The Rib Photo I Should Have Taken Four Years Ago

Two days ago I mentioned that Mr. Cecil's California Ribs, a California BBQ joint, would be appearing at this year's Big Apple BBQ Block Party. I dug out a photo of the Los Angeles branch that I took after an enjoyable 2004 visit, but lamented that I never took a photo of the ribs. Mr. Cecils chef/owner Jonathan Burrows kindly sent me a photo of the ribs for posterity. Now that's class!

 

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Photo courtesy of Mr. Cecil's California Ribs. Used with permission.

 

Massachusetts BBQ: Pig Roast at Route 7 Grill One Week From Tonight

It's pig season, so get ready for the next pig roast at Route 7 Grill. The roasting takes place on Friday, June 13, from 5:00 to 9:00 PM outside under the pavillion. Locally raised Yorkshire spit roasted pork will be served with beans, slaw, veggie pasta salad, local green salad and corn on the cob, with local strawberry shortcake for dessert. The dinner is $30 with advance reservation, $35 at the door. www.route7grill.com

 

 

 

(06/05/08)

Long Island BBQ: Sparky's Reviewed

The site's 141st review is now posted for Sparky's Texas BBQ, one of the handful of new BBQ joints to have sprouted up on the Island in the past year. See the review via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.

 

 

 

(06/04/08)

New York BBQ: Big Apple Block Party Just Three Days Away

Don't forget: fourteen pitmasters and a handful of pastry chefs will have their goods ready to taste this weekend in New York City at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. Don't miss Chris Lilly's pork, Mike Mills's ribs and Ed Mitchell's whole hog. For all the info you need to know, check out the website. www.bigapplebbq.org/2008/

 

If you like talkin' 'cue almost as much as eatng it, be sure to also check out some of the seminars that are available, featuring writers like John T. Edge, Lolis Eric Elie, Ed Levine, Jeffrey Steingarten and Calvin Trillin.

 

New York representatives include Kenny Callaghan (Blue Smoke), Pete Daversa (Hill Country), John Stage (Dinosaur) and John Wheeler (Rack and Soul).

 

Ed Wilson, pitmaster of Wilson's Holy Smoke in Fairfield CT, will be making another appearance this year, serving up beef brisket.

 

Making their debut at this year's event is Mr. Cecil's California Ribs. The photo below, one of the earliest BBQ photos in my collection, is from my 2004 visit to the Los Angeles branch. They also have one in Sherman Oaks and for a brief period had a shop in Northampton MA, operating out of the future (now former) Smokin' Lil's location. I know, I should have taken a photo of the ribs, but that was 2004.

 

 

 

 

(06/02/08)

Boston BBQ: Connecting in the Dot

I've been meaning to go to Pit Stop Barbeque in Mattapan for years and Poppa B's in Dorchester for as long as I first heard about it a year or so ago. That I hadn't visited this area yet is negligence on my part, especially considering the many New York City BBQ trips I've made. But the oversight was neither accidental nor intentional. I was just waiting for an opening in the spring that would allow the outdoor eating required at Pit Stop. I was also waiting for a couple of extra bodies to help share the eating load at these joints that have a deep roster of sides. That opening and those bodies appeared last Saturday.

   

Mattapan's finest.

 

A throwback look and feel.

A few blocks away in Dorchester.

Breaking the rules.

 

Both joints straddle the worlds of soul food and barbecue, with Poppa B's leaning a little more to the former and Pit Stop more to the latter. Pit Stop is down and dirty, with one lonely table for two inside and another outside. You have to be prepared to eat standing up or in your car. Poppa B's is much more refined, with two dining levels, table service, real plates, a broader menu and an unexpected level of sophistication.

 

Did I enjoy my Dorchester BBQ trip? Absolutely. Would I go back? You bet. Did these joints live up to the hype? I'm not so sure, but I'll explore the details in my upcoming reviews. After some unexpected and significant dents in my schedule, I'm finally starting to catch up on reviews. I'll have a Long Island BBQ review this week, then alternate Boston and Long Island reviews over the next few weeks.

 

May 2008 archive

April 2008 archive

March 2008 archive

February 2008 archive

January 2008 archive

December 2007 archive

November 2007 archive

October 2007 archive

September 2007 archive

August 2007 archive

July 2007 archive

June 2007 archive

May 2007 archive

April 2007 archive

March 2007 archive

February 2007 archive

January 2007 archive

December 2006 archive

November 2006 archive

October 2006 archive

August/September 2006 archive

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Recent Eats (click photo to view larger image)

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Pulled pork sandwich at East Coast Grill, Cambridge MA.

 

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Dixie Loaf sandwich at Blue Ribbon, W. Newton MA.

 

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Pork ribs at Lester's, Burlington MA.

 

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Pork ribs at Poppa B's, Dorchester MA.

 

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