Archive - December 2009
New York City BBQ: Hill Country to Spin Off Fried Chicken Joint; Fatty Cue to Open; Pies 'n' Thighs to Return?
Metromix NY has a preview of the Big Apple's 2010 dining scene that includes a few barbecue joints. According to the piece, Hill Country will be spinning off a fried chicken joint "around the block" that will feature a couple of different approaches: a super crusty version from owner Marc Glosserman's family recipe and a more traditional version from Hill Country executive chef Elizabeth Karmel. The new venture is targeting a spring opening.
Speaking of targeting openings, Fatty Cue is included in the Metromix preview for a third consecutive year—not because it's opening in multiple years but because it hasn't opened yet. According to my moles, the Southeast Asian BBQ joint with Hill Country alum Robbie Richter runnng the pits will be opening in Brooklyn for sure and soon. Pies 'n' Thighs, a former Brooklyn BBQ joint that was forced to close two winters ago, is also mentioned as a 2010 returnee, with a location chosen but red tape still pending.
Read the Metromix 2010 dining preview
New York City BBQ: Brother Jimmy's Eyes Another Expansion in March
The New York Times reported in last Wednesday's restaurant news that Brother Jimmy's will take over the space currently occupied by Irving Mill, with a March 1 opening planned. Although Brother Jimmy's has never been my favorite, they do some things well, so I wish them much success. But I can't help but be doubly disppointed by this news. Well before this news broke, I was disappointed that I never got to try the burger and porkcentric offerings at Irving Mill while chef Ryan Skeen was still at the helm. Now it looks like I won't get to visit Irving Mill at all, although the Times reports that Irving Mill will remain open through much of January. See
Read the new York Times story on Brother Jimmy's
Boston BBQ: Visit Report From SoulFire
I had Monday off and was enjoying a nice afternoon in Boston that somehow managed to wind up at SoulFire (Allston) with my new favorite dining companion. I wasn't expecting to go with their all-you-can-eat wings special, but I learned that I was in the company of an unlikely chicken wing fan, so that's what we did.
SoulFire's Monday Night $6.99 wings deal starts you off with four wing pieces: one classic Buffalo, one chili-honey, one with Pit Boss barbecue sauce and one "guest" wing that varies each week. This time it was "golden barbecue" sauce, which turned out to be a lesser known variety of Cattleman's. I happen to enjoy that sauce (sweet, mustardy, tangy, spicy) at Flaggstead Smokehouse (Farmington CT) right out of the dispenser, but when heated with the wings it had a little more pop. Once you've tried one each of the four available wings, you can re-order as many as you want of whatever flavor(s) you want.
Although I'm a huge fan of SoulFire's wings, I generally have avoided wing nights—partly because Monday nights are usually light eating nights, partly because I don't trust myself with an all-you-can-eat proposition, partly because I prefer SoulFire's otherworldly Southern fried wings and partly because I think the wings are better (and bigger) as a regular order on a regular night. On this visit I might have been proven wrong: these wings were plumper than what I had seen on previous Mondays and had significantly more smoke flavor.
We also had one spare rib each and were both pleased: bountiful size, good bark, high smoke level, good moisture, excellent overall flavor. Matched bone-to-bone against the competition, these ribs would easily trounce almost all takers. Matched against what I've had throughout the year at SoulFire? Probably only average, but SoulFire has set the bar so high for ribs lately that even a little below their average would still be a fine rib indeed.
Boston BBQ: Dogfish Head Keg Party Tonight; Hoppin' John Through Saturday at Redbones
Redbones (Somerville MA) tonight is presenting Life & Limb on tap, a collaboration of Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada. It's a very limited draft release and won't be around for long, so check it out on December 30. There'll be a cash bar and free appetizers. And for the holiday season, Hoppin' John is back. Southern tradition says eating Hoppin' John on January 1 brings good luck and prosperity in the New Year, so try this classic Southern dish of rice and black-eyed peas, symbols of coins and prosperity, now through January 2. www.redbones.com
Boston BBQ: Hoppin' John at Jake's Dixie Roadhouse and Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q
On December 31 Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA) will be serving up heaping
bowls of Hoppin’ John, the elixir that's "said to bring 365 days of good luck. It’s also said to help with hangovers."
And at both Blue Ribbon locations (West Newton MA and Arlington MA), Hoppin' John will be available on both New Year's Eve and New Year's day. "Hoppin' John has been bringing luck to Blue Ribbon for fifteen years now."
New York City BBQ: Free Beer, Champagne Cupcakes for New Year's Eve at Hill Country
Hill Country (NYC) is once again tweaking their menu for New Year's Eve
tomorrow, offering some taste diversions and special values. Barbecue specials
will include smoked chili-rubbed lamb chops, Texas tenderloin, pit-smoked pork
belly bites and champagne cupcakes. For the beverage-minded, Hill Country is
offering an open bar from 10:00PM until 1:00AM for $50 per person, as well as a
free beer for every pound of barbecue purchased. For the music-minder, the
Cleaners will be performing. To reserve for large groups, call (212) 255-4544. http://www.hillcountryny.com
Boston BBQ: Visit Report From Blue Ribbon
Two weekends ago I vowed to offer at least a brief commentary of every barbecue restaurant visit. It wasn't until this past weekend (yes, a full week without barbecue) that I made my next visit, so here goes.
On the day after Christmas I had lunch plans at Blue Ginger ("celebrity" chef Ming Tsai's "East Meets West" cuisine) in Wellesley, so I chose the West Newton outpost of Boston Sports Clubs for my morning workout. Two reasons factored into this decision: 1) my lunch companion has a habit of running late, so the phone reception in West Newton would allow follow-up (the closer Wellesley location is a dead zone for me); 2) my lunch companion has a habit of running late, so the West Newton location would allow a 30-second walk to Blue Ribbon for a tide-me-over snack.
Sometimes you want only a hint of barbecue, so I kept things simple with a "lone bone" (single spare rib). I'm not sure if Blue Ribbon is the first Boston BBQ joint to offer this, but it's a really great option for a quick snack or as an add-on to non-barbecue meal. Several other Boston BBQ joints (East Coast Grill, Firefly's, Jake's Dixie Roadhouse, Redbones, SoulFire) also have this option, and I wish some of the New York BBQ joints would follow suit.
When the rib first arrived, my heart sank a little. Served bone-side up, it had a pale visage that made me think this was going to be steamy, which can sometimes be the case at Blue Ribbon.
Always looking for different angles for my photographs, I flipped the rib over and saw a completely different rib with the meat side up. My spirits quickly rose.
The crust I always look for was there, and upon bite it held some pleasing light crunch. The flavor was typical Blue Ribbon, with a light but noticeable smoke, a mere hint of rub and a dominant porky-hammy flavor. There was some fat, but a small enough dose to enhance, not detract. The meat was moist, though shy of the gushing juices that were commonplace at Blue Ribbon in the days when the smoker was on the premises. Overall, a solid rib, and my second consecutive visit where the rib had a crispness to the crust. It's hard to judge a restaurant on only one rib, especially the day after Christmas, but Blue Ribbon turned in a pretty good one that was clearly above average for the field as a whole, but right around average for Blue Ribbon.
The specials boards that day included two items that caught my eye, so I ordered them mostly as a take-home dinner: smoked turkey soup and a side of honey habanero carrots. Both were perfect winter warmers. I liked the interplay of sweet and heat with the carrots, and the soup supplied a bold flavored broth with enough greens to qualify as a healthy dinner after a high calorie lunch. The core meats (ribs and especially the pulled pork) are what most people think about when they think of Blue Ribbon, but the specials are what distinguishes them from the rest of the pack.
New York City BBQ: Some New Year's Eve Specials at Wildwood Barbeque
The entire menu will also be available, but Wildwood Barbeque (NYC) is offering some special dishes Thursday night for New Year's Eve. Here's the run-down:
Smokey Chipotle Corn Chowder with Crispy Shoestring Potato Garnish
Chili-Dusted Sea Scallops with Bacon, Snow Peas and Lemon Emulsion
Smoked Prime Rib au Jus with Corn Custard, Onion Marmalade and Popover
Rib Trio with Baby Back Ribs, Spare Ribs and Beef Back Ribs
There will also be a Kids' New Year's Eve special: a two-course meal for $12.95 that includes choice of entree and dessert, plus a beverage pairing.
Your choice of one Entree
BBQ Ziti Bolognese
Cheeseburger Sliders (3) with French Fries
Jumbo Pigs in a Blanket
BBQ Chicken & French Fries
Crispy Chicken Fingers & Tater Tots
Cheese & Macaroni
Your choice of one Dessert
Kit Kat Cupcake
Strawberry Shortcake Cup Cake
Creations: Pulled Pork "Mediterranean Style" With Olives and Almonds
A recurring concept I've promoted over the years is a Steve Herrell approach to pulled pork, with sweet and savory "mix-ins" punching up the flavor and texture in the same way Herrell used crumbled cookies and candy to elevate ice cream at Steve's Ice Cream starting in the 1970s. My most recent experiments involved black olives (mixed in) and sliced roasted almonds (used as a topping to retain crunchiness). To go all in, a rosemary focaccia would be preferrable to the simple potato bun I used, but the mini sandwiches I enjoyed certainly hit the spot. Try some and you may never use barbecue sauce again.
Boston Suburbs BBQ: Firebox BBQ Reviewed
If you've found yourself circling the parking lot at the Burlington Mall looking for an available spot, you might be better off forgetting about Christmas shopping and simply heading over to nearby Firebox BBQ in Bedford MA. It's one of the more promising new barbecue joints to arrive on the scene, and after five visits I plan on returning again even though the site's 170th barbecue joint review for it is now posted. Check it out via the link above, the Reviews page or the red icons in the Joints directory.
Site Talk: A New Year's Resolution
One of the things I wrestled with when I first started this site and continue to reconsider to this day is the choice of whether to post restaurant reviews or restaurant visit reviews. The former consolidates all of the visits into a single review that may not indicate ups, downs and trends. The latter is a report on a single point in time that may not be complete, may not be representative and may not be easy to connect to all the other reports for that restaurant.
If I were starting all over again, I think I would have much shorter restaurant reviews that were more like the Citysearch or New York Magazine model, but with links to all of my individual visit reports.
Since I don't want to revamp the infrastructure entirely, I'll keep the current model, but I'll make one new change for sure, starting in 2010 if not immediately. Rather than merely posting a photo in the Recent Eats column to indicate each new restaurant visit, I'll commit to a brief report.
Sometimes I've deliberately held back commentary because I'm saving it for a forthcoming review (like Firebox in Bedford MA, coming this week, or Flaggstead Smokehouse in Farmington CT, coming soon). Sometimes it's because I want another visit to confirm an initial impression or to offset an off night. Usually it was only because I thought there wasn't much to say. But that's a cop-out, because there's always something to say.
I won't promise next day service, but I promise to describe each visit at least briefly. Some reports will be longer than others and some reports will have an element of a tease, but I also promise not to let any of my favorites off the hook if they have an off night (keeping in mind that one off night does not indicate a downward trend). For new joints, I'll offer my initial impressions, even though they might change, and I'll pose many of the questions that are rolling through my mind. For revisits, and especially for revisits to joints with a long history, I'll try to compare that restaurant not only with its competition but with its own past achievement.
One last promise: if I decide that posting a brief report for each visit doesn't make sense, I won't just stop without addressing the reasons why. Still, I hope I can keep it going, even if it's as simple as "Last night's pulled pork sandwich at SoulFire was better than last week's but not as good as the one from a month ago."
Required Reading in this Month's GQ
Even if you're not stylin' like I'm stylin', the December issue of GQ magazine is well worth checking out. Not for the cover shot of Rihanna (although I rather like it) but for the annual GQ Eats guide/awards. There's a rant about bacon that I agree with completely. There's a list of artisinal pork sandwiches with a very strong Northeast focus, including the pork belly BLT at Char No. 4 (Brooklyn NY). There's a profile on the duo behind New York City's Minetta Tavern, home of one of the best burgers to be had.
But what pleases me most is that my #1 and #2 favorite metro Boston restaurants both received mentions: Scampo (Boston) for its burrata BLT and Craigie On Main (Cambridge) as #2 in writer Alan Richman's list of America's top 10 new restaurants. If you're in Boston and are looking for "occasion" fine dining or high end bar snacks, you can't go wrong at either Scampo or Craigie.
Alan Richman's Top 10 New Restaurants in America
Long Island BBQ: A Guest Review of Spicy's by Chuck from Long Island
Here's another "guest review" from my friend Chuck from Long Island, a barbecue fan equally obsessed with completing that imaginary checklist. He's sampled barbecue from New York to the Carolinas; of the joints we've both been to, his three favorites overlap with mine, though we disagree slightly on the order. Here's Chuck's take on Spicy's (Riverhead NY), a joint I'd like to get to but probably won't find the time to get to soon.
I took a trip out to Spicy's BBQ on W. Main Street in Riverhead—one of two locations run by the same family with the other one located in Bellport, Long Island. The restaurant has been in operation for 33 years, so they must be doing something right. And since I had heard some good things about their 'cue, I just had to find out for myself.
The Riverhead restaurant is housed in an old stainless steel and glass diner of the Art Moderne style popular in the late 1940s. (The place is certainly a dive and is in desperate need of a facelift both inside and out.) A long formica counter stretches from the entrance to the back of the restaurant with circular stools for seating. Long lines form at the counter for take-out service and there is a separate seating area of booths for table service. Food is prepared and displayed behind the counter, including homemade sweet potato pies.
I had a difficult time deciding what to order. There were so many "comfort food" items to choose from, including pork spare ribs, chopped pork barbecue, homemade chili, chicken wings, fried chicken, English style fish and fries, chicken cutlets, fried clams, oysters, butterflied shrimp, bay scallops, etc. Portion sizes are flexible for most items (i.e., you can order just one rib or a bucket of 20.) Available sides include collard greens, cole slaw, macaroni salad, cheese poppers, corn nuggets, baked beans, onion rings and corn bread.
Ultimately I decided to order a plate of ribs, the chopped pork bbq, and chicken wings. The ribs were apparently of the sauced parboiled variety. They presented as moist, but firm, with a yellow sauce drizzled over them and little if any rub. (Additional sauce was served on the side.) Under the sauce the meat had a dark glaze on the outside and was pinkish on the inside with no smoke ring. The ribs were served over a slice of Wonder bread with a side of macaroni salad and collard greens. All were delicious. Although the ribs were not smoked they were juicy and flavorful. The yellow sauce was semi-sweet and tangy (apparently mustard based) with red pepper flakes in it. This was different from the typical sweet red sauce I've become accustomed to and I'm not quite sure whether or not it's a Southern or Midwestern style sauce. Nevertheless, the sauce was very flavorful and was a perfect accompaniment to the porkiness of the ribs.
The collard greens were some of the best I've had on Long Island. They were chopped in big pieces and had chunks of ham/bacon, red peppers, and onion mixed in with them. The macaroni salad was also excellent. The elbow macaroni was mixed together with mayo, mustard, celery pieces and shredded carrots.
Chicken wings served over a slice of white bread were crisp and greasless on the outside and moist on the inside. They were pretty good, but I've had better. The "dry" wings were a bit on the small side, and were lacking in seasoning. As with the ribs, the wings were accompanied by a container of Spicy's tangy sauce, which was great for dipping. Cornbread was pretty good. Moist without being too sweet with some grittiness from the corn, but it could've used a bit more flavor.
My biggest disapointment was with the "beet and pork barbecue" sandwich. The pork was served on a large sesame seed bun which was much too big for the meat. The shreded/chopped pork was mildly sweet and tangy from the sauce, but was otherwise overcooked and lacking in flavor. (I could not taste the beets in the sauce.) To me this sandwich was much more similar to a Sloppy Joe than a pulled pork sandwich. A side of cole slaw was fairly typical.
Overall, my experience at Spicy's exceeded my expectations. I was expecting poor-fair "faux cue", but discovered that their offerings were a pretty good example of "soul food". Though the barbecue would not be considered competition quality (since the meats are not smoked) the restaurant offers authentic, no-frills, no-nonsense, comfort food... and they do it well.
Monday's Dream, Yesterday's Reality
According to a very trusted source, my deep fried chili concept from Monday's post was put into actual production at one of my favorite barbecue restaurants in Long Island last night. That was the plan, anyway; I'm hoping to confirm later today. Meanwhile, wheels are turning at one of my favorite barbecue restaurants in the Boston area to execute the deep fried chili as well as mojito wings, at least as a trial experiment. Stay tuned.
I love having some of my off-the-wall ideas turned into reality, and I admit that some of that love has to do with pride of ownership. But it's not all about me, I promise. The lesson here is that restaurant owners are often receptive to ideas and suggestions. So if you have some crazy food ideas, bring 'em on.
New Hampshire BBQ: A Guest Review of Moat Mountain Smokehouse by Steve Sack
Here's another "guest review" from my friend Steve Sack, a fellow barbecue judge and one-time competitor who's joined me on more barbecue crawls than anyone in my gang of cronies. He's an interesting voice, because I find myself totally agreeing with him about half the time and totally disagreeing with him the other half. Either way, his take is worth noting, so here's what he had to say about Moat Mountain Smokehouse (North Conway NH). If you're doing some Christmas shopping at the outlets in North Conway, this joint might make a logical refuge
The sign to the place (much easier to find than the restaurant) was so far away from the actual establishment that neither my wife nor I knew where to park and which building it was. When we finally entered what appeared to be an unlit building, we saw several parties enjoying various beer offerings including what looked like a rack of sampler glasses. The bar area though small and a bit tight was separate from the three dining areas.
Choosing the Combo Platter for myself allowed me to sample three out of the four standard BBQ categories. My wife was supportive enough to order the Carolina Style Smoked Pork entrée, thus giving me a chance to taste all four.
Soon we were able to take in the aroma and sights of what appeared to be pretty decent ‘cue. My first of two disappointments was that my wife’s pork was served on a slice of white bread. I made sure I mentioned to the server that my wife has to be gluten free. No biggie really, she just made sure she did not eat any of the bread. Tasting a sample of the pork from her order, I found the meat to be very tender without that overcooked mush texture that I’ve encountered in other joints. Although there appeared to be some decent bark mixed in, the crunchiness had given way to the homemade Kansas City style BBQ sauce (more on that in a bit) that was generously slathered on the meat. Most of the flavor did in fact come from the sauce. I could not detect any taste of smoke or rub. This also turned out to be the trend for the other three meats that made up my combo platter.
The brisket, though tender and cooked very close to perfection, had no sign of ever having seen a smoker.
The chicken was the same, although I gave them extra points for serving my two favorite parts. I don’t remember any time or place where I received both a wing and a thigh as chicken choices without asking. Once again, neither piece exhibited any taste of smoke. The thigh was a bit on the small side but it was juicy, fully cooked, yet did not fall off the bone by itself. The wing seemed more baked than anything else but thanks to the sauce was tasty, so as a wing addict, I devoured every bit of it.
The ribs were my second disappointment for the day. Although tasty and showing some hint of smoke, they were very overcooked. I don’t know if it occurred during a possible reheat or if they were originally cooked that way. The texture suggested that they were cooked in a pot of BBQ sauce; it was like eating rib soup. I suppose on the upside, I did not have to use the knife they gave me with my order. The ribs were the traditional spare rib kind, completely untrimmed and a bit fatty, once again redeemed only by the sauce.
If I had to choose the best of the four meats, I would say the pork from my wife’s order, followed closely by the chicken, with the brisket taking third and trailing way behind would be those mushy things some people refer to as ribs.
Both sauces used were homemade and were clearly a major factor in kicking the overall experience up a level. I should point out that I’m not a huge fan of sauces in general, as a lot of places tend to use store bought versions. When I have the option, I usually order all my BBQ meats dry and occasionally sample sauces when served on the side. Here though the home made KC style sauce was made with love and care. A bit of spice, the chunky paste that covered the ribs, chicken and pork had a pleasant flavor. Not too sweet, not to vinegary and no hint of tomato sauce, so I did not think I was eating spaghetti. The Austin BBQ sauce that was on the brisket had a pleasant mustard essence and the smooth slather was a great complement to the otherwise plain tasting beef.
As with the sauce, the sides were all homemade. The mashed potatoes and green beans that came with the pork were fresh and tasty and should not disappoint any side dish aficionado. The Skillet Jalapeno Corn Bread that accompanied my order was warm, fresh and authentically southern. While moist, it leaned more on the bread side than that of cake which was more common when using a corn bread mix. Although the tiny bits of pepper were clearly visible to the naked eye, no Scoville units were detected. The black beans and rice (the one extra item I ordered) were slightly on the dry side but tasty with a tomato based sauce that once again had a nice zing to it with the tomato flavor infused with southern style seasonings.
Overall, I am not going to say that it’s worth a two and a half hour trip up from Boston, but Moat Mountain is not a bad place to dine if you’re within 25 miles or so. I’d love to sample some of the non ‘cue choices, as everything I observed on other tables such as meatloaf looked like it was made by someone who cares about good food. The server also bragged about their burgers and just the mention of the “B” word makes me tingle inside. So there you have it: Moat Mountain Smokehouse is OK by me.
It seems like the whole was greater than the sum of the parts, and although it wasn't a big part of the review, the beer component at Moat Mountain (full name Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company Restaurant and Brew Pub) has received much praise from readers who've written in. As for the food, for now I'll trust Steve's meat-by-meat descriptions rather than his final conclusion on this one. But I like that there's enough promise to find out for myself.
Twelve More Things I'd Like To See
Here's another batch from my Things I'd Like To See series. It's not all barbecue, but it's all what's on my mind:
Speaking of coffee, I'd like to see the Starbucks tip cup moved over to where the barista hands you your high end beverage, rather than at its current position with the cashier. This way I can tip based on performance, not potential.
Mojito wings: lime, simple syrup, heavy on the minced mint, maybe a little spiced sugar finish. Who wants to be the first to put concept to execution?
Another menu item I'd like to see: deep-fried chili. Take some chili, freeze it or at least get it cold enough to hold its shape, batter it, deep fry it, then let the hot chili (and possibly also hot cheese) ooze out after biting into the crunchy shell. I don't have the patience or equipment (or skill) to make this a reality, but I have to believe someone does.
On cooking "reality" shows, I'd like to see chefs who present a rectangular plate with a pile of stuff, a cupful of stuff and an Asian soup spoon full of stuff not act as if they were the first person to ever do this. Ditto any menu item with "deconstructed" in its name. Dude, I get what you're doing. And I really like what you're doing. But dude, it's not exactly revolutionary at this point.
On my iPod, I can play a song and go to other menus and line up the next song I want to hear without affecting the one currently playing. I'd like to see YouTube be more like this, so I can find the next video without stopping the current one.
Yes, I know this one's going to make me sound like Dana Carvey's "Grumpy Old Man" character, but too bad. I've been buying a lot of pants lately (smaller ones, thankyouverymuch), so I've been hyper aware that unlike a decade or two ago, pants are no longer neatly arranged by size. I'd like to see a return to those days of yore when you'd see a stack of 32s all grouped together, with various inseam lengths ideally but not necessarily grouped together. Then another cubby of 34s below that, and so on (and while we're at it, how about changing the order so the large sizes are at the top and the small sizes at the bottom, so the fat guys don't have to struggle to bend down). Yes, there are plenty of sales staff nearby, but their main function seems to be looking cool and acting as greeters, not facilitators.
Bridal registries? Who needs 'em? You're much better off just writing a check.
What I'd really like to see is the much more needed divorce registry. My list
would include a new set of pots and pans, storage space (several times over), a few
hours of legal advice, several trips of moving assistance, some new cologne and
assorted toiletries (for dates), a few high end restaurant gift certificates
(ditto) and several uses of your washer and drier (not for underwear, I promise).
New York BBQ: Robbie Richter is a Blogger
Fatty 'Cue's imminent pitmaster is sidelining as a Serious Eats correspondant, filing weekly recaps of The Learning Channel's BBQ Pitmasters reality series on the Serious Eats site.
Read Richter's latest post
Long Island BBQ: Canz Reviewed
Based on recent email inquiries, this Long Island joint is one of my more anticipated reviews, though probably not for the food. The site's 169th barbecue joint review is Canz in Westbury NY. Check it out via the link above, the Reviews page or the red icons in the Joints directory.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning two states. This time there are six new joints and one closing.
Hog Heaven BBQ (Sloatsburg NY) is a Hudson Vallry BBQ joint on Route 17, just off I-87. Reviews appear to
be quite mixed, so you never know. Thanks to Robert for the find.
Smokey Mountain BBQ (Springfield MA) is no more. Thanks to Bill for the info.
Henhouse (Boston MA) is a renowned fried chicken and waffle joint that now also offers ribs, pulled pork and a barbecue version of chicken. Thanks to "Rabbi Fatback" for this important update. www.thehenhouseboston.com
Five Spot Soul Food (Brooklyn NY) is a soul food joint that's jumpin' with
nightly entertainment and an interesting menu that includes soul classics, a
strong New Orleans and Cajun presence, plus ribs that are smoked. Thanks again to
Robert for the find. www.fivespotsoulfood.com
Brothers Barbeque (New Windsor NY) is one of those quaint country style joints
with a menu that's small but all homemade. Interestingly, the menu includes
both "chopped barbecue" and "pulled pork," so I wonder how they differ. This Hudson Valley BBQ joint is also in the easy off-the-highway category, close to both I-87 and I-84. Thanks to Joe for the lead. www.thebrothersbarbecue.com
Harlem BBQ (Harlem/NYC) appears to be your typical all-purpose barbecue/soul
joint, but it has lobster as just one of its many seafood offerings. All of the barbecue meats are represented (your "basic four" of ribs, chicken, pulled pork and brisket) as well as beef ribs. No word on whether the 'cue is faux or a go. Thanks again to Robert for the find. www.harlembbq.com
Joe's BBQ N Grill (Queens NY) is a takeout-only joint in Ozone Park run by a
former barbecue caterer. Thanks to Vinny for the lead.
Off The Highway
Throughout this holiday season, you're probably planning much travel to visit loved ones, so keep in mind that nothing washes away the aftertaste of a tension-filled weekend with not-so-loved ones more than a good plate of barbecue. Two years ago I posted a list of the joints closest to the highway specifically for this reason, but despite the "location, location, location" axiom, 7 of the 10 joints I listed then are either no longer operating or have moved to a different location. So here's a revised list for your holiday use:
Uncle Willie's (West Haven, CT) is a joint whose easternmost outpost has moved a few times in the last few years, from Orange to New Haven and now to a shack in West Haven right off I-95's exit 42. It's probably the barbecue joint located closest to the halfway point between Boston and New York and the most convenient of all the easy-off joints. I visited recently and was impressed by the vast number of sides, sandwich and combo permutations, cozy seating and non-BBQ options. My pulled pork sandwich was merely decent, but my cole slaw was fantastic, and the customer who ordered before me walked away with one of the most impressive looking hotdogs (a fried footlong) I've ever seen. www.unclewilliesbbq.net
Route 22 (Stamford CT) is just off I-95's exit 6, located in a strip mall that's a part of an even larger complex. If the something-for-everyone menu doesn't have something for you, there are two supermarkets within easy reach.
SouthernQue (Meriden CT) is a trailer that's oddly parked in a residential driveway and only open Thursday through Sunday. This is one of those rare places where the ribs are not the best barometer of overall quality. Although I'm not a fan of their bones after multiple tries, I'm a huge fan of their unique pulled pork sandwich that has sweet red peppers in light, faintly-sweet vinegar sauce. www.southernqbbq.com
Blue Ribbon (W. Newton MA) makes this list on a pure technicality. I can vouch for their entire menu, but I can only vouch halfway for their off-the-highway status. If you're coming from Boston or need to head into Boston, they're right off the Massachusetts Turnpike's exit 16. But if you're coming from or need to return to points west, the access—though well worth the detour—involves more effort. www.blueribbonbbq.com
The Spare Rib (Hicksville NY) is on Old Country Road right off the Wantagh Parkway. I said it was close, not good, but if you're looking for 1980s vintage ribs and pub fare, you could probably do worse. http://spareribonline.com
BT's Smokehouse (Snack Shack) (Sturbridge MA) has the distinction of being just off I-84 (exit 3) as well as the Massachusetts Turnpike (exit 9). The choices are only a subset (pulled pork and brisket sandwiches; chili) of what's available at the flagship location in Brimfield, but it's a quick stop with good value. www.btsmokehouse.com
Joints on the 2007 list that have closed:
The Cookhouse, Darien CT (off I-95, exit 13)
The Cookhouse Cafe, E. Hartford CT (off I-84, exit 58)
Willie B’s BBQ, Bay Shore NY (off NY-27, exit 43)
RG Branigan’s, Southington CT (off I-84, exit 32)
Q Smokehouse, Methuen MA (off I-93)
Bendle-Bean’s BBQ, Pembroke MA (off MA-3, exit 12)
On the 2007 list but moved:
Barnstormer BBQ, Newburgh NY (off I-87, exit 17)(off I-84, exit 7)(now in Fort Montgomery NY) www.barnstormerbbq.com
I'm sure there's a joint or two I forgot to include. If you know of one or even own one, drop me a line and I'll add to the list.
BBQ Pitmasters, Tonight at 10:00PM on TLC
Barbecue and reality TV finally collide tonight with the season premiere of BBQ Pitmasters at 10:00PM on the Learning Channel. Watch some of the "sport's" greats like Myron Mixon and Tuffy Stone show off their cooking skills with a generous helping of scripted swagger.
See the preview
New York City BBQ: Full Size Spare Ribs Are Back at Wildwood
One of the hallmarks of Wildwood Barbeque (NYC) was the bodacious pork spare ribs whose heft set them apart from most others in the city. Recently replaced by a smallish St Louis cut (where the meaty rib tips are trimmed off), the spares are now back, according to trusty correspondant Chuck from Long Island.
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