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Archive - June 2010




Long Island BBQ: Stink, Stank, Stunk?

My friend Guy, a Long Island BBQ source I trust, paid a visit to Dom & Luigi’s Smoke House BBQ Pizza Bar (Syosset NY) this week, and came back with this commentary:

Could not eat the ribs, so dry they were rock hard. Pulled pork was better. And the brisket was moist and tender but lacked any real flavor.The mac and cheese was tasteless.

Granted, that's just one visit, and an early one at that, but not a great sign. I'm still planning a visit, and sooner than you think based on my recent NYC/LI drought.This one will likely receive a quick review.





Boston BBQ and Burgers: Revisiting Remy's

If you've checked out my Links page, you know that one of my favorite reads is Boston Burger Blog. Even though he sometimes overreacts to an artistic decision (like a brioche bun), I generally trust and agree with Richard's reviews. His and my top three Boston burgers have two in common (Craigie On Main and Eastern Standard).


BBB's most recent review is the Jerry Remy's burger, one that I had high hopes for and liked on my first try but one that has since let me down twice. I mentioned those disappointments in a post shortly after my last visit in April, but I hadn't folded those comments into my review (which predated that last visit) until now, thanks to this reminder. Interestingly, I thought Richard gave a little too much credit to the Remy burger's strong points and focused a little too much on the bun and the size. In the end we pretty much agree on where this burger stands, but for slightly different reasons. I think it could be a good burger, but the meat isn't special enough and the execution just isn't there—from the seasoning and doneness of the meat to the doneness of the bacon to the freshness of the dough to the neatness of the assembly.


Although my last visit to Remy's was a downer all the way around (extending into the barbecue), I'm still looking forward to another visit—for curiosity if nothing else. There's much debate among reviewers and bloggers over how soon to review restaurants. Some say to wait three to six months to allow a restaurant time to find its legs, but I've found that just as many restaurants start out strong and then tank. They can lose focus and discipline, worsening the final product. They can suffer personnel casualties that worsen the final product. And they can make menu tweaks that might improve cost and efficiency but that ultimately worsen the final product. I wonder how many of these, if any, are in play with Remy's.


see my updated Jerry Remy's review





Joints Directory Madness

Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning four states. This time there are seven new joints, one closing, one expansion, one menu refocus on barbecue and one non-listing.

  • Canz (Westbury NY), as reported here earlier, expanded into their second location (of soon to be several) in Astoria, Queens at the beginning of the month. Meat aficionados should have a field day with the wings, ribs and heavily dressed pulled pork, but the real reason to go here is the lightly dressed servers.

  • Farm Bar and Grill (Essex MA), located in the heart of fried clam country, offers a wide ranging menu that features smoked ribs and pork, smoked haddock fish cakes and plenty of steak and seafood options. Thanks to John for the lead.

  • One Eyed Pig (Newtown CT) is a joint that recently started serving barbecue. There's no website or online menu available, and only limited reader commentary (one rave each on Facebook and Urbanspoon with no counterpoint), so it's hard to peg this place. Thanks to Robert for the lead.

  • Abilene (Brooklyn NY) is an easier one to peg from its URL alone: it's a bar that serves barbecue. There's no brisket, but the rest of the basic four are covered, as is brunch, featuring a host of egg dishes with smoked sausage. Thanks again to Robert for the lead.

  • Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA), as reported earlier, closed at the end of June to allow the owner to focus on family and charitable fundraising in the wake of not one but two strikings of cancer to hit his family.

  • Pete's BBQ Pit (Dracut MA) is an over-the-counter joint that's one of two barbecue BBQ outlets located in the small town just across the river from Lowell.

  • MadJacks BBQ (Pittsfield MA) is a new addition to the sparsely covered Berkshires area of Massachusetts.

  • Beachfire (Ogunquit ME) started out as a high end (and high priced) version of a barbecue joint in 2006, and by 2009 morphed away from barbecue. No great loss, since my one visit hardly qualified as a success. It's now summer 2010 and the barbecue seems to be back in full swing, with burnt ends and brisket added to a menu that has had ribs and pulled pork on an on-and-off basis.

  • Dom & Luigi’s Smoke House BBQ Pizza Bar (Syosset NY) has the sound of a typical pizza joint trying to bolster sales by adding "BBQ," but a closer look at the menu shows promise. They claim to smoke their meats and offer an interesting assortment of barbecue fusion. The Porker burger is stuffed with smoked rib meat and topped with pulled pork. They have a slab bacon appetizer, pulled pork quesadillas and various smoked meats available for BBQ sushi rolls. Ribs include pork babybacks and beef shortribs. Brisket is smoked then braised. The non-barbecue menu is mostly old school Italian, with plenty of pasta and parm. Thanks to Eric and Guy for both sending info on this.

  • Buddy's Dugout (Norwich CT) isn't in my directory (at least for now), though they were on track to be when Norwich's Q Haven competition barbecue team started providing the smoked pulled pork for the outdoor drive-in two months ago. Creative differences arose and Q Haven has since pulled out.

  • Smokestack Urban Barbecue (Worcester MA), as reported earlier, opened late May in downtown Worcester's Canal District. Thanks to Tram for the early lead and to Ling, Sully, Jared and Tommy for riding shotgun on some visits that'll be captured in an upcoming review.






Boston BBQ: Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party Returns to Suffolk Downs; Paula Dean Heads Star Studded Food Fest at Gillette

I wish I could have attended the Big Apple BBQ Block Party (two weekends ago in Manhhattan) again this year, but it just wasn't in the cards with my full schedule, which has also prevented me from updating the site as often as I'd like. But I'm now out of the tunnel, and the light is both blinding and invigorating.


Boston's poor man's version of the Block Party is the Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party which kicks off today at Suffolk Downs (Boston MA). The event has been whittled down from a two-weekend, two-location affair to three days at a single location. The line-up has also been whittled down even further from last year, and a couple of my favorite entrants from years past—Willingham's and Cool Smoke—won't be there. But it can be a good time if you don't mind long lines and mostly carnival style 'cue made in large enough batches to feed the masses conveniently.
Phantom Gouremet BBQ Beach Party website


Tomorrow at Gillette Stadium (Foxboro MA), a more diverse food event takes place, but there's a strong barbecue component. The Great American Food and Music Fest will feature appearances and demonstrations by Paula Deen, the Neelys, Duff Goldman and Tom Colicchio, with a musical line-up that includes Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, the Stompers and Buckwheat Zydeco.
Event website





KC's Rib Shack Takes Top Spot in NECN's "Baby You're the Best" Poll

New England Cable News (NECN) this week published its results for the Best BBQ in New England readers' poll, and KC's Rib Shack (Manchester NH) was the winner, edging out Bub's (Sunderland MA). Also nominated were Blue Ribbon (W. Newton MA and Arlington MA), Goody Cole's Smokehouse (Brentwood NH) and Redbones (Somerville MA). It's yet another PR victory for KC's, which recently was named one of the top 10 restaurants overall in New Hampshire by Hippo Press.


I'm a fan of KC's and also a fan of a few of the other nominees, so my feelings are mixed. Without naming names, I'll say that three of the five nominees are worthy of winning, one is not a bad choice and another simply doesn't belong anywhere near a top 5. Readers' poll results are like elections: they're often more reflective of who runs the best campaign than who's the best candidate. But it's good to see another accolade for one of my favorite barbecue joints.


Despite those mixed feelings, I'll say this about KC's: they may just be the most "complete" barbecue joint in all of New England. There are places with better barbecue, there are places with better spaces, there are places with better bars, and there are places with more far-reaching menus, but KC's is close enough to the top on all these fronts to make them that rare all-around threat.


See NECN story here
See NECN video here




Burger King Ribs: Not As Bad As You'd Think

Closer to actual barbecued ribs than the reconstituted rib-shaped patty occasionally available at their arch rival (no pun intended), the ribs now on special at Burger King aren't bad for what they are.


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What they are is fast food (served in a frightengly small sealed plastic bag), and not barbecue, but to BK's credit there's no such claim. They're slow cooked and grilled, have just enough sauce to keep them from being dry, and are cooked just long enough so that they come clean off the bone without falling off. Moistness was just okay; freshness was more of a shortcoming. Speaking of short, the ribs are trimmed for maximum yield, winding up longer than a riblet but much shorter than a typical St Louis cut spare. Flavor was a little charcoaly, but there was more going on under the crust that had at least some appeal. A typical Kansas City style barbecue sauce is supplied in tiny tubs for dipping. My three ribs plus a drink set meback $4 and change, which is about the same as a single rib and a drink at those Boston BBQ joints that offer a lone bone.


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Would I go back for more? Probably not. But I'd recommend giving them a try, in the smallest quantity (3) available.





Long Island BBQ: Canz Now Open In Astoria; All You Can Eat (and Drink) Wings Deal On Tonight and Every Monday Night

The Hootersesque Canz Roadhouse (Westbury NY) has in the last few weeks expanded to a second location in Astoria (Queens). The second outpost is nicknamed "Canz-a-City" (I'd add a double "s" to that middle name) and offers the same high profit mix of pub food (including ribs and pulled pork), TVs, eye candy, a strong bar presence and several regular events. One of those events at both locations is a Monday night all-you-can-eat wings, all-you-can-drink draft beer deal, starting at 8:00PM. On my one visit a while back, it was the wings that were the standout.





Worcester BBQ: Smokestack Urban Barbecue Opens Tomorrow (Tuesday)

The words "Worcester" and "BBQ" are rarely used together, but that may change starting tomorrow night, when Smokestack Urban Barbecue (in Worcester's Canal District) opens to the public (originally this was scheduled for tonight but has been pushed back a day). Normally I'd plan on being there for the opening night spectacle and pageantry, but I was fortunate to have already attended the soft opening on Saturday. It's too early to pass judgment on the 'cue, but I'll be back a few times within the next two weeks for deeper samplings (it's right around the corner from where I work). One thing that's a guarantee is that the same high energy vibe and high level of professionalism familiar to customers of Romaine's (Northboro MA) are already present at Smokestack, under the same ownership.







A Sweet Round Robin

Thoughts while continuing to procrastinate on those promised and as yet undelivered reviews:


A distrurbing trend of late is the use of plastic spoons to eat birthday cake. Since when did forks go out of style? Even if there's ice cream involved, a fork is my implement of choice for any cake.


Speaking of ice cream, it seems that everywhere you look, bacon ice cream is popping up: at Jake's Dixie Roadhouse, at Swingbelly's, at a few more New York City non-barbecue joints. A few weekends ago I saw some at Gary's Ice Cream in Chemsford MA. What I'd really like to see is bacon as a topping. Not whole strips but finely chopped, extra crisp bits that can be used as a substitute for jimmies/sprinkles. Adding right before serving would maintain the integrity of the crunch and allow a denser arrangement for full flavor.


Speaking of bacon, around the blogosphere there's a backlash in play against those who rhapsodize ad nauseum about how wonderful bacon is. It's not so much that bacon *isn't* wonderful, but we get it already. It's much like the cupcake backlash: yesterday's darlings are today's old news.


Speaking of cupcakes, they're overrated and usually overpriced, thus deserving their yesterday's news status. (If they hadn't already jumped the shark, Todd English's recent cupcake venture would have been the sure demarcartion point.) Like the slider, the cupcake is cute and all, and makes sense if you're looking for variety or portion control, but it's no substitute for the real thing. It's just not possible to get the right frosting-to-cake ratio in a single bite from a cupcake that you can get in actual cake.


Speaking of cake, a distrurbing trend of late is the use of plastic spoons to eat birthday cake...



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Recent Eats (click photo to view larger image)

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Ribs and brisket at Lester's, Burlington MA.


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Pulled pork sandwich at Pete's BBQ Pit, Dracut MA.


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Ribs at Smokestack Urban BBQ, Worcester MA.


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Ribs and brisket at Smokestack Urban BBQ, Worcester MA.


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Pulled pork sandwich at Lester's, Burlington MA.


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Ribs at Smokestack Urban BBQ, Worcester MA.


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Burnt ends at Smokestack Urban BBQ, Worcester MA.


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Ribs and pork at Po's Ribs and Barbecue, Acton MA.


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Ribs at Smokestack Urban BBQ, Worcester MA.



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