Archive - November 2010
Which Would You Rather Have?
(Stiff, reheated, barely luke-warm Dunkin Donuts pancake sausage bites.)
(Grayer, less moist and lacking the red peppers shown in the poster.)
(Crisp, moist, spicy, piping hot Andouille bites fresh from the vats of BT's Smokehouse in Sturbridge MA.)
I thought so.
Boston, Not BBQ: Towne Stove and Spirits' Burger Xtreme Reviewed
Here's the first of what I hope will be several departures from my usual review of barbecue joints throughout New England and New York. My first love was and always will be the burger, in all its forms. There are some who repel the idea of a $20 burger, but if there's effort and expense put forth in both conception and execution, I'm all for it. The "Burger Xtreme" at Towne Stove and Spirits (Boston MA) has received a good amount of buzz in recent months, so I was eager to test drive the latest creation from one of my favorite chefs.
See my review of the Burger Xtreme at Towne Stove and Spirits
(11/27/10) (second post)
New Hampshire BBQ: Surf and Turf at Lobster Q
Up-and-comer Lobster Q (Hampstead NH) is slowly gaining more cred for the "Q" half of the seafood/barbecue concept, perhaps even more so after a recent appearance by owner Sean Hopkins on WMUR TV. Check out the video and watch him remove a rib membrane, rub a rack, slather some shrimp and scallops, serve cornbread and perform voice comedy. Hopkins's claim that some people order the cornbread as a dessert is not a stretch—I've already done so at least once and consider it one of my all time favorites of the cakey breed.
See Lobster Q's Sean Hopkins on WMUR-TV
Worcester BBQ: Firewood Cafe Closing in on Opening
Here's an update on soon-to-open Firewood Cafe (Worcester MA). It looks like the buildout is finally getting close enough to put some confidence in their targeted December 4 grand opening date (that's one week from today). The menu headliner will be brick oven pizzas, with smoked meats a supporting act. According to the owner, that act will start out with pulled pork, smoked chicken and smoked ham, with ribs appearing further down the road. That struck me as odd given the promising photo of ribs in the smoker that's currently on their website. It turns out that the photo was not Firewood Cafe's ribs or even their smoker, but rather a "borrowed" photo used as filler by an overzealous web developer. There will be a smoker used, but not the one in the photo.
Long Island BBQ: Burke's Bar-B-Q Barn Reviewed
The site's 194th barbecue joint review is now posted for Burke's Bar-B-Que Barn (Baldwin NY). Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Brooklyn BBQ: First Visit to Fatty Cue
It took me half a year, but I finally made my long awaited first visit to Fatty Cue (Brooklyn), the much talked about collaboration between Zak Pelaccio and Robbie Richter that fuses Southeast Asian flavors with traditional and not so traditional barbecue cooking methods. This isn't a formal review, but I put together a Fatty Cue First Visit Recap with 30 photos and commentary from the first of what I hope will be many visits.
(11/20/10) (second post)
PigTrip Now on Facebook
I created a new PigTrip Facebook page. The goal is to add a level of interactivity and spontaneity to augment what's already on the site, plus some insider stuff that won't be available on the site.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time there's one new joint, one renamed joint, one closing, one new phone number, two changed websites, one corrected web site and one added website.
When Pigs Fly (Sharon CT) is a western Connecticut joint that's so close to the New York border that it considers itself to be in the Hudson Valley. Thanks to Sledneck for the lead. www.hudsonvalleybbq.com
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (Troy NY) was shy about giving up the phone number for its fourth outpost, but the full contact info is now in the directory. www.dinosaurbarbque.com/locations/troy
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (NYC/Harlem) now has a new website address after the main site's redesign,coinciding with the Troy opening: www.dinosaurbarbque.com/locations/harlem
Wildwood BBQ (NYC) this past Wednesday launched its new website: wildwoodbbq.brguesthospitality.com
Mama Mary's Soul Food (New Haven CT) now has the correct website: www.mamassoulfood.com
Pete's BBQ Pit (Dracut MA) now has a website: www.petesbbqpit.com
Texas Saloon (Quincy MA), as mentioned and already reviewed on Wednesday, is a new joint that's more roadhouse than smokehouse, but the servers (featured in 200 provocative photos on their Facebook page) provide the smoke show. You can check out my review for a menu, but so far the restaurant's own site is still under construction. www.texassaloonquincy.com
Jacques' Ribs (Staten Island NY) is the new name/ownership replacing the Bobz Ribz space. The address, phone number and (oddly) the website all remain the same, but the menu is vastly expanded to include an interesting assortment of seafood, burgers and interesting appetizers that repurpose the 'cue (like hot pockets with pork). www.jacquesribs.com
Lucky Mojo (Queens NY) may have lost their mojo (and according to a few Yelp posters, they have), because they're now closed. Thanks to Vinny for the info.
Quick on the Uptake, Slow on the Update
OK, here's an update on where some of the reviews and updates stand, and in some cases why they stand where they stand.
Lobster Q (Hampstead NH)
Buck's Roadside BBQ (Auburn MA)
In mid October I announced that reviews for these would be ready by the end of the month, but it's already mid November and no review. I'd like to say they'll be up by the end of this month, but I'd also like to say I've learned never to promise anything. Based on where I work and where I hang, both of these are relatively easy to get to, so I've put them on the back burner, figuring I can always get one more visit in before posting the review. The trouble with this logic is that sometimes the visit gets pushed back due to scheduling. One of these is fully written but pending another visit; the other is mostly written and just needs to get boiled down a bit.
BT's Smokehouse (Sturbridge MA)
This one's partially written and I want to try the beef shortrib one more time first. That I posted a preview last January (within days of BT's moving to Sturbridge) has somewhat reduced the urgency to do a full review, but I need to get this one done. I don't think it's much of a secret that the review will be a good one. Although I've mentioned that the brisket is the star here, what the review will probably illuminate most is the full gamut of offerings that put BT's breadth (Cuban sandwich, crab-and-corn fritters), creativity (pork dumplings, pig newtons) and derring-do (smoked bluefish, barbecue tofu) on full display night in, night out.
Burke's Bar-B-Q Barn (Baldwin NY)
I've posted about this at least once, but the formal review will be my next Long Island one. I just need to consolidate the previously posted thoughts and merge those with my notes from my most recent visit. If I lived closer, I'd probably wait for another visit before committing to a review, because the 'cue caliber on three visits has been all over the place, making a conclusion difficult. More realistically, this'll probably be one of my next reviews posted.
Buck's Naked (Freeport ME)
Harbor Q (Port Washington NY)
KC's Rib Shack (Manchester NH)
I just need to fold my recent postings (and in Buck's case, a second not so recent posting) into my original reviews to reflect the later visits. KC's was one of my first reviews ever in 2006 and looks it with only a mere handful of photos, so doing this review will take a little more time. But it needs a new one.
Fette Sau (Brooklyn)
Waterfront Ale House (Manhattan)
I hit both of these on my recent New York crawl and will probably do one post and one review update, saving the other for a future review update. Care to guess which is which?
Big W's (Wingdale NY)
Blue Ribbon (Newton and Arlington MA)
East Coast Grill (Cambridge MA)
Firefly's (Marlborough, Framingham and Quincy MA)
Goody Cole's Smokehouse (Brentwood NH)
Hill Country (NYC)
Redbones (Somerville MA)
Swingbelly's (Long Beach NY)
Texas BBQ Company (Northborough MA)
These are mostly joints that I've visited numerous times since my original reviews, but I'd like to visit them each at least once more before attempting an update. Most are significant joints for their longevity and/or quality that need the full treatment.
Boston BBQ: Texas Saloon Reviewed
Texas Saloon (Quincy MA) has quickly caught the attention of many in its just over two weeks of operation. Part of the buzz can be chalked up to mentions in local restaurant news sites (Thrillist, Hidden Boston), but a larger part has to be the fact that there are exactly 200 photos of their attractive female servers for your viewing pleasure on Texas Saloon's Facebook page. Some (like the two featured in the example below) could be models; the rest make do with A+ effort.
Somewhat harder to obtain over these last two weeks have been the Texas Saloon phone number and food menu, neither of which are available on either Texas Saloon's website or Facebook page. After a two-week effort I managed to track down both. First the phone: there isn't one installed in the building yet. Shortly before opening in late October, a phone number was given out on Facebook, but apparently it's the cell phone number of one of the owners and is never answered. As for the menu, many have wondered if the "country eats" merely hinted at on Thrillist meant that Texas Saloon was a barbecue joint. If ribs and pulled pork make it a barbecue joint, then Texas Saloon is a barbecue joint. If having smoked ribs and pulled pork is a requirement, then it's not a barbecue joint, at least according to what four of my five senses told me on my weekend lunch visit.
PigTrip's 193rd barbecue joint review is now posted for Texas Saloon (Quincy MA). Check out the review (which includes what may be the only online version of their menu) via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Long Island BBQ: A Visit to Lily Flanagan's
Will Breakstone, better known to Long Island BBQ fans as the former owner of Willie B's BBQ (Bay Shore NY), is back behind the stove, this time at Lily Flanagan's in Islip. While in Long Island two weekends ago, I stopped in to see how things were doing.
Although Lily Flanagan's has already featured Breakstone's 'cue as part of their weekly football tailgate on Sundays, they are just now incorporating it into their regular menu. The core items are the pulled pork sandwich, ribs by the rack and half rack, and barbecue chicken. On Thursdays, an all-you-can-eat rib special is available starting at noon. Brisket will not be offered as such, but look for smoked corned beef and pastrami to make regular appearances. Besides straightforward barbecue, the tailgate menu features a two-page assortment of snacks including a cheesesteak sandwich, pulled pork potato skins and pulled pork quesadilla. Burgers will comprise a good chunk of the menu (including creative special creations) and are allready featured as a $4.99 special on Wednesdays starting at noon (8 ounces of Angus beef with chips and a side salad; bacon or cheese can be added for 50 cents apiece).
Joined by a couple of barbecue cronies, I split one of Willie's special creations: an "inside-out" burger with the toppings stuffed in the middle. A generous supply of habanero peppers added a nice kick while still allowing the meat to sing lead.
A pulled pork sandwich served up a thick pile of tender, mostly moist chunks with decent bark content. It's lightly sauced with extra sauce available to calibrate to your liking.
As for the ribs, I also shared a half rack and found them very similar to what was available for years at Willie B's: thick cut, thick crust, crispness from a grill finish, moist inner meat, medium tenderness, medium rub presence, light drizzle of sauce but no dependence on the sauce for tenderness or flavor. Cole slaw and fries were pretty forgettable, but these were some very good ribs.
BBQ Elsewhere: Boston is the Worst BBQ City, According to Travel + Leisure
Last week Travel + Leisure released their rankings of the best and worst US cities for a variety of cuisines, including barbecue. It's caused somewhat of a stir within the barbecue community over the results, especially in Boston and New York. Many are wondering how valid a list could be that ranks Boston dead last among the 35 included cities; New York City didn't fare much better at 31st place. Salt Lake City finishes 20 slots higher than Boston? The Carolinas arent even mentioned? How can that be?
I'll tell you how that can be.
OK, so I lied in the first sentence. Travel + Leisure didn't release their rankings of cities for barbecue and other cuisines. They simply released the results of their poll that asked readers to provide ratings for all 35 cities. Each poll participant awarded 1 to 5 points to each of the 35 cities, with no requirement of living in any of them or even having tried the food in any of them. So as you might imagine, what it all comes down to is perception and name recognition. That's tantamount to awarding baseball's Gold Glove award to Derek Jeter based on reputation rather than skill (which also happened last week, on the same day these poll results were announced).
It's no surprise that barbecue bastions such as Memphis (a whopping 4.85 average), Kansas City (4.84) and Austin (4.77) top the list, whether by merit (some) or reputation (one). I'm not even surprised that Boston (3.13) and New York (3.37) ranked so poorly. What does surprise me is nearby Providence (3.66) scoring more than a half point higher than Boston. That more than anything shatters the validity of this poll. I wouldn't be surprised if a large number of New Yorkers gave Boston the lowest score possible just so New York City could trump Boston yet again.
If a single writer or editorial panel concluding these same results, I could understand the outrage. And yes, I know it's only minor outrage here. But every time readers' poll results create outrage, I say the same thing: it's only a poll, and that's what happens with polls. Outrage is better saved for more important matters.
Here's a partial listing, including the top 10 and cities within the PigTrip directory:
18 Providence 3.66
31 New York City 3.37
33 Portland, ME 3.30
35 Boston 3.13
Travel + Leisure poll the complete rankings
Travel + Leisure poll methodology
Long Island BBQ: Port Royal Reviewed
The site's 192nd barbecue joint review is now posted for Port Royal Pub & Grille (Islip NY). Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Joints Directory Madness: Fourth Dinosaur Outpost Opens Today In Troy
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning four states. This time there are two new websites, one address correction, four new joints, one mini-chain expansion and one closing.
One Eyed Pig (Newtowne CT) now has a website: www.oneeyedpigbbq.com
(Dorchester MA) now has a website: www.mandmribs.com
Bronx BBQ Pit (da Bronx, naturally) now has a website. Thanks to Robert for passing along. www.barbecuepitbronx.com
Blackstrap BBQ (Winthrop MA) is now open, as reported and previewed here earlier. It's run by some alums of East Coast Grill, which is always a good sign. www.blackstrapbbq.com
Barking Pig (Chelmsford MA) is no longer barking, no longer serving pig and no longer operational in Chelmsford.
Pies and Thighs (Brooklyn NY) had the wrong address. I had it as 166 South Street, but it's now been corrected to 166 South 4th Street.www.barbecuepitbronx.com
Stevie's Eatery (Marlborough MA) is a 10-day-old joint located on the same street as and less than a mile west of barbecue juggernaut Firefly's. The over-the-counter operation doesn't have the space, bar or alcohol components Firefly's does, but they do have a TV and the advantage of being open for both breakfast (non-BBQ) and lunch. Thanks to Marlborough's more famous Stevie for the info.
Woodstock Station (N. Woodstock NH), located in an old fashion inn, is most famous for its humongous burger served with a steakknife driven through the bun. But their menu also includes smoked ribs, smoked chicken and pulled pork sandwiches. Thanks to another Steve for bringing this to my attention. www.woodstockinnnh.com/dining.php
Phat Boyz BBQ (Greenfield MA) is a new joint with culinary influences from the Carolinas and Georgia. The bad news is that the only meats (so far) are pulled pork and pulled chicken. The good news—aside from their plans to expand the meats in 2011—is that they're open until 2:00AM Thursdays through Saturdays. Thanks to Marty for the lead. www.phatboyz413.com
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (Troy NY) opens its fourth New York location today in the capital region. Here's the early word according to BBQ socialite Eric Johnson, who attended the VIP preview Saturday—and who, with a first place brisket trophy from last year's Jack Daniel's, knows his 'cue:
"The place is absolutely stunning. A lot of the new Manhattan decorations and designs are incorporated into the space, and all tables have river views. All in all, the food was some of the better BBQ I have had out in the last year."
Boston 'Burbs BBQ: Southern Tapas at Firefly's
Last month I mentioned that menu change eperimentation was underway at Firefly's (multiple suburban Boston locations) and that a Southern style tapas menu was in the works. Here's an advance copy of the final tapas menu that debuts in the Framingham location today. It will be offered at Marlborough starting next Wednesday, acclording to owner Steve Uliss.
Among the tapas offerings are chipotle deviled eggs, Firefly smoked salmon, smoked chicken salad, jumbo lump crabcake, Cincinnati 4-way chili, pulled beef shortrib, steak chimichurri, a St Louis rib duo, pulled pork sliders, grilled sausage, catfish fingers, "porked" mac and cheese and grilled vegetable skewers. As fpr the details, see the graphic menu preview.
A mix-and-match burger concept is also part of the new menu, and the meat for the burgers is a choice of black Angus, kobe beef, grilled chicken, turkey or veggie burger. New sandwiches include crabcake, smoked chicken salad, a smoked salmon BLT and porky macaroni and cheese (or cheesy macaroni and pork). Here's the deal:
(11/09/10) (second post)
Boston BBQ: Ribs Behind the Scenes at Blue Ribbon's Commissary
Here's the latest video from Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q (Newton MA and arlington MA) that demonstrates much of their rib making process and features a svelte Geoff Janowski. I've got dibs on that third rack out of the smoker.
click to see video
New York City BBQ: Hill Country, Back to Back
Cramming 10 joints into two days on last weekend's New York BBQ crawl, I wasn't sure if there'd be a repeat. The odds-on favorite would have been RUB, since it's a) the place with the most barbecued meats on offer and b) my favorite BBQ joint in New York City. But Hill Country (NYC) wound up getting the reprise (and reprieve) on day #2, because a) it was very close to my hotel, b) it's easy to get in and out of with their counter service and by-the-pound system, and c) I was bursting with curiosity over how the pork rib and brisket would fare after disappointing turnouts the day before. Both visits were at lunchtime, with Friday's visit a little earlier (1:00PM versus 2:00PM).
Visit #1 on Friday
Pork rib: Great for size, good for rub: mostly black pepper, with salt and cayenne trailing way behind. This didn't feel or taste as fresh as others I'd had at Hill Country over the years. The lunchtime visit may have had something to do with it, but I've had fresh ribs there at many lunch visits. Moistness was sastisfactory but short of downright juicy. Smokiness was there but lighter than in pork ribs past. An extra component on this rib was a light sweetness that may have come from the most delicate brushing of sauce shortly before the end of the smoking process. I'd been told years ago that the post oak from Texas contributed a sweetness that seemed like saucing, but this one was a little sweeter and had a slight stickiness.
Beef rib: At the same lunchtime visit, the beef rib was as good as ever. The annoying membrane wasn't as in the way as usual. Flavor was strong, from the triumvirate of beefiness, aggressive rub and very noticeanble smoke. The fourth component—and though unseen, possibly the most important component—was fat. It also wasn't in the way, because instead of introducing itself in a nasty bite, it was rendered away in the smoking process, lubricating and flavoring the beef along the way. Downright juicy? Hell, yeah.
Lean brisket: As is my custom, I ordered a quarter pound of the stuff, and as usual, I ate less than half, selecting only the tastiest bits and discarding the rest. Not only was the brisket not downright juicy, it was downright dry. I can hear some of you saying, "Well, that's what you get for not ordering the moist brisket." Sorry, but the lean brisket at Hill Country has repeatedly been plenty moist, and repeatedly more so than just about any joint. But this wasn't Hill Country's best day. Flavor was also off, with less rub on the exterior, less rub flavor in the meat and less smoke than usual. For the first time ever, it had a "roast beefy" quality to both the flavor and texture. And for the first time ever, I believed I was getting a reheat from the day before. Reheats happen all the time and aren't necessarily a barbecue crime, but I thought Hill Country was different.
Overall: To use the baseball metaphor, 1 for 3 with a strike-out, a routine fly out and a home run.
Visit #2 on Saturday
Pork rib: The single bone was meatier and noticeably fresher than the previous day, with the right doneness. But it still had some of the same rubbery texture and hardly any smoke. There was enough going on with the rub and pork fluid that smoke wasn't an absolute must, but it was a disappointing dropoff from the generally high level I'd come to expect in Hill Country's early days. I noticed the pork rib slippage a while back—and no, it had nothing to do with changes in pitmaster—and eventually stopped ordering them, instead sticking with the superior trio of beef rib, Kreuz hot link and brisket (sometimes ordering the "moist," sometimes ordering the "lean" and sometimes ordering both).
Moist brisket: I went in with the plan of ordering the lean again as comparison, but when I saw the appetizing pile of moist brisket head past me on a previous customer's tray, I changed plans quickly and decided to ride that wave tooMeats are served dry; sauces are very good. My order was every bit as appetizing as what I saw on that other customer's butcher paper. The exterior was well crusted, with lots of rub for texture and flavor. Doneness was perfect, tenderness was perfect and juice flow was rampant. Overall texture was also perfect, which is not a sure thing with Hill Country's moist brisket. Thankfully, there was no blubbery fat and no gelatinous mouthfeel. The smokiness that was missing in the pork rib was present here. Rub wasn't just an afterthought; it fully permeated the inner meat.
Overall: 1 for 2 with another fly out and a towering home run.
Final thoughts: So as much of a disappointment as the previous day's lean brisket was, that's how much of a success this day's moist was. Does that mean the moist is now better than the lean? No. I chalk it up to barbecue being barbecue, where there are no sure things and quality varies from day to day, even at the best of joints. Does it mean the lean is slipping? No, although I'd say that about the pork rib and about Hill Country overall—but only by a smidgeon. Where I once considered RUB and Hill Country to be 1A and 1B in the New York BBQ pecking order, with the designations dependent on who was having the better day, I now consider Hill Country to be number 2. Or possibly number 3, if this weekend's visit to Fette Sau (Brooklyn) can be repeated. More on that later.
Long Island BBQ: All You Can Eat Ribs in Islip
Two Islip NY joints on the same street (and only 300 feet apart) both now have all you can eat rib offers. At Port Royal Pub and Grille, it's Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. At Lily Flanagan's, it's Thursdays. So how are the ribs at these places? I tried both this weekend, so stay tuned for a full report. I'm still processing the photos from a 2-day, 10-joint crawl.
Boston BBQ: Hen House Reviewed
The site's 191st barbecue joint review is now posted for Hen House (Roxbury MA). Known primarily for its chicken and waffles, this poultry palace last year epanded its repertoire to include smoked ribs and pork. Check out my review of the Chicken Connection via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
BBQ Elsewhere: Trading Fast Food for BBQ
You'd think that in states much further South, barbecue is so much a part of the mindset that the fast food chains wouldn't stand a chance, but as with everywhere else, it's sadly the other way around. That's why the five month old BBQ Post 401 (Fredericksburg VA) is accepting trade-ins of fast food burgers for barbecue sandwiches to bolster business.
According to a colorfully written press release, the campaign is a "counterinsurgency effort against fast food chains and ‘corporate’ food... to free locals from their attachment to fat-filled, pitiful, thin patties."
Recruitment stations will be set up around the campus of the University of Mary Washington and throughout the community to enlist students and other locals to join BBQ Post 401’s fight.
I wouldn't be surprised if the glib efforts of owner Nelson Head get some free airtime on local radio and TV outlets. But I dug a little deeper and dug the photo of the pulled pork sandwich on the BBQ Post 401's website. More than words and gimmicks, that's what might ultimately drive barbecue business their way.
Photo courtesy BBQ Post 401. Used with permission.
(11/02/10) (second post)
Sports & BBQ: Difference of Barbecue Opinion Instrumental in Moss's Demise With Vikings
It all comes down to barbecue. Maybe it wasn't just Randy Moss's half-assed performance during Sunday's Patriots-Vikings game and subsequent outburst (and Patriots love fest) that led to his being cut by the Vikings this week. According to a report on Yahoo Sports by Michael Silver, at least part of the reason had to do with a severe disagreement with his teammates over the quality of a barbecue restaurant's catered meal in the Minnesota locker room two days earlier.
Check out the link for details, but the short story is that all of Moss's teammates found the barbecue to be excellent, but Moss disagreed—in an abusive, expletive-filled tirade that belittled the restaurateur.
Aside from the abusiveness, which is uncalled for under any circumstances, I'm in no position to take sides on the barbecue assessment. But I do know this: ever since his trade to the Vikings, Moss has been wearing purple gloves, and one of my most reliable rules of thumb is to never trust the barbecue opinions of a purple-gloved critic.
Damon Amendolara: the Pigtrip Interview permalink
About a month ago, as is my three-times-a-week habit, I was listening to Damon Amendolara on the Sports Hub 98.5-FM (Boston) when I nearly fell out of my chair. No, it had nothing to do with his incisive sports commentary. His compete-level 10 performance became an eat-level 10 when he surprisingly started waxing poetic about Dinosaur Barbeque in Syracuse and then the advanced state of Kansas City BBQ in general. I knew I had to find out where he stood on Boston BBQ, and DA was kind enough to share his thoughts in this mini interview.
PigTrip: You had a 4-year stint in Kansas City previous to your current gig in Boston with the Sports Hub. How does the Boston barbecue scene compare with Kansas City?
Damon Amendolara: I've always been a huge BBQ guy - but after living in Kansas City, I feel like my BBQ palate was nearly perfected. The Boston BBQ is decent—I like Blue Ribbon and SoulFire, although I'll admit my Boston BBQ experience is limited—but the difference between here and BBQ hotbeds is options. I like to compare BBQ cities to a baseball team's pitching rotations. Places like KC, Memphis and Houston have high-quality starters throughout the rotation. You have 15-20 game winners starting every day. In a place like Boston, think Red Sox rotation circa 1999. You may have Pedro at the top (Dinosaur BBQ in 'Cuse) but nothing behind him (rest of Central NY). You can find terrific BBQ places in non-traditional BBQ cities, but no place has depth like in the BBQ hotbeds - and there's nothing like KC in my mind. Go out to a Chiefs game and you'll see 80,000 amateur barbecuers. It's part of the culture and you taste it everywhere you go.
PigTrip: Favorite go-to items or joints?
DA: Favorite order in KC is jumbo pulled pork on Texas Toast at Oklahoma Joe's. It was my go-to move even before Anthony Bourdain blessed it. The burnt ends at Fiorella's Jack Stack is a close second.
PigTrip: Pork at one, beef at another. So you don't have a "standard" barbecue order?
DA: Never have a standard. You play to your team's strengths. I love ribs, pulled pork, brisket, burnt ends, etc. Whatever the restaurant does best, I go with. Gate's in KC does a great beef-on-bun. Okie Joe's: pulled pork. Dinosaur: chicken and ribs. Blue Ribbon: pulled pork or pulled chicken. LC's (near Arrowhead in KC): burnt ends or brisket on white bread.
PigTrip: I notice Arthurd Bryant's is a conspicuous omission. Does it not live up to the hype?
DA: Not a Bryant's fan. Love the atmosphere and the old-school feel. But thought their sauce is too tangy and the meat far too fatty. Some real BBQ hounds I know in KC don't even put Bryant's in the conversation. It's more tourist in some ways then a true KC go-to place.
PigTrip: Beyond depth, is there something the Kansas City barbecue joints get right but the Boston joints miss?
DA: Do one thing REALLY well. Carve out your own niche. And have patience. Don't try to be great at everything all the time. It'll never happen.
The D.A. Show with Damon Amendolara airs Monday through Friday in the Boston area from 6PM to 10PM on the Sports Hub 98.5-FM.
The Sports Hub website
The D.A. Show website
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