Archive - December 2010
New Hampshire BBQ: Hillbilly's Reviewed
The site's 199th barbecue joint review is now posted for Hillbilly's Southern BBQ (North Conway NH). Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Tonight on PigTrip: A Very Special Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning three states, with two new joints, one new chain, one joint that's back from the dead, one new phone number, one conversion from trailer to joint, one mobile truck relocation, three closed joints and one joint that's still in the directory but might only be there temporarily. So what's so special about it? Unlike most joint roundups, this one has some additional meandering that would normally be (and probably should be) stuffed into a separate post. Questions and feedback related to these meanderings are welcome on the PigTrip Facebook page as comments to the post with today's date.
Mustang Smoked BBQ & Fried Chicken (Troy NY) opened yesterday, making Troy the fastest growing BBQ city on the heels of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que's expansion there earlier this year. According to an Examiner.com article, Mustang is also an expansion of sorts: owner Fahim Khater also owns a nearby Citgo station and convenience store. Mustang is more of a fast food approach to barbecue that also has a drive-thru service. Thanks to Sledneck for the lead.
Little Red Smokehouse (Carver MA) also opened yesterday. Actually, it's more of a re-opening, as the restaurant is back from the dead after a 2 year hiatus with expanded bar and dining areas. Thanks to Tony for the info. Note that the website is still not functional, so stay tuned. www.littleredsmokehouse.com
Dickey's Barbecue Pit (Seekonk MA) is the recently opened lone New England outpost of a national chain. Thanks to Doug for the lead and the follow-up intel. As I mentioned earlier this week, I have mixed feelings about adding Dickey's, as I don't want to open Pandora's box and include every location of every national chain that allegedly serves barbecue. So it's in the directory for now, but I make no promises as to how long it will stay in there. By the way, I don't consider multi-joint operations like Brother Jimmy's (NYC), Dallas BBQ (NYC) and Tennessee's (Massachusetts) to be national chains. www.dickeys.com
Beauford's Southern BBQ (Hillsborough NH) is "movin' on up," but to the west side—of Manchester, that is. The former trailer operation that's as renowned for its chili as for its 'cue now has indoor digs, opened just two days before Christmas. Thanks to Steve and to owner Tim for the info.
Silk Road BBQ (mobile operation, MA) is returning to Cambridge's Kendall Square in 2011: on Wednesdays and Fridays, they'll be getting their shashleek on at the south plaza near Genzyme. They'll still be in Boston at the Greenway on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thanks to owner Ed for the info. www.silkroadbbq.com
Smoking Sloe's (Northport NY) is the latest in a long wave of Long Island BBQ casualties. Thanks to Eric, Sledneck and Paul for the info. I'll always have vivid memories of my one and only visit there. Some are food related (astonishingly ugly brisket that tasted better than it looked), some are sauce related (a few really creative offerings, including one made with cooked down raisins), some are photo related (I somehow managed to get SS's pretty counter girls to pose for me). But my favorite memory from that visit is what reality shows call "the reveal." At the conclusion of the meal, owner Roger Montague came over to the table to ask for feedback from the one member of our party he recognized (he had no idea who I was). After getting a diplomatic answer, Montague offered an equally diplomatic admission more or less stating that while he wasn't unhappy with that day's 'cue, he "certainly wouldn't want PigTrip to come in and review it right now." That's where I jumped in: "I've got news for you, buddy..."
Woodstock Station (Woodstock NH) is also still in the directory for now, but after a visit yesterday, I'm not sure if they're "barbecue enough" to remain in the directory. My loose, unwritten criteria for inclusion thus far has mostly been as follows:
a) If you have the word "BBQ" in your restaurant name, you're in, as long as you're not Korean BBQ or Brazilian BBQ. That's not to say that those two cuisines aren't worthy or don't have the right to call themselves barbecue; it's just that they're outside the scope of this site.
b) If you have the word "Ribs" in the name, you're in.
c) If you have at least two of the following on the menu, your in: Ribs, pulled pork, brisket, BBQ chicken.
Although as a consumer I prefer that the meats be slow smoked over fruitwoods, I don't disqualify a joint from inclusion if the meats are grilled, oven baked, stewed or microwaved. The reviews are judgmental; the directory is non-judgmental.
Back to Woodstock Station: they have ribs and they have pulled pork, but they don't exactly hold up to the "I know it when I see it" test, mostly because those two items are practically lost in their endless something-for-everyone menu. As for the cooking method, I did a little inquiring, and my server reported that the ribs are a "pre-smoked Hormel product" that's reheated in-house and topped with a "smoked barbecue sauce." Full and tired at the end of yesterday's New Hampshire crawl (that'll yield at least three new reviews), I wasn't in the mood for pre-smoked, reheated ribs with God-knows-what-makes-it-smoked sauce.
So am I being judgmental? No, it's still in the directory. But based more on menu than methodology, that position is a little more precarious today than it was yesterday. Let's face it: the pulled pork sandwich is a much more familiar item on menus throughout America today than it was when PigTrip started four and a half years ago. As more restaurateurs catch on to its growing appeal (and its undeniable profit appeal), the pulled pork sandwich will become even more widespread (dare I say "ubiquitous"?). So at some point I'll need to come up with a different litmus test for inclusion in the directory, and that test may be more subjective than in the past. When this happens, all-purpose pubs and family restaurants (like Woodstock Station) that merely happen to have ribs and pulled pork sandwiches might not make the cut.
Massachusetts BBQ: Dickey's Now Open in Seekonk
Reader Doug sent some photos from a visit to the recently opened Dickey's BBQ Pit (Seekonk MA). I'm a little torn as to whether to list Dickey's in my directory. On the one hand, they're a national chain, and this site's mission isn't to tell you where chains like Famous Dave's, Smokey Bones and Texas Roadhouse are. On the other hand, this is for now the only Dickey's in New England. So for now, it's in the directory, subject to change.
Doug purposely did not review the food, but did mention that there's a free-refill soda area, a free soft serve area and a big jar of pickles. I did a little research and saw that Dickey's is running a Monday special throughout January that offers $1 pulled pork sandwiches (limit 2 per customer). www.dickeys.com
Massachusetts Donuts, Not BBQ: Donna's Donuts Reviewed
Here's a little holiday change of pace: a donut joint review for one of my Massachusetts favorites: Donna's Donuts (Tewksbury MA).
This is more of a diversion than anything resembling a regular feature, but I do have at least one more donut review up my sleeve. Merry Christmas!
Massachusetts BBQ: Three Dogz Diner Reviewed
The site's 198th barbecue joint review is now posted for Three Dogz Diner (Lawrence MA). Ordinarily I'd be sure to try the ribs before posting a review, but since I'm not sure how soon I'll be back, I'm posting the review now based on three sandwiches. Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
New Hampshire BBQ: Overdue Power Surge at Goody Cole's Smokehouse
A three-man, three-stop crawl two Saturdays ago that started at Lobster Q (Hampstead NH) continued to Goody Cole's Smokehouse (Brentwood NH). Those who've kept track of past posts will remember that I've had consistently good visits there (high batting average), but over the last few visits the spectacular items (high slugging percentage) have been elusive. Until last weekend, that is.
Ribs: A half rack of St Louis cut spares drew oohs and ahs from all three of us, and they were among the best looking ribs I've had at Goody Cole's or anywhere else. The surface was ever so slightly crusted, more than slightly wet and dealt a ruby sheen from light (but heavier than usual) applications of finishing mop. The cross sections had pink edges and very fresh looking meat. The bite was ideal: tender but thankfully nowhere near fall-off-the-bone tender. Recent Goody Cole's ribs had been cooked a little past where I like 'em, but these were dead on. Flavor was a nice blend of smoky, sweet and porky, with a fresh taste that lived up to the promising appearance. Juices didn't gush, but they were certainly flowing easily. Were these ribs as good as that second visit (2006) I've raved so much about? Not quite, but very close; these ribs were certainly a home run. Comparatively speaking, on this visit they were the best of the day ahead of KC's Rib Shack (our third stop) and Lobster Q.
Brisket: A pile of well-barked slices had just the right amount of fat, contributing to high moistness levels without a blubbery hijacking of texture. Those edges had a spicy, salty punch that made every bite a delight. Tenderness and texture varied from slice to slice, with some slices extremely moist and downright juicy and others that weren't dry but weren't overly moist. Every slice had good flavor that penetrated into the interior. The best of the slices were fantastic; the worst of the slices were very good. Standup double into the gap.
Pork: This has been Goody Cole's Achilles heel over the years, and this time wasn't much different. Tenderness was fine (sometimes it's a little too tender), bark was a little more noticeable than usual, and smoke was there, but something was missing. Maybe it's that the smoke is a little lighter on the pork than on the ribs and brisket, with overall flavor a little lighter too. With some thin, vinegary Lexington sauce, this pork was fine though. If I had to classify the pork into one of five grades (well above average, above average, average, below average or well below average), I'd probably say average or maybe above average. It's just that the other meats are all above average of well above average, so the comparison is tough. Weak bleeder through the infield for a jog-to-first single. The only other meat tried at all three joints, on this visit Goody's pork was in the second slot between KC's Rib Shack and Lobster Q.
Turkey: Ordered more out of curiosity than desire, this was expected to be nothing more than a conversation piece, but the smoked turkey took us by surprise. It was extremely moist, extremely flavorful (poultry on overdrive) and even boasted a faint smoke ring and not-so-faint crispy bark. Usually when I have barbecue restaurant smoked turkey, it's a nice upgrade over the deli counter but nothing to get excited about. This turkey was worth getting excited about. Home run.
Chicken: At one time I would have considered Goody Cole's chicken a sure fire candidate for my top three, thanks to predictably gushing juices, crisp skin, good size and plenty of smoky flavor. The size is the same and the skin's nearly as crisp, but the smoke level was again ratcheted down a bit on this visit. Gushing was ratcheted down to very moist. Flavor was good without being noteworthy. Even though it's no longer that rare must-order chicken item it once was, this example of Goody's chicken was satisfying and would probably still crack my top 10. Single off the wall.
Sides: To be honest, I went easy on the sides on this visit, since this was a three-stop crawl that demanded pacing. But that didn't stop the crisp, thin cut cucumber salad from being the memorably refreshing standout. Cool macaroni salad was equally refreshing, with some tart flavors and just enough mayo to keep things moistened. Cornbread was moist and decent but probably the third best of the day behind Lobster Q and KC's Rib Shack.
Overall: A solid visit that left no doubt that Goody Cole's is New Hampshire's premier BBQ joint.
New Hampshire BBQ: Lobster Q Reviewed
The site's 197th barbecue joint review is now posted for Lobster Q (Hampstead NH). This joint is primarily an old school seafood haven, but after a name change under new ownership, they've added a bar, expanded their beer list and added a compact barbecue menu. 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: Fatty Cue Goes American, Christmas Day
Known for its Southeast Asian take on barbecue, Fatty Cue (Brooklyn NY) for one day only explores barbecue's American roots. On Christmas Day from noon to midnight, pitmaster Robby Richter will shift focus to the Carolinas, Texas, St Louis and Kentucky.
Boston BBQ: Second Visit to Blackstrap BBQ
I've always thought that barbecue success in a restaurant setting is part art and part science; that really hit home two weeks ago when I made my second visit to Blackstrap BBQ (Winthrop MA). First the art: smoke levels, rub levels, spice levels and flavor levels were beyond reproach, from the meats to the sides to the sauces. Now for the science: none of the meats tasted or felt like they'd come right out of the smoker and onto the plate. I know that's a rare occurence even in the best barbecue joints up North, but some reheats are better than others. The best ones allow suspension of disbelief and at least come close to approximating the pit-to-plate ideal. Nothing at Blackstrap tasted old or anything, but the textures on some items had a bit of a reheated feel that wasn't there on my first visit. Speaking of that first visit, the logistical issues with the line, ordering, packaging and delivery have all seemingly been worked out.
Here's the run-down on a mostly good visit:
Wings: We went with the Buffalo this time instead of the barbecue, and the sauce was a nice mildly spicy number that remained true to the classic. Meat was pleasantly smoky and slightly moist; the exterior was crisp. Overall, some very good wings that have a good chance of cracking my top wings list if they can just come out fresher and hotter. I'll have a better handle on these well before the Super Bowl.
Corn and andouille fritters: It's hard to rate these, because I was expecting the andouille to be more involved than it wound up being. But the golden balls were hot, crisp and tasty, bearing whole corn kernels and small chunks of sausage. So aside from the technicality of minimal sausage usage, these were also a hit. The jalapeno marmalade supplied as a dip was an even bigger hit, merging sweet with heat effectively and clinging easily to the fritters.
Onion rings: Delivered in a cardboard boat, these had a perfectly crisp texture that was never compromised by suffocating in a bag like the first visit's batch. The rings were noticeably thinner and lighter in both onion cut and batter than that first batch, so I'm curious to see which one is representative. Again aggressively seasoned, these satisfied immensely.
Rib sandwich: Probably the dish of the night, the rib sandwich was a bark lover's delight, stuffing the meat from a few ribs inside a soft bun. The slightly higher fat content and much higher surface area made this a steep upgrade—in both textuire and flavor—from the typical pulled pork sandwich. Saucing was just about right, letting the meat flavor sing lead. Although clearly a reheat, it didn't seem it.
Ribs: Pork spare ribs carried an abundance of rub, and all of it was crisp (no small feat with such a thick shroud). Flavor was appealing, but unfortunately, they were overcooked and just too soft to handle without breaking under their own weight. A little less cooking time and a slower reheat might have produced a home run; instead, this was a (memorable) long foul.
Burnt ends: Probably the freshest meat on a 3-meat combo, the burnt ends were brisket chunks that despite being well sauced still allowed the pinkness and flavor of the meat to poke through. There were some crispy bits and some saucy sections that were softer. Smokiness was a little lower than at other joints.
Brisket: A little pale and a little oversauced, the brisket had nice tenderness (possibly a bit too much tenderness) but not much crunch to the exterior. Flavor mixed smoke and spice successfully. Texture wasn't a horror show but there was a noticeable refrigerated-then-reheated feel.
Beef short rib: A Thursday special, this brought two large bones. I liked the size of the cut, the thickness of the crust and the flavor of the meat. The texture was again the weak link here: not tough, but not as tender as some other joints that feature beef short ribs. I probably would ask for these unsauced next time (as I would for most of the meats; I just flaked this time), but the sauce did a nice job complementing the meat.
Sides: I really liked both the tingly regular cole slaw (made with horsradish and vinegar) and the slow heat build up of the Asian cole slaw (made with sesame oil and hot peppers). The latter, it turns out, is a tribute to the late "Uncle Pete" Cucciara, who before his death owned a barbecue joint that bore his name not too far away in Revere. Collard greens and baked beans were both competent but not noteworthy.
Sauces: No change from last time, which is good. All four sauces are well made, with minced smoked onions adding some interesting flavor and texture to the sweet and the hot.
Other observations: Not only were the counter, order-taking and delivery issues worked out, but the portions this time seemed much more reasonable.
Summary/outlook: Although not everything was perfect, much of it was very good. Blackstrap is headed in the right direction and shows good promise.
Massachusetts BBQ: BT's Smokehouse Reviewed
The site's 196th barbecue joint review is now posted for BT's Smokehouse (Sturbridge MA). This is less of an update and more of a brand new review, since the BT's menu, quality and atmosphere at the indoor digs are a major departure from the previous trailer operation in Brimfield. Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Boston, Not BBQ: Beehive Burger Reviewed
Really, I mean it, PigTrip isn't turning into a burger blog, but here's my review of the burger at The Beehive (Boston MA). For this mission, I had the pleasure of joining Richard of Boston Burger Blog, who reviewed the Beehive burger the next day. The burger was quite impressive, but it was equally fun just chewing the fat and comparing notes on burgers, chefs and the blogging process.
Coming Monday: another barbecue review, with more photos (60+) than any PigTrip review to date.
Massachusetts BBQ: Buck's Roadside BBQ Reviewed
The site's 195th barbecue joint review is now posted for Buck's Roadside BBQ (Auburn MA). Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Boston BBQ: Coriander-Crusted Pork Belly, Coming To A Blue Ribbon Near You
Last night I stopped into the Blue Ribbon commissary (Newton MA) to get a sneak preview of their upcoming special: coriander-crusted, pit smoked pork belly with peach bourbon glaze. This will hit the West Newton and Arlington stores later this week, but owner Geoff Janowski was kind enough to send me home with a sample. Their interpretation of pork belly has everything I look for in a barbecue item: a fully loaded spice crust (that coriander packs plenty of crunch), a crispy exterior (assuming the restaurants heat it to the same doneness as in my oven), a deep porky flavor inside and plenty of juices. Spicy, sweet and bacony, all in the same crackly bite.
This triumph is a not-to-be-missed item. But I can already hear some of you saying, "Well, that's great as a special, but how's Blue Ribbon doing with their everyday fare?" That's a good question, and it's a topic that was at the forefront of our conversation last night. One of my missions for the next month or two is to refocus on Blue Ribbon, to get the four-year-old review updated and additionally comment on how today's Blue Ribbon stacks up against the days of yore. That commentary will be thorough and that commentary will be honest. The field work starts next week.
Worcester BBQ: First Look at Firewood Cafe
Yesterday I visited the recently opened Firewood Cafe (Worcester MA) on their third day of operation. The brick oven pizza was impressive, bearing a slightly blackened crust and a slightly charred flavor. The barbecue was less impressive, but it's early. So far, their barbecue selection is limited to a choice of three sandwiches with smoked meats (pulled pork, chicken, ham), finished in the brick oven to give the meat and the bread some crispness and coloring. "Sandwich" might be a misnomer, as these were more like grinders. Though smoked, neither the pork nor the chicken brought much smoke or spice. Most of the flavor came from the thin, tangy, non-mainstream sauce; fire roasted onions were a nice touch on the chicken. But the highlight was the bread, a very fresh, very brittle French loaf.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time there's five new joints and no closings.
Firewood Cafe (Worcester MA) is now open. It's uncertain how prominent the barbecue component will be, as the pizzas and sandwiches are the primary offering. www.firewood-cafe.net
Larry J's House of Q (Chelsea MA) is a new Boston BBQ joint that's already received some very positive mentions on Yelp and Urbanspoon. Their website is still under construction. www.larryjs.com
Big Dave's BBQ (Goshen NY) is a Hudson Valley joint with an eastern North Carolina slant and an interesting menu that features items like boiled peanuts, sweet potato wraps and foot long hotdogs. Thanks to Sledneck for the lead. www.bigdavesbbq.com
Bill's BBQ (Woodbridge NJ) is an Avenel area BBQ joint that opens at 5:00AM every morning. Thanks to Kevin for the lead.
Low Country (NYC) (or is it Lowcountry?) isn't your mainstream barbecue joint, but their eclectic menu includes babyback ribs, molasses lacquered chicken, fried chicken biscuit and BBQ pork sliders. Thanks again to Sledneck for the lead. www.lowcountrynewyork.com
New York City BBQ: Dinosaur Review Update
Review updates continue with a new one for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (NYC/Harlem). Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Boston, Not BBQ: Lord Hobo Burger Reviewed
No, PigTrip isn't turning into a burger blog, but here's my review of the burger at Lord Hobo (Cambridge MA). Interesting comparison with the previous day's burger: Towne's burger had a superior design; Lord Hobo's burger had superior execution.
The reason for the burger spree was the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I nearly pulled the trigger on a few long distance barbecue visits, but ultimately chose not to do so right after the holiday, when the 'cue caliber might not be representative.
Brooklyn BBQ: A Return to Fette Sau
One of the barbecue joints that impressed me most on my first visit two years ago was Fette Sau (Brooklyn NY). Based purely on quality, I should have been back many times since then. But my busy schedule and their dinner-only hours made that difficult until recently, when Fette Sau started opening at noon on weekends. I made a return visit a few weekends ago and was even more impressed, finding improvement in everything I tried and plenty of wow factor along the way.
Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory. This is only a slight update, so I'd expect a more comprehensive update after a heavier visit down the road.
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