Damon Amendolara: the PigTrip Interview
One autumn night, as is my three-times-a-week habit, I was listening to Damon Amendolara on the Sports Hub 98.5-FM 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