(07/23/11) (12//04/11) (02/25/12)
Pronounced "Buford's" and named after the owner's dog, Beauford's Southern Barbeque is set back from the road, nearly hiding it from view unless you're already looking for it. The place is old and quaint, with a few small tables scattered in front of an ordering counter and a wide open kitchen. Decor consists of saddles, old musical instruments and assorted antiques, none giving the impression of being forced. Past a storage room with old signs and new ones about to be used, the bathroom affords a back window view of the wood pile and a Lang smoker enveloped by a shed. There's no bar or alcoholic beverages served, but according to management, something's in the works.
The minimalist Beauford's menu has four core barbecue meats: ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken and brisket. The ribs can be had as whole racks, half racks and "lunch orders." Chicken is available as half birds and quarters with choice of white or dark meat, and as pulled chicken sandwiches. Pork and brisket follow suit, with sandwiches and two sizes of plates. There's also a 3-meat combo. Burgers, a "Sloppy Bob" sandwich and award winning chili (available in two sizes and as a side) offer a slight diversion from the 'cue, but don't expect any salads here. In fact, cole slaw might be the only vegetarian item on offer.
I visited Beauford's for a Saturday lunch with a barbecue buddy, a Sunday lunch with my young bride and a Saturday lunch all by my lonesome, spaced about seven months apart.
Chili: A cup of chili ($3.25) on the second visit hit the table with a bright arrangement of color, then hit the spot with bright flavors. It's a mix of pork, brisket, chicken and ground beef in a thin, brick colored broth with chunks of stewed tomato, assorted peppers and corn kernels. Let me re-emphasize thin—the texture is more like a soup than a chili, but viva la difference. I liked that there's some definite sweetness, some definite heat and a peppery feel too, all getting along nicely without competing for attention. The chili is served with a mini loaf of sweet cornbread.
Ribs: Loaded with rub and bursting with smoke, the thick unsauced St Louis
ribs from the first visit had what used to be known as competition texture (tender, but with a
little snap) and flavor (a rib's worth on the first bite). The follow-up on the third visit was just as impressive, delivering a light and crunchy crust basted in using light applications of sauce down the home stretch. The inner meat on both occasions was a brilliant pink, with juices trickling forth even on a reheat. Smokiness made itself known both times while yielding the spotlight to the rub and pork flavors that were the clear stars. I'd easily put these ribs among the top third I've tasted.
Pulled pork sandwich: Served on a pillowy bulkie roll, the pulled pork sandwich ($6.50 with chips and pickle) packed large chunks
of pork that had some nice pinkness and good bark content. The meat was
moist and as tender as you can get without getting mushy, though a bit steamy. Smokiness and all-around flavor were both lighter here than in the other meats. A thin Carolina vinegar sauce perked up the flavor and bolstered the moisture enough to counteract the thick housing of the roll.
Pulled pork: The pulled pork from the 3-meat combo ($14.95 with cole slaw, fries, cornbread and one selectable side) arrived in a large pile both times, varying in chunk size (first visit small, third visit large) and color (first visit pink, third visit lighter) but nearly identical in their light flavor that had moderate smoke but otherwise was closer to chicken. Texture was neither moist nor dry. Based on three tastings on three visits, I'd say the pork overall is decent but not in the same league as the more formidable ribs and brisket.
Brisket: Pulled chunks of brisket on the first visit's 3-meat plate had no smoke ring, but provided enough evidence to know they were slow smoked. The meat was tender and well-lubed, not requiring any sauce for assistance. I'd like slices or more bark, but the flavor from the inner meat was more than adequate. The third visit's brisket changed things up with larger chunks more closely resembling slices, this time bringing some bright pink color near the crispy, blackened, extremely well rubbed edges. It reminded me a little of the brisket at BT's Smokehouse (Sturbridge MA), which is high praise indeed. Fat was a bit heavy on this visit, but since it did a nice job glistening the rest of the meat and since the overall portion was quite generous, it was hardly a showstopper. Overall, this is some serious brisket that's among the best in the area.
Burger: A hand packed and grilled Angus third-pounder ($5.50 with chips and pickle) came in slightly underdone on the first visit and as requested on the second. Both times the meat had respectable flavor, nice juiciness and a fresh bulkie roll. You can up the ante with different cheeses, bacon, jalapenos and pulled pork, but for the most part this is a straightforward burger with no bells or whistles.
An assortment of sauces in squeeze bottles provides a spectrum of thick to thin and sweet to spicy. Texas and Kansas City are both thick, brown and sweet, with the Texas a little smokier and spicier. Carolina is a thin vinegar sauce with a little black pepper and tomato. South Carolina is a sweet mustard. All of the sauces get the job done nicely without problem or fanfare.
Cole slaw: This is probably the creamiest cole slaw I've ever enjoyed, probably because the cabbage stood up to the condiment and heavy doses of black pepper and onion provided ample foil.
Baked beans: Slightly sweet and more than slightly spicy, the beans pack an interesting mix of onion, bacon and ground beef. I enjoyed these very much.
Fries: Hand cut for sure (I heard the thumping of potatoes being turned into fries during my most recent visit), these are thin, crisp and generously salted. Mine were a bit too sturdy on the interior, but otherwise enjoyable.
Cornbread: A sweet mini loaf on the second visit felt fresh but tasted store-bought. Turned into a corn muffin on the third visit, it didn't taste storebought but wasn't as fresh.
The Bottom Line
Beauford's Southern Barbeque is a nice little place run by nice people, serving righteous ribs and brisket that I'd rank among the area's best and possibly the region's best. The rest of the meats might not be as strong and the digs might not be so plush, but their tasty tandem and some equally impressive sides make Beauford's a new force to be reckoned with in New Hampshire barbecue.
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