CnD's Barbeque Grille is seemingly far from the action of downtown Wakefield, but it's just three streets back of Main Street with a convenient parking lot to the right of the building. Inside, it's a bit cramped, with over-the-counter service and not much room to stand while waiting. There's a recent addition of a few seats with a counter along the window, sort of a poor man's version of Blue Ribbon. This area affords a nice view into the open kitchen, where the grilling aparatus is up front.
That's right, I said grilling aparatus, because smoke is not used here. Affable owner Dana—who's part drill sergeant, part salesman and part game show host—is more than eager to extoll the virtues of both his product and his chosen method. He believes that smoking low and slow takes all the moisture out of the meat, while grilling retains all the juiciness.
CnD's has a menu that's nearly as compact as the place itself, with most of the variety coming from the different permutations of combination platters. There's one kind of rib (St Louis cut pork spares), pulled pork, half chickens (fried or BBQ), chicken parts (fried only), pulled pork, pork sausage and an Angus burger.
I hit CnD's for a weekend lunch and a weekday lunch, spaced a few months apart. On both visits, I got the order to go and then did my research less than a half mile away.
BBQ Wings: Above average sized pieces on the first visit's 6 wing appetizer ($6.95) were tender inside but not even close to crisp outside. I might overlook this if I ordered takeout from a sit-down restaurant, but this outfit's life blood is takeout, so they should have been either cooked or packed to avoid being as soggy as they were as quickly as they were. Those virtues of grilling didn't do anything in the way of flavor here. Although not billed as smoked or grilled, the wings were neither smoky nor charcoaly. Flavor was nice, but all of it came from the sauce. The good news is that the sauce was tasty, blending sweet, tangy and spicy in a way that tasted a little less commercial than what lay under it.
Onion rings: Ordered on the first visit as a dare (the owner guaranteed they'd be good or he'd refund my money), these fell short of good but not so short that I wanted to exhaust energy on the refund while the rest of my food got cold. Not only were they the puffy kind that I don't like to begin with, but they also looked and tasted like an obviously frozen product. What little flavor was there didn't seem natural.
Pulled pork sandwich: The meat between the fresh, powdery bulkie roll was extremely tender, edging past overtender and approaching mushy. There was no bark, no smoke, no charcoal flavor and no flavor of any other kind other than the sauce. I'd be surprised if the pork was cooked from start to finish onsite. Although outside the style I prefer with pulled pork, the sweet sauce at least helped.
Ribs: On visit 2, I tried the "Jimmy the Electrician" combo (3 ribs, 3 wing pieces, 1 side, no cornbread, $11.95). Three smallish, neatly trimmed ribs glistened from the takeout container. Enveloping every rib, the sauce was thick enough to stick but thin enough to allow a view of the spice rub on the exterior. Again the charcoal was not a factor, as there wasn't any crusting or charring. The meat was at least tender, and with good moisture to boot, but that moisture was more akin to a steamy microwaved chicken breast than a juicy rib (be it from a smoker, oven, grill or what have you). Flavor was restrained, also leaning away from the classic rib taste and more toward pork chop territory. That spice rub was mostly salt and pepper, not much of a barbecue flavor profile. While the meat was by no means cold, it felt (temperature and texture) like it hadn't been reheated all the way. The sauce was pleasant, but I couldn't talk myself out of believing I was eating a TV dinner.
Fried wings: Almost frail, these had a thick but airy batter seasoned with a little salt, a little more pepper and not much else. As with the earlier BBQ wings, the meat was tender inside, but this time there was at least a hint of crispness. As with the ribs, flavor was lacking. As with the onion rings, I again wondered if I was eating a frozen, industrially prepared product.
This is the one area where I have no complaints. It might be made in house and it's probably just unloaded off a truck, but either way I like it. Sweet, tangy and spicy in a ruby red hue.
Mac and cheese impressed despite very minimal cheesing thanks to an infusion of moisture and flavor from bacon bits and bacon grease. Collard greens were a little softer than I like, but the tanginess of the condiment and uncharacteristic natural flavor of the vegetable was refreshing. Portion size was skimpy.
I much prefer smoked meats over charcoal grilled meats, but I can still respect a charcoal grill if the execution is solid and there's some passion in the cooking. If you're going to use charcoal, give me at least a little crust or charring, and let the charcoal flavor the meat. So far, neither has happened at CnD's.
Personal preferences aside, there's a glaring disconnect between the portion sizes and the price tags. If you're not going to make it taste any better (or any more homemade) than a TV dinner and you're not going to fill me up any more than a TV dinner, why are you charging not only more than a TV dinner, but noticeably more than superior joints Blue Ribbon and SoulFire? And without cornbread included? C'mon.
Although I like a business owner who believes in his product, I've heard so many "This is going to be hands down the best [insert menu item here] you've ever had!" claims that I'm worn out. But as much as I enjoy the repartee, I'm not worn down enough to agree.
The Bottom Line
I want to like CnD's BBQ Grille even though there's no smoker involved in the 'cue, but they simply fall short in too many areas.
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