(12/27/05) (07/26/06) (11/01/06)
I was fortunate to have arrived on a Tuesday, as Tuesday and Thursday are all you can eat days: 3 meats for $16.95 with refills on all the meats. I wasn't planning on all you can eat, but since one meat was $15.95 anyway, it was a no brainer simply for the variety. So I got pulled pork, brisket and babybacks (they don't offer St Louis ribs here). The other Cookhouse locations (New Milford, Darien and Branford) offer St Louis ribs in 2 styles: one wet and falling off the bone tender (“Fat Tommy style”) and the other unsauced and with a little more bite (“Memphis style”).
My server did an excellent job describing the preparation of the meats and the sauces (Mild, Hot and Scary, all ultimately slight variations on hickory flavored ketchup). I was pleasantly surprised that she asked my sauce choices so they could serve hot versions on the side with my entree as opposed to over the meat.
The brisket was decent: good flavor, moderate moistness, slight char from a grill finish. The pulled pork was dry and pale brown, with a liver aftertaste, not helped much by sauce. The ribs were meaty for babybacks, moist and tender without falling off the bone or chain restaurant mushiness. These had a little sauce and good flavor, probably from a mustard slather. The sides were bad: overly Mayonaissed cole slaw and mushy, gritty collard greens.
On a second visit, also for lunch, I got the Cookhouse burger, a half pound of Angus beef. Not bad, cooked medium rare as ordered, and very juicy.
I tried the barbecue again for a Wednesday lunch nearly a year after my first visit. This time, I ordered the Tombo Combo, again choosing ribs, pulled pork and brisket as my three meats. The babybacks were reasonably meaty and tender, and very smoky. Not only were they very good, but I was impressed that I got 7 bones on a three meat combo. The brisket was also very smoky, with a good flavor, although some pieces had a lot of fat woven in. The pork was moist and lighter of smoke, with a pleasing flavor that was a huge improvement over my first visit. Collard greens and cole slaw this time were generous and very good.
The bottom line: Hard to tell from two very different barbecue experiences and one pretty good burger. But at their best, they're one of the better bets for Hartford BBQ.