Exeter, NH (05/26/06)(07/02/06)(09/21/06)(10/15/06)
Brentwood, NH (10/14/06) (01/24/07)
Located right on route 125 in Brentwood, NH, Goody Cole’s Smokehouse looks like it was dropped in from Texas. A wooden pig sign pulls you closer, and then the sweet aroma of smoking meats seals the deal. Inside, the joint is fairly small, with counter service and a half dozen tables with red checkered tablecloths. Décor is Texas themed, with tin signs, license plates and a poster of the legendary Texas BBQ joints like Kreuz Market, Salt Lick, Cooper’s, Black’s and Southside Market. Behind the counter, you can see the smoker with meats at various stages of completion on the racks. If you like peanuts, you can help yourself to a bucket of them while waiting to order. There isn't a bar, but beer is served.
The menu is fairly simple: one kind of rib (St Louis cut pork), one kind of chicken (barbecued), brisket (sliced or chopped), pulled pork, kielbasa and turkey. Barbecue salads are available with brisket, pulled pork or trurkey. Sides are equally divided among hot and cold items.
On my first visit, I tried a 3-meat combo ($14.25) with ribs, pulled pork and brisket, with cole slaw and baked beans. Ever so slightly painted, the faintly sweet St Louis ribs were pink, moist and hauntingly flavorful in that subtle Texas style that walks the line between sweet and spicy. They had competition tenderness, with just the right snap to them. They’re a little like a Chinese rib, only less sweet, more smoky and very juicy. And very good, but they took a back seat to the super tender, juicy, unsauced chopped brisket and pulled pork. These were served in large mounds on the plate. The patches of dark from the bark and pink from the smoke ring made a very appetizing combination. I’ve been back several times since.
The St Louis ribs were spectacular the second time, plump and juicy with a pretty-as-a-picture red sheen from conservative use of mop sauce (meats at Goody Cole’s are never served sauced—it’s strictly a condiment here). They were at their finest in visit #2, but the ribs have always been very tasty, loaded with smoke and much juicier inside than they look at first glance.
On that second visit and every visit since, I got the brisket sliced, and the juicy, thick cut pieces have been excellent every time. I like the slight crunch to the outside bark, along with that hint of salt and undercurrent of melted fat that provides so much flavor. You sometimes get visible fat at one edge, but it’s easily discarded. The smoke ring isn’t as pretty as at some joints, but when I close my eyes and let the brisket melt in my mouth, it sure tastes beautiful.
The smoky, bark-filled pulled pork at Goody Cole's has been good, but not as impressive as my initial sampling, and not in the same league as their ribs, brisket and chicken. It was good on two visits and a little too tender on two other visits. Maybe I'm just fond of vinegar on pork and simply miss it, although I really liked it that first time.
I’ve tried the chicken three times and it was juicy, smoky and well seasoned every time. Even the breast was almost as juicy as the decadently glistening thighs, and the flavor is fantastic. Kielbasa, served sliced, is also smoky, juicy and very good. Smoked turkey is sliced in thick chunks and has a good flavor, though its moistness is no match for the other meats.
On my most recent visit, I tried the chopped brisket again and it was phenomenal: fork tender, drizzled with its own juices and bursting with beef flavor. I like the contrast between the crisp bark and the melt-in-your mouth tenderness of the inner meat. Cut from the deckle of the brisket, this serving was as good as any I've tried.
There are four homemade sauces (mild, medium, hot, sweet) to take to the table. I tried the mild and the hot and both were good, though the meats were good enough on their own to not really need any. Being a Texas style joint, they don’t have any vinegar based sauces, but they do have an assortment of hot sauces for mixing.
Sides are decent. Cole slaw is crisp and simple. Baked beans are a nice balance of sweet and spicy, but pretty standard. Macaroni salad is tasty, with lots of parsley. Minimalist potato salad is a little bland. I really like their cucumber salad, which has an unusual sweet/tart dressing. The chili has big chunks of smoky brisket, but the flavor of the mild sauce reminds me of marinara. The cornbread has gotten really good in recent visits, with a heavier consistency now. Overall, the sides could be a bit better, but on my rides home from Goody Cole’s, I don’t second guess the sides; I just revel in how good the barbecue was.
The portions at Goody Cole's Smokehouse are extremely generous. Getting a half chicken on a three-meat combo is a very pleasant surprise.
The bottom line: Goody Cole’s Smokehouse serves authentic, no-nonsense barbecue in a no-nonsense setting. I found the people friendly and the meats excellent, with their brisket, ribs and chicken all among the best I’ve tasted. It's my favorite New Hampshire BBQ joint and among my handful of favorites in the entire region. If you like Texas style barbecue, this is easily one of the best in New England.