(08/25/05) (02/20/06) (11/04/06)
The Linwood Grill, located within walking distance of Fenway Park, consists of a single large room with a small bar area on one side, with two flat panel TVs. There are large booths by the windows and more tables by an open kitchen. All of the tables have roadmaps of prominent Southern cities under a glass top. The Linwood’s separate club in the same building has pool tables and hosts weekend entertainment. Behind the building is a free parking lot, unique among Boston BBQ joints.
I wasn't impressed by the Linwood's offerings (ribs, pork, brisket) at a 2001 contest at the East Coast Grill, but I gave them a shot in August 2005 and thought their tangy grilled ribs were at least pretty good. I went back with a friend in February 2006 to sample more of their BBQ menu during a weekday lunch.
We wound up ordering two sandwiches (pulled chicken and sliced brisket) and a duo meat entree of ribs and pulled pork. The chicken was dry and flavorless. The brisket was dry but had a decent flavor in the crust and a pink smoke ring. The pulled pork was stringy and tender but mostly dry and flavorless, and not pink like you usually see in good pulled pork. The ribs, served unsauced, were somewhat moist, but pale and flavorless, with not much crust and no indication of any time spent in a smoker. Last time, the ribs were pink and grilled with sauce on. The sauces we got on the side (one sweet and tangy, another hot and tangy like Buffalo sauce) weren't bad but weren't much help. Cole slaw was dry and flavorless. Baked beans were soupy and tangy. French fries were mealy and flavorless (even though they had skins on, I think they were frozen). The fact that two barbecue lovers managed to eat only 3 of the 4 ribs on our shared combo speaks volumes.
Within a week of launching Pigtrip.net, I started receiving BBQ restaurant recommendations, and one for the Linwood came from a respected member of a competition BBQ team. With that in mind, I returned to the Linwood in November 2006, this time for a Saturday dinner with my wife. We were led to our table by a young waitress who maintained her conversation with another waitress during the entire trip from the host stand to our table. No eye contact, no acknowledgment, no class. But no harm, no foul; we just came for the food.
We started with fried pickles and fried olives. The pickles were a large basket of warm spears lightly coated in batter, with a spicy mayo dipping sauce. Nice job. The fried olives were crustier and the size of a Dunkin’ Munchkin, with green olives and Asiago cheese. These were tasty and went well with my wife’s wine.
For the entrées, my wife went with the blackened catfish (pretty good) and I revisited the ribs and pulled pork combo (not so good). The ribs were better than last time, with more of a crust and dark pink meat, but they were extremely chewy and again lacking in flavor. They also didn’t taste very fresh. The pulled pork was very moist, aided by a sauce that was neither sweet not tart. There were a lot of unusual spices in there, and a faint tomatoey flavor. Interesting, but strange, and not anything I’d want to try again. Cole slaw was not only dry and flavorless, but ice cold. The collard greens had the texture and flavor of carbon paper.
The bottom line: On two visits, none of the BBQ items was better than mediocre, and the sides weren’t all that good either. Though I never had the Linwood anywhere near my favorites, at one point I would have suggested it as a dinner option before a Red Sox game. At this point I'd say the calories are better spent on sausages and peanuts.