Another Quick Review
I work only a few miles from Clyde's Roadhouse in Walpole MA, but had not visited it until earlier this week. They're most famous for their 2lb burger challenge: eat the whole thing in less than a half hour, and it's free. Instead, I sampled four different barbecue meats with a co-worker. I added my review of Clyde's to the Reviews page, bringing the total number of reviews to 71.
Two More Reviews
Today I posted my separate reviews on the Reviews page for Brother Jimmy's and Brother Jimmy's Express in New York City.
I managed to hit most of the places I planned on hitting, from the far outskirts of the Boston area Saturday (Tejano Loco) to some New York BBQ Sunday (Dallas BBQ and Brother Jimmy's). I'll have my Brother Jimmy's review up later in the week, but I'll probably visit Tejano Loco and Dallas BBQ one more time each before posting. I was hoping to also sneak a visit to Daisy May's yesterday to try one of their Oklahoma beef ribs, but time ran out. I'll update the Daisy May's review after I try that, probably some time in the next two weeks.
I also checked out Red Rock Roadhouse on Second Avenue, but didn't try the food, because their actual menu, not yet available on their web site, is quite different from what they have listed on menupages.com. As I suspected to a lesser degree anyway, it's basically pub food, with only the obligatory ribs in the barbecue department.
People ask me how I can manage to eat two or three New York BBQ lunches in one day. The simple answer is: I don't. I'm slowly learning to eat like a real food critic, emphasizing sampling over gorging. So as much as I love eating barbecue, I don't come close to finishing every plate. Without hinting too much at my forthcoming reviews, there are definitely some places that make it easy to not eat everything.
On my last visit to New York, I carried a doggie bag around for several blocks, hoping to give it to a homeless person, finally throwing it out when I didn't find an opportunity. Yesterday, with a new doggie bag from Dallas BBQ in hand, I saw a woman with a cart full of plastic bags, rummaging through trash barrels on several street corners. I asked her if she wanted a sandwich, and if looks could kill, my wife would be cashing in my life insurance right now. The woman announced, in a rather condescending tone, that she was looking for bottles and cans, not food. My bad.
Yesterday's Boston Globe had a feature on Wyeth Lynch, of SoulFire in Allston. See the News page to link to it.
Yesterday I did a solo trip to New Hampshire, but this weekend's eating will be with an assortment of dining companions. Tonight, I'll head somewhere local with my wife. Saturday, I'll check out a new place with a friend I met on the competition circuit, then have a light non-barbecue dinner with my wife. Sunday, I'll be in New York watching Jets football and English soccer with my brother-in-law at a joint I'm still reviewing. I'll probably round that out (as well as myself) with a snack on the way home at some joint in Connecticut.
About the Reviews
You may have wondered why there are still a bunch of listings on the Joints Directory that have "pending" reviews. Sometimes, a joint requires only one visit before I do a review; others require several. Why? The better ones need to be tested more carefully, so I can see if they'll repeat their early successes. Sometimes it's not a matter of whether they're good, but how good. Besides, if a joint is good, I want to do a repeat visit anyway.
Sometimes, it's a matter of a restaurant's split personality. There's a joint in Boston that I visited twice, and one time it was pretty darn good and another time it was awful. My sense of curiosity and my sense of duty both require me to go a third time before I post the review I've already drafted.
Speaking of duty, this is probably a good time to remind everyone of something that should be pretty obvious: I'm just a guy who eats barbecue and has an opinion. I'm not a professional journalist. I don't say that to excuse irresponsible writing or to feel better about taking the occasional low blow to drive home a point. Food critics employed by the print media typically visit a restaurant three times before writing their review. Because I pay for my own meals (in terms of dollars, time and cholesterol count), I can't afford to visit a mediocre place repeatedly.
That's why, even though (due to limited technical skills) I don't have a built-in mechanism for people to respond other than emailing me, I absolutely welcome feedback on my reviews. I especially appreciate responses that defend a place I may not have liked, because it gives me a reason I otherwise wouldn't have to check them out again. Even if it's just a matter of pointing me to an undiscovered side dish that's worthy of mention, feedback is very valuable.
New Hampshire Trip / Another Review
Today I trekked to New Hampshire, where I checked out two joints, then wrote and posted the review for Well Dressed Hog in Dover the same day. The Reviews page now has 68 reviews.
Today's weight: 215. Down two pounds from last week, three overall, but that was before lunch.
Today I added a few more New York City BBQ resplaces to the Joints Directory. I may try one of them over the weekend.
Blue Ribbon & Black-eyed Sally's Reviewed
Today I posted two new reviews on the Reviews page: Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Que in West Newton MA, a long-time favorite of mine, and Black-eyed Sally's in Hartford, which I visited for the first time this weekend. Remember that you can also view reviews by region by clicking the red icons in the Joints Directory.
I had been meaning to try Black-eyed Sally's for well over six months and haven’t until now; I'm not sure why it took so long. I planned visits several times (printing Mapquest directions, losing them, then printing them again, all on company time), but something always got in the way.
I also had lunches at Chili Head BBQ (West Bridgewater MA) and Blue Ribbon this weekend. Earlier in the week I hit Firefly's (Framingham MA) to get some photos for my upcoming review.
Another Review / Weekend Plans
Today I posted one more on the Reviews page: Smokin' Al's in Bay Shore (Long Island). I wrote this during my Christmas visit to the in-laws last year, so I don't have any photos. Luckily, the place was good enough and the BBQ explosion in Long Island is serious enough that I will be back. But I figured I ought to post it now rather than wait. I added a few more Long Island establishments to the Joints Directory.
This weekend I hope to hit one of two places I've been meaning to try for awhile. I'll also be doing at least one BBQ interview. I have a few already recorded with some of the area's top pitmasters and restaurateurs, and will schedule a few more over the next few weeks. I'll probably start posting these in October.
Next Monday's update will include a review of Blue Ribbon BBQ in West Newton, MA.
A Few Updates
Yesterday I made a few changes to the screen appearance of several areas on the site, so that those who are using small screen resolutions won't have to scroll. Today I added a few items to the News page.
Today's weight: 217. Down a pound, but losing one pound in one week is not going to do it.
Two NYC Reviews
Today I posted two more Reviews: Blue Smoke and Virgil's, both in Manhattan. I'm still working on an update to the Daisy May's review, which I hope to post in another week or so. I also added two more joints to the Joints Directory.
I didn't have any barbecue this weekend other than what I got while judging at the KCBS barbecue competition in Lowell, MA on Sunday. The event was a great opportunity to bump into some friends old and new within the barbecue competition community.
After the competition, I treated myself to a few ribs cooked by Kenton "Jake" Jacobs, the man Chris Schlesinger calls the "Living Legend of Barbecue." Now that Jake's Boss BBQ in Jamaica Plain is closed, Jake is enjoying life but still doing barbecue catering and vending. His famous smoked turkeys and deep fried turkeys will be available this Thanksgiving. For details, call (617) 983-3701.
Jake Jacobs, the Living Legend of Barbecue
Always a treat is Doctor Gonzo, whose fantasically fiery condiments occupy several shelves in my kitchen cabinets. After my judging duties were over, I treated myself to a few samples of the good doctor's tastebud altering concoctions. My purchase included two bottles of his latest product: Smoke Island Elixir, a Barbados style mustard hot sauce with a
mesquite smoke finish. www.drgonzospeppermash.com
Tomorrow's update will include a review of Blue Smoke.
Free Concert Monday in NYC
On Monday, there's a free concert at Blue Smoke / Jazz Standard in New York. See the News page for details.
Brewfest Tonight, Rib'n Brews This Weekend
Tonight, Manhattan hosts the NY Brewfest, where you can sample 50+ brews and Spanky's barbecue. On Saturday and Sunday in Lowell, MA is the Rib'n Brews Fest, with beer, music, a KCBS barbecue competition and barbecue vendors. See the News page for details.
I'm looking forward to judging the barbecue competition on Sunday, then sampling some of the hot sauces from the vendors.
Today I posted 2 more Reviews: Wes' Rib House in Providence, RI and Smokin' Lil's in Northampton, MA, bringing the number of reviews to 62. In the days ahead, I'll have my Blue Smoke review, as well as a revised Daisy May's review.
Two Links, Two Bills
I added a couple of new links to the Links page. I can't believe I forgot to include eGullet.org. The overall level of passion and the skill of the writing there are truly inspirational. This is the site that led me to Bailey's Blauvelt Inn, the new home of Dave "Fink" Finkelstein (formerly of Fink's Funky Chicken & Ribs and Stickey's in NJ). The photographs in the Bailey's post not only expedited my trip there (I wrote a draft review but am waiting for the grand opening before posting), but serve as a standard to aspire to for this site's photos.
As I've gotten deeper and deeper into barbecue, eating for nutrition as well as enjoyment and research, my weight has slowly but steadily risen. I've gone from a recent low of 184 two years ago to 218 today. I started the year at under 200 and I'm vowing right now to end the year under 200 as well. I'll post my current weight once a week. I've done it before, even while eating barbecue a few times a week, and I'll do it again.
Weekend Recap / Two More Reviews
I hit several good places, including a few of my favorites, over the last four days. On Friday I sampled a bunch of menu items from Daisy May's and Blue Smoke in New York City. It was my first time trying the chili I've heard so much about at the former and the burger I've heard so much about at the latter, and both were very good.
Lunch at Daisy May's: $28.
Dinner at Blue Smoke one hour later: $32.
Monthly membership at Boston Sports Clubs: $92.
Strategic use of the rest rooms at NY Sports Clubs: priceless.
Then on Saturday, my wife and I finally made it back to East Coast Grill in Cambridge (the place we vowed we'd never let three weeks go by without a visit). I went the seafood route for my appetizer, then, after 100+ visits to ECG, tried their burnt ends sandwich for the first time. On Sunday, we hit Holy Smokes BBQ & Whole Hog House in West Hatfield, MA (a little north of Springfield). Yesterday I took a little breather from barbecue.
There are some big eating and drinking events coming up this weekend: the New York Brewfest in the city and the Lowell Rib'n Brews Festival in the Boston area. Check out the News page for details.
Today I posted 2 more Reviews: Holy Smokes BBQ & Whole Hog House in West Hatfield, MA and KC's Rib Shack in Machester, NH. This brings the number of reviews to 60.
I've been promising that I'd post reviews for some of the better joints soon and these latest joints are definitely among them. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Redbones, Daisy May's and Memphis Roadhouse are also among the better ones I've posted so far.
I also added two more NYC joints to the Joints Directory.
One Month Anniversary of the Site
PigTrip has been up for one month now. Thanks to everyone who wrote to offer feedback or suggest joints to try. Thanks also to the restauranteurs who agreed to answer my questions (there will be some interviews posted in the weeks ahead). And thanks to all of the pitmasters who wake up early every day and stay up late every night to produce barbecue. It's a lot more demanding than you think.
Four More Reviews
Today I posted 3 more reviews, all from Massachusetts. I'll be in New York a few times over the next month, so I'll try to balance the reviews to include more from west of the Connecticut River.
More All Star Sandwich
I stopped into All Star Sandwich Monday on their first official day of operation, taking two hungry friends with me. Together we tried 6 different sandwiches, with all of us sampling at least 1/4 of each one. I'd say the standouts were the Texas Reuben (made with smoked brisket Monterrey Jack cheese) and the Atomic Meatloaf Meltdown (made with Inner Beauty hot sauce). Since they ran out of pulled pork Monday and my wife was eager to check it out too, I returned Tuesday with her and tried a pretty hefty pulled pork sandwich. The 75% lean beef burgers aren't ready yet.
I'm going to cool it for a few days and focus on something alien to me lately: salad.
Weekend Recap / Looking Ahead
I had a nice meal of spicy seafood stew and Carribean style ribs at Something Savory in Arlington MA last Friday night. Saturday's lunch was the Texas Reuben at All Star Sandwich. For Sunday lunch I enjoyed some spectacular slices of brisket and fresh-from-the-smoker ribs at Blue Ribbon in Newton MA.
This week I'm hoping to hit All Star Sandwich at least one more time, along with one or two Massachusetts BBQ joints for reviews. I'm going to see if I can make it down to Manhattan again sometime over the next two weeks.
All Star at Last
I had the pleasure of stopping into Chris Schlesinger's All Star Sandwich for their "soft opening" over the weekend. I tried the Texas Reuben, made with smoked brisket, Monterrey Jack cheese and cole slaw on toasted rye, and I was impressed. Their official opening is Monday, August 28.
Today I posted 3 more reviews, including the legendary Redbones in Somerville's Davis Square. Redbones has been around since long before some of today's BBQ joint owners even tasted barbecue.
Weekend Plans and Restaurant Yearnings
With the weather being so bad, it's hard to do any real planning, but I hope to hit Blue Ribbon in Newton MA and Something Savory in Arlington MA, along with a likely non-BBQ dinner Saturday night. I'd also like to check on the status of All Star Sandwich Bar in Cambridge MA, which supposedly opens next Monday, August 28.
I have a bunch of places I've been meaning to try. I'd really like to hit Andy Husbands's Tremont 647 in Boston. Over the years it's been one of my favorites, but I haven't been there since Andy's BBQ restaurant Rouge closed a few months ago, so I'd like to see what he's doing with his ribs nowadays. Plus the small plates on the menu look pretty appetizing. I'd also like to make a second visit to Blue Smoke in New York City before posting the review I already wrote. After trying their rib sampler, I need to sample their pulled pork and possibly even their burger before officially weighing in. Another joint that I've been meaning to try but somehow keeps getting pushed back on the schedule is Black-eyed Sally's in Hartford. Soon, I guess.
The downside of doing a site like this is not being able to return to my favorite joints as often as I used to. Man, I miss Chris Schlesinger's East Coast Grill in Cambridge MA. It's been about 6 weeks since my last visit. In the old days, 6 weeks would represent at least 3 visits to ECG. I still love it; I just I wish I had more time.
The next few updates will have more of the heavy hitters included. Over the weekend I'll post my review of Redbones in Somerville MA. Coming soon are RUB and Virgil's in NYC, Uncle Willie's in New Haven, East Coast Grill and Blue Ribbon in the Boston area, and a few surprisingly good joints in New Hampshire.
Now Over 50 Reviews
Today I added 5 more reviews, for joints from three different states. There are now 51 reviews posted. I also added a few more entries to the Joints Directory.
Hanging in Hudson Valley; Another 5 Reviews
I'm in New Paltz NY to judge at the Hudson Valley Ribfest. On the way down I enjoyed meals at Southbound BBQ in Valhala NY and Bailey's Inn in Blauvelt NY. I'll be posting a review for Southbound soon and hope to return to Bailey's for their grand opening (stay tuned) before posting an official review.
Today I added 5 more reviews, for joints from three different states. There are now 46 reviews posted.
Another 6 Reviews
Today I added 6 more reviews, for joints from 4 different states. There are now 41 reviews posted.
I haven't had barbecue since Sunday, but I'll have my share this weeend in New York. I'll be judging at the Hudson Valley Ribfest in New Paltz and plan to hit a few joints along the way.
A good week for BBQ
I started last week by getting my weekly Blue Ribbon (Newton MA) fix on Sunday. Then I went to Redbones (Somerville MA) on Wednesday. This joint, one of the legends in Boston area barbecue, has been accused by some of resting on its laurels in recent years, but I can say my last few visits here have been excellent. This weekend I took a little trip to Connecticut, trying Jeff's Cuisine (Norwalk) and Wilson's Holy Smoke BBQ (Fairfield). Thanks to Garry and Mike for the Wilson's tip, and thanks to Ed for his hospitality. I'll have reviews for all of these soon.
I updated the News page, and modified all review pages to include links at the bottom.
Remember, in some of the food pictures within the reviews, I have a link to a larger photo. Simply click on the standard size image to view the larger image.
More Reviews; Weekend Plans
Today I added 6 more reviews, for joints from 4 different states. There are now 35 reviews posted, with most of the better ones still in the queue. After these are all up (over 75 so far), I'll create some lists comparing the various joints.
In some of the food pictures within the reviews, I have a link to a larger photo. Simply click on the standard size image to view the larger image.
In response to a suggestion from a reader, I'm providing a little more info on prices. Keep the suggestions coming, this will make it a better site for everyone's use.
This weekend I'm going to try a few joints in Connecticut.
I made a few minor updates to the Joints Directory and News page.
One Week Old
PigTrip has been online one week now. Today I added 5 more reviews, for joints from 5 different states. Some of these are pretty good.
How About Lunch in New York?
How about three? I hit the city Friday just to walk around in near-100-degree heat and try some pulled pork sandwiches at Brother Jimmy's Express and Live Bait before tackling more serious fare (burnt ends, pulled pork, bacon) at RUB.
Advocating Words, Not Numbers
When I was a kid, my friends and I used to spend hours thinking up cool names for rock bands. Now it's more fun trying to think of cool names for restaurants and barbecue teams. I had a bunch of different names I considered for this site before I settled on pigtrip.net. Among them were Swine Spectator and Swine Advocate, spoofs on the popular magazines Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate.
Although I'm more of a beer guy, I love a good glass of wine, especially with European and fusion cuisines. The descriptions of the various wines in Wine Advocate make me want to hunt some of them down and drink them. Hopefully, the descriptions of the BBQ joints here (along with the photos) will make you want to try some of them.
The thing I don't like about Wine Spectator is the ratings. A wine that's a 90 for them might be an 85 for me and vice versa. Just give me the descriptions and I'm ready to sample and form my own opinion. A bunch of people have asked about whether I'll have ratings like a 4-star or 5-star (or 5-bone) system. I suppose that would make it easy to immediately see my favorites, but my opinion is just one man's opinion, nothing more. Later on, I may have lists of some of my favorite joints for different things, like "best baked beans" or such. But for now, I'd rather tell you what I think in words and pictures, not numbers.
I Updated the Directory
The Joints Directory has a few more entries, including Buck's Naked in ME, Wilson's in Fairfield CT, and the Hog House in Long Island. You can also see which joints have reviews written for upcoming postings.
Check out the updated News page for some added events and a look at BBQ in the media.
Today Is Day 1 of This Site
I like barbecue. I eat a lot of barbecue.
It seems like a lot of other people are starting to like barbecue and getting serious about it. People who know I love barbecue always ask me to recommend good BBQ joints somewhere along their travel path. A few years ago I started sending quick email reviews to a small circle of BBQ fans, and then somewhere along the line I got a little more serious, adding photos and trying to actually use complete sentences. It evolved into what you see here.
I have 70+ reviews written but am starting the site with 18 reviews. You'll definitely see updates and progress on a regular basis.
This site will provide reviews, a directory of joints that includes even those I haven't reviewed, and thoughts on barbecue, whether it be restaurants, the competition circuit or home cooking. There are a lot of great sites and blogs that cover the competition scene and home smoking, so there's really no need for me to dwell on what's already being done well. The main thrust will be where to find barbecue restaurants. more about the site
Thanks to everyone who offered me BBQ restaurant leads, dining companionship, feedback on my writing, ideas for the site and general encouragement: Ling, Erik, Scott, Bob, Jay, Kathy, Marc, Marc, Mark, Wallie, Rich, Danny, Larry, Tim, Carol, Andrea, Mary, Charlie, Eb, Adam, James, Todd, Dennis and, of course, Chris.