Your guide to BBQ joints in Boston, New York and everywhere in between

 

 

Recent Features:

Wildwood BBQ Preview

Dr. BBQ Bash

Hill Country

Hill Country

Eric Devlin interview

Chris Schlesinger interview

 

Recent Reviews:

Rick's Roadhouse

Smoken' Joe's BBQ

Danny's Little Taste of TX (update)

Pig Out Barbecue

MoJo's BBQ Shack

The Smoke Joint

Fette Sau

Boneyard Barbecue

Premier Palette (update)

Swingbelly's BBQ

Harbor Q

Chester's BBQ

 

Joints by Region:

 

Boston metro BBQ

Boston 'burbs BBQ

Massachusetts BBQ

 

New York City BBQ

Brooklyn BBQ

Long Island BBQ

Hudson Valley BBQ

New Jersey BBQ

 

Rhode Island BBQ

Connecticut BBQ

 

Vermont BBQ

New Hampshire BBQ

Maine BBQ

 

 

BBQ by City:

(coming soon)

 

Albany NY

Arlington MA

Augusta ME

Bay Shore NY

Boston MA

Bridgeport CT

Brockton MA

Brookline MA

Brooklyn NY

Burlington MA

Burlington VT

Cambridge MA

Concord NH

Edison NJ

Elizabeth NJ

Fairfield CT

Framingham MA

Hartford CT

Lowell MA

Manchester NH

Massapequa NY

Merrick NY

Milford CT

Montpelier VT

Nashua NH

New Haven CT

New London CT

Newton MA

Newport RI

New York NY

Northampton MA

Norwalk CT

Norwood MA

Nyack NY

Patchogue NY

Peabody MA

Plymouth MA

Portland ME

Portsmouth NH

Poughkeepsie NY

Providence RI

Queens NY

Revere MA

Saratoga Springs NY

Somerville MA

Southington CT

Springfield MA

Stamford CT

Waltham MA

Waterbury CT

White Plains NY

Woburn MA

Worcester MA

Yonkers NY

 

Archives:

Mar '08

Feb '08

Jan '08

Dec '07

Nov '07

Oct '07

Sep '07

Aug '07

July '07

Jun '07

May '07

Apr '07

Mar '07

Feb '07

Jan '07

Dec '06

Nov '06

Oct '06

Sep '06

Aug '06

 

 

Archives: April 2008

 

 

 

(04/30/08)

New York BBQ: Real Flames Hit Q

On Sunday night, a grease fire had Q Restaurant and Bar (Port Chester NY) in flames. Luckily, firefighters were able to tame the fire within minutes. There were no injuries and damage was "moderate."

read the news story on LoHud.com

 

 

 

(04/29/08)

Joints Directory Madness

Here's the latest batch of Joints directory activity, spanning just two states. This time, there is one new joint, one seasonal opening, one schedule change and one into the dead pool.

  • BT Lane's Divine Swine BBQ is either in Griswold CT or Jewett City CT, depending on whether you go by the website or by MapQuest. Either way, it's on Route 138. They've been open since May of 2007 and use a 275-gallon roaster to cook the meats using steam and convection heat, with a finish on the grill. Thanks to Ted for the find. www.btlanesbbq.com

  • PJ's Bar-B-Q (Saratoga Springs NY) opened for the season on April 19. They've now been operating at their current location for 25 years. Thanks to Robert for the info. www.pjsbarbq.com

  • Oklahoma Smoke (NYC) closed a few months ago, according to a late January report from Zagat.com.

  • All Smoked Up (Beekman NY) is curtailing their roadside operation to just Sundays and Thursdays, from 10:30 AM until the food sells out (usually around 1:00 PM). Thanks to Rob for the info. www.allsmokedup.com

 

 

 

(04/28/08)

Boston BBQ: Rib Wars at Jake's, June 23

The date and the line-up have been set for this year's Battle of the Bones, also known as Rib Wars, at Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA). This event, where you get to try ribs from each of the competing teams and vote for a winner, is guaranteed to be as entertaining as it is filling. This year's line-up includes:

  • Jake's Dixie Roadhouse

  • Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q (Newton MA)

  • East Coast Grill (Cambridge MA)

  • SoulFire (Allston MA)

  • Uncle Jed's BBQ (competition team)

  • IQue (competition team)

 

more info, supplied by Jake's (PDF)

www.jakes-bbq.com

 

 

 

(04/26/08)

NYC BBQ: Beef Aficionado Digs Wildwood Too

Nick from Beef Aficionado is on a tear, with three barbecue reviews in his last three posts. His latest is for Wildwood BBQ, where he dined on its opening night on Thursday. While I got a sneak peak and tasted a few goodies, and White Trash BBQ enjoyed a friends and family meal, Beef Aficionado's is the first full fledged review of Wildwood, because the meal was under real game conditions. He surveyed a wide variety of the menu (even the non-beef items) and he generally liked what he had.

 

Beef Aficionado's review of Wildwood BBQ

White Trash BBQ's review of Wildwood BBQ

my preview of Wildwood BBQ

Wildwood BBQ web site (still under construction)

Wildwood Menupages listing with online menu

 

 

 

(04/25/08)(second post)

Rhode Island BBQ: Rick's Roadhouse Review

The site's 137th review is now posted for Rick's Roadhouse in Rhode Island. This Providence BBQ joint, located fairly close to both the Providence Place Mall and the Dunkin' Donuts Center, has been open for about two weeks now.

 

See the review via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.

 

 

 

(04/25/08)

NYC BBQ: White Trash Digs Wildwood

Now that I've exorcised Nipsey Russell from my system, it's time to get back to barbecue. I'm still working on today's entry (it won't be New York BBQ related, I promise) and will post it later this afternoon. But in the meantime, check out White Trash BBQ's review of Wildwood BBQ in New York City.

 

Robert Fernandez sat down for a full meal the night before the opening and sampled a greater variety of the menu than I did last Sunday. He not only liked just about everything he tried, but is calling Wildwood "the new destination restaurant in New York City."

 

White Trash BBQ's review of Wildwood BBQ

my preview of Wildwood BBQ

Wildwood BBQ web site (still under construction)

Wildwood Menupages listing with online menu

 

 

 

(04/24/08)

A Little Springtime Poetry

The month is almost over, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that April is National Poetry Month. One of my favorite BBQ blogs is known to have song lyrics posted from time to time, with cryptic messages implied, but these are my own little ditties with no intention other than amusement. I hope I succeeded. Tomorrow it's back to BBQ.

 

 

Barista

 

Give me some coffee that's strong, dark and hot
I say to my local barista
With designer eyewear (needed or not)
Each one is a fashionista

 

Here's my affliction: My coffee addiction
Is only sated when the logo is green
Where a tall is a small
And a vente is plenty
And grande's the one in between

 

 

Non BBQ Food Crawl

 

They say the clams in Ipswich are the sweetest in the land
In Maine the juicy lobster claws are bigger than your hand
Along the south Rhode Island coast you'll find the best ice cream
And New York City pizza is like something from a dream

 

For hot dogs in Connecticut try Super Duper Weenie
In Boston hit the north end for some chicken scallopini
So where, you ask, will I be driving for my next great meal?
None of the above, since I can't fit behind the wheel.

 

 

46D

 

Years ago she would tease
With her 46Ds
And the men by the dozen came callin'
But her once splendid chest
Has failed time's cruelest test
And oh how the mighty have fallen

 

 

 

 

(04/23/08)

NYC BBQ: Time Out New York Names Hill Country Best BBQ

Time Out New York magazine's Eat Out Awards 2008 issue is on the stands and available online. Hill Country (NYC) took the Best BBQ honors in annual reader's choice poll.

see the T.O.N.Y. article

 

 

(04/22/08)

NYC BBQ: Behind the Scenes at Wildwood

On Sunday I got a chance to poke around Wildwood BBQ, scheduled to open for business later this week. Despite it being closed to the public, the kitchen was a whirlwind of activity, with meats being pulled out of the Ole Hickory smokers and holding bins for mock service (a dress rehearsal for the servers and the kitchen).

 

The open space is the work of noted restaurant designer David Rockwell, famous for his creative use of materials. Nearly half the room is allotted to the bar area. There's aged wood everywhere, unique seat constructions and slanted garage doors above the bar.

 

The menu was still unavailable, but executive pitmaster "Big Lou" Elrose promises there will be plenty of variety. Ribs will include spares and babybacks. Salads and seafood entrees will offer an alternatve for the non-barbecue fan. After the opening, the menu will expand to include more variety, with some specialty items like Kansas City style barbecue spaghetti. Cornbread isn't usually one of the main attractions at a barbecue joint, but I'm predicting some of the early reviews will give Wildwood's cornbread some focus.

 

Each table will have a condiment caddy with Wildwood's classic barbecue sauce, Big Lou's secret sauce (raspberry chipotle), Dirty Dick's hot sauce and Wildwood's rib dust (dry rub).

 

I sampled a few items and was impressed by the juiciness of the meat and—surprising for me—by the quality of the sauces. The rib I sampled had a sauce that tasted like a more refined version of Blues Hog, the sauce that's very successful on the competition circuit. I'm looking forward to ordering a rack on my first visit.

 

It's obviously very early in the game, but Wildwood BBQ strikes me as that rare place where there's enough sophistication in both the food and the space to draw the non-BBQ crowd, with high caliber authentic barbecue that will still impress the purists. I'm guessing it's going to be very successful.

 

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An long bar with additional bar

seating opposite the stools.

 

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The list of beers in a pig drawing.

 

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Chickens in the Ole Hickory smoker.

 

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A pile of barbecue chicken.

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Pitmaster Matt Fisher plates the chicken.

 

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A good looking leg quarter.

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Executive pitmaster Big Lou Elrose hoists

a brisket from the Ole Hickory smoker.

 

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Here's Lou again with a rack of ribs.

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Racks and racks of spare ribs.

 

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A thick cut with your choice of sauce.

 

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A good assortment of condiments.

 

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Cornbread, served in a cast iron

skillet and drizzled with honey.

 

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Wildwood NY pitmaster Matt Fisher

and Wildwood executive pitmaster

"Big Lou" Elrose.

 

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Montana, previously of Hill Country

and Southern Hospitality, graces

the front of the house.

permalink with more photos

 

 

 

(04/21/08)

NYC BBQ: Another Manhattan BBQ Crawl

I just got back from a 2-day New York City BBQ crawl, with a focus on a couple of the city's newer BBQ joints. Sunday's stops included Georgia's Eastside BBQ and RUB, with a detour to Katz's (right around the corner from Georgia's) for a half pastrami sandwich. Monday's stops were Blue Smoke and Smokin' Q.

 

But the most important stop of the weekend was Wildwood BBQ, the brand new joint that's tentatively scheduled to open Wednesday at 225 Park Avenue South. While the pit crew prepared for the evening's mock service, I got a chance to observe the action and try a few samples. I'll have plenty of photos of the pitmasters and the food, plus a few other surprises, so be sure to check back tomorrow.

 

 

Some commentary and factoids on the rest of the trip:

  • Georgia's Eastside BBQ now serves their entire menu on Sundays (they previously only offered their all-you-can-eat ribs) and is now open 7 days a week (previously thet were closed on Mondays). They offer brisket on Tuesdays. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the ribs here are cooked in an oven, then finished on the grill.

  • RUB rebounded nicely from the previous Sunday's visit with some tasty burnt ends. Fried green tomatoes were also a winner.

  • Because I had another engagement in the area, I stopped into Duke's on 19th Avenue for a few beers at the bar. One of the waitresses was a Red Sox fan and a Massachusetts native, so we got to talking, and I found out that Duke's has a Southern Pride smoker. Who knew?

  • Blue Smoke was more impressive this time than I expected. The brisket was steamy and didn't strike me as having a barbecue flavor profile, but the pulled pork was very flavorful. As always, the bun was high quality and the cole slaw rocked (it's one of my favorites). Collard greens were a huge improvement over the last two batches I tried there.

  • Smokin' Q now has a website: www.smokinqnyc.com. Way back when they first opened, I noted that Smokin' Q had a $15 salad, but that was a Menupages.com typo—I learned that it's $10.95. They use Ole Hickory smokers.

 

I now have a backlog of three joints to write reviews for, with Rick's Roadhouse (Providence RI), Georgia's Eastside BBQ and Smokin' Q most likely to appear in that order in seperate weeks over the next month.

 

 

 

(04/20/08)

Joints Directory Madness

Here's the latest batch of Joints directory activity, spanning five states. This time, there are two new joints that are already open, one new joint that's about to open, one expansion that's a return to a former location, two seasonal openings and one joint into the dead pool.

  • Rick's Roadhouse (Providence RI) has been open a little over a week now. Part steakhouse, part barbecue roadhouse, part bar, this restaurant is part of Rhode Island restaurateur John Elkhay's Chow Fun Food Group, taking over the former Big Fish location. I ate there last night, so a review should be available soon. I'll say this: it's one of the best looking barbecue joints I've seen in a while. Their phone number is 272-PORK, which is worth a few extra points. www.ricksroadhouseri.com

  • Hog House BBQ (Huntington Station NY) finally closed late last month after being offered to potential buyers for several months. Thanks to Ron and Willie for the info. Jericho Grill is taking over the location and, based on a phone conversation I had with the new owner, should be open within weeks if not sooner. The menu will be a mix of barbecue, Italian, German, American, burgers and health food. What, no Lithuanian?

  • The Spare Rib (Hicksville NY) has returned to its former location on Old Country Road. www.spareribonline.com

  • Porky's Petunia's Smokehouse and Ice Cream (Derry NH) is a joint I meant to add months ago, but I lost the menu I was given as a referral. Thanks to Marc for the initial lead and to Dennis for reminding me.

  • Sunset Ribs (Waterford CT) is now open for their 15th season. www.sunsetribs.com

  • Curtis Barbecue (Putney VT) opened last week for its 40th season. Barbecue is hard work, so even 15 years is an outstanding achievement. But 40 years? That's passion. www.curtisbbqvt.com.

  • Wildwood BBQ (New York City) is the latest entry in the B.R. Guest restaurant empire and their first foray into barbecue. The pitmaster is Big Lou Elrose, previously of Daisy May's and Hill Country. The pitmaster of the NYC branch (yes, they're already eyeing expansion) is BBQ blogger Matt Fisher (the Hampton Smoker). The latest word is that they're opening Wednesday this week, but call to verify before attempting a visit. Wildwood website

 

 

 

(04/19/08)

Long Island BBQ: Willie B's Rubs and Sauces Available Online

Willie B's Award Winning BBQ (Bay Shore NY) is now offering rubs and sauces (that helped win those awards) on their website. You can choose from their all-purpose rub, Cajun rub, Bourbon rub, spicy rub or sweet rub, along with Willie B's original BBQ sauce. Rubs are available by the jar, as 3-packs with or without sauce and as 12-packs for extra savings. www.williebsbbq.com

 

Photos courtesy Willie B's BBQ. Used with permission.

 

 

 

(04/18/08)

Boston BBQ: Restaurant Fatties Arrive

The gauntlet has been taken. Don Yovicsin, owner of Jake's Dixie Roadhouse (Waltham MA), saw my Sunday "Things I'd Like to See" post and immediately started experimenting with fatties. Within days, fatties made their way to the restaurant menu as an appetizer special. They're sliced thick, bear a noticeable smoke ring and are served with a "rasta" dipping sauce. To my taste buds the sauce is more Buffalo than Kingston, but it works.

 

Meanwhile, I know at least one other BBQ pitmaster who also plans on introducing fatties to his menu. Stay tuned.

 

 

Events: New England Chili Cookoff, May 3

I said it before and I'll say it again: people who love barbecue love chili. That's why I'm tipping you off to the second annual New England Chili Cookoff being held May 3 at the Pleasant View in Somers CT. It's sanctioned by the International Chili Society, and like barbecue contests, there'll be some serious competition and some serious prize money ($2700) at stake.

 

For $6 admission ($5 if you bring two canned goods to benefit the Enfield Food Shelf), you get to sample chili and vote for a winner. There will also be a chile pepper eating contest, a hot wings eating contest, raffles, vendors, live entertainment and a chance to meet Miss Connecticut.

www.chilict.com

 

 

 

(04/17/08)

Product Review: Big AZ Rack-o-Ribs Sandwich

A few weeks ago I stopped at a Honey Farms convenience store before work, to buy a newspaper and grab something quick for lunch. As I browsed the shelves for a packaged sandwich, the Big AZ Rack-o-Ribs sandwich immediately caught my eye. I had low expectations after trying Curly's Pulled Pork months earlier, but I'm just stupid enough to give it a try.

 

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An eye-catcher on the shelf.

 

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Unwrapped.

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Saucy but not overdone.

 

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Basically a sausage.

The first thing that hit me was the size of the sandwich. It looked and felt heavier than the stated 8.6 ounces, so I thought it was a steal at $2.99. The next thing, and not a surprise, was the "BBQ Pork Rib shaped patty Sandwich" qualifier in fine print. Not a problem, I thought: it would be a poor man's McDonald's McRib sandwich, or possibly closer to their sausage patty. I could deal.

 

At noon I opened the packaging and again was impressed by the girth of the meat, which protruded from the bread. While I microwaved it, I studied the wrapper's list of ingredients. The sauce contains the usual suspects, as well as mustard bran and natural hickory smoke flavor, plus dozens (and I mean dozens) of multisyllabic chemicals. Even the vinegar was artificial, although I'm not sure why.

 

After a few minutes in the microwave, the meat was steamy but the bread was still a little stiff. The sauce had melted nicely, adding moisture to the meat without overpowering it. At first bite I could easily taste the smoke flavor, which would be a good thing had I not read the wrapper. The meat had a texture similar to a McDonald's sausage patty, with a little less spice and a little more pork flavor. It was reasonably juicy, but the overall quality, even for $2.99, wasn't enough to make me consider buying it again. I ate half the sandwich.

 

The bottom line: Big AZ Rack-o-Rib sandwich wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, but for the same flavor and convenience you could do a lot better with a McDonald's breakfast sandwich (or two) before work and a few pieces of fruit for lunch.

 

 

 

(04/16/08)

NYC BBQ: Manhattan BBQ Crawl Notes

Some random notes and thoughts from Sunday's New York city BBQ crawl:

  • Football fans are familiar with the phrase "On any given Sunday," and serious barbecue fans already know where I'm headed with this. Sometimes a great team (or barbecue joint) has an off night and disappoints. Sometimes an inferior team (or barbecue joint) can somehow put it all together on one night and overachieve. On any given Sunday, the superior entity may come up short when pitted head to head with an inferior one (just ask the New England Patriots). Some of the joints we visited exceeded expectation, some were true to form and some were disappointing.

  • For the most part, I was in agreement with the two Boston pitmasters who accompanied me on the crawl as far as the quality of the food that day.

  • Shake Shack was our first encounter. The Shack Burger was good, but it came without that wow factor I expect and usually get from a visit to Shake Shack. I did like the Usinger's smoked chicken and apple bratwurst, which had a good snap, a smoky flavor and plenty of juice flow.

  • Daisy May's was the first of our BBQ stops, and I'd say it ran true to form: not their best, not their worst, but right down the middle, and that's very good. The pork ribs (both the wet and the dry rubbed) were tasty and very fresh even on a Sunday afternoon. The mammoth beef rib and chunky all-beef chili were good to very good; the pulled pork sandwich (a little skimpy) was just OK. But the outstanding baked beans were by far the most-talked-about item.

  • This visit to Dinosaur was similar to my last: just about everything was good but nothing was great. The pulled pork came the closest, with lots of bark, nice flavor and a chewy consistency (you don't want mush). I still don't see why so many people rave about Dinosaur, but I also don't see why so many bash it. I'd go back again in a heartbeat.

  • Even though I'm somewhat of a Virgil's fan, I didn't expect it to be as good as it was Sunday night. The place was packed, but the service was efficient and friendly, and the food was mostly good. Ribs were a little light on rub but extremely meaty and juicy; chopped brisket had a nice texture and strong beef flavor; chicken was crisp outside and juicy inside; pork was overmashed; sausage was crisp outside and juicy inside; hushpuppies were very good. The smooth Velveeta-like mac and cheese was the only item all day that drew widely varying opinion.

  • RUB was another of the disappointments on this particular crawl. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the place, and my last meal there was terrific, but as Paula Abdul might say, Sunday night wasn't their best performance. We started with some excellent wings (smoky, spicy, sweet and tangy) and bacon chunks (thick cut cubes crispy on one side and chewy on the other). But once we learned they were out of burnt ends, things went downhill, with the pastrami noticeably tough and the pork dry. Chicken was moist and the ribs were pretty good, but the meal as a whole wasn't the spectacular event RUB usually is.

  • When all was said and done, Hill Country was the joint they liked best, with the brisket (both the moist and the lean) and sausage (jalapeño) most impressive. That's not a surprise, but what is surprising is how much they liked the sides. Most people I talk to think Hill Country's sides are anywhere from just OK to downright awful, but aside from being overpriced, I like the sides there. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

 

Mike the meat cutter at Hill Country.

 

 

(04/15/08)(second post)

NYC BBQ: 1st Visit to Daisy May's Street Cart

For years I've been meaning to check out the Daisy May's BBQ street carts, but always seemed to wind up at the restaurant at 46th and 11th instead. With an appointment a block away, I finally found myself at the right place at the right time yesterday.

 

The cart, located on 50th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, looks like any other street cart, but the familiar Daisy May's logo is easy to spot. The abbreviated menu includes of three different sandwich options (pulled pork, pulled chicken, chopped brisket, all $8) and their "bowl of red" all-beef chili ($7).

 

Because many of the lunch cart customers take the sandwiches back to the office for reheating later, they're served with the meat in a plastic container and the bun wrapped separately. The standard side is mustard cole slaw, served in a small cup for use as a side or a sandwich topping. Rice and beans are $1.

 

I tried the pulled pork sandwich and the meat was not only warm but chunkier and barkier than the pulled pork sandwich I tasted the day before at the restaurant. If I worked in the neighborhood, I'd be buying that chili often.

 

A convenient midtown location on 50th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.

 

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The menu is abbreviated but the

service is friendly.

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Bun and meat served separately

in case you want to reheat it later.

 

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Assemble the sandwich using as much

meat as you like, slaw optional.

 

 

(04/15/08)

NYC BBQ: Back from a New York BBQ Crawl

The reason for the double posts over the weekend and no post yesterday was a Sunday/Monday BBQ road trip to New York City. I joined two Boston BBQ restaurant pitmasters on my most ambitious single day BBQ crawl to date. For Sunday lunch we hit Shake Shack (burgers, not barbecue, but a NYC must), Daisy May's BBQ and Dinosaur Bar-B-Q. After an intermission to recharge at the hotel, we had a three-wave dinner at Virgil's, RUB and Hill Country. We also visited Spanky's and Southern Hospitality but were too full to actually order anything. I'll have more details and thoughts tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the five new photos in the Recent Eats column on the right.

 

 

 

(04/13/08)

Things I'd Like To See, Part 2

Here are a few more ideas that have been running through my head lately.


Sausage Fatties at Barbecue Restaurants. Check out the barbecue bulletin boards and you’ll see nothing but hosannas for the gigantic sausage treat known as the fatty. But despite all the enthusiasm from the backyard barbecue crowd, I’ve yet to see fatties on a barbecue restaurant menu. Traditionally, a fatty is simply sausage meat (like Jimmy Dean) without any casing, rolled into a fat (hence the name) log, rubbed and smoked. They can also be stuffed with cheese, peppers and other assorted complementary flavors. Because of the relatively short cooking time, they make a great snack or appetizer for guests while you’re waiting for the rest of the meats to smoke. In a restaurant setting, I could see a fatty appetizer served sliced on the bias, fanned atop sliced lettuce, with some interesting dipping sauces. It would be a winner if some restaurateur had the foresight to offer it.

 

A “Repeat” Category at a Barbecue Contest. In competition, there are usually four categories: chicken, ribs, pork and brisket, typically submitted starting at 12:00 noon and at 30-minute intervals to allow preparation time. Often there’s a fifth category for something unique, like smoked fish, vegetable or fruit. I’d like to see a second ribs or chicken category, but with a twist: you can’t use traditional barbecue flavors. There’s a debate among competition cooks over whether non-traditional flavors (such as Asian, Caribbean, etc.) can win in competition. Even those who think it’s possible are unwilling to gamble a potential trophy by cooking outside their normal comfort zone. That’s why a separate category (with no impact on grand championship) would give them the creative freedom to let it all hang out and see what they can come up with. I’m sure the results would be interesting and delicious, but this is the only way I see it happening.


Make Your Own Ribs. Here’s a free idea for any barbecue restaurant that’s closed on Sunday and needs a way to improve business on Monday. There are brew-your-own-beer businesses that have workshops where you come in, prepare the hops and other brewing ingredients onsite, leave them with the establishment to ferment, then pick your beer up weeks later. Similarly, a barbecue restaurant could offer a Sunday afternoon workshop. You’d prepare your rub, apply it to the meat, create a sauce and leave everything with the pitmaster, who’d smoke it Monday to have it waiting for you Monday night. You could take the ribs home or (even better for the restaurant) eat them there while ordering drinks and desserts.


PigTrip: the Novel. I can see it now: mystery, romance, intrigue and violence, all in the world of barbecue. I’m thinking of sportswriter and death-as-cottage-industry author Mitch Albom to ghost write it, and when I approach him to pitch it, I’m hoping he’ll say, “I’m all ears!”


Rib Flights. Some upscale restaurants have “wine flights,” where you receive three small glasses of similar wines to compare and contrast. Why not rib flights? There could be three different rubs or sauces applied to the same cut of meat. Or different cuts of pork rib (one spare, one babyback, one St Louis and a small pile of rib tips). Or there could be different ribs entirely, with lamb or bison ribs as the wildcards.

 


read Things I'd Like To See, Part 1

 

 

 

(04/12/08)

BBQ Leftovers: Pulled Pork Variations

After a few days of traditional pulled pork sandwiches from last weekend's home smoked pork butts, I tried a few different experiments with the leftovers.

 

I'm a fennel guy. It's one of my favorite vegetables, it's great for grilling and it's a great complement to pork. So is cabbage, as we all know. But instead of using cabbage in cole slaw form to top a pulled pork sandwich, I paired the pulled pork with a mixture of cabbage, fennel and onion that my wife expertly sauteed, using a tortilla shell as the wrap.

   

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Cabbage, fennel and onion.

 

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Pork tortilla with hot veggies.

Another night I concocted an Asian style barbecue sauce using vinegar, Char Siu sauce, lime juice and an Asian hot sauce similar to Sriracha. The final version reminded me of something I might find at Uncle Pete's (Revere MA), and it was a nice foil for the meat, supplying some sweetness and the same tartness that a traditional Carolina style pulled pork sandwich would have. I've been using thinly sliced cucumber as a base layer for sandwiches lately, so I used them here to supply some crunch and heat relief.

   

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Pulled pork sammy with Asian style

barbecue sauce and cucumber.

 

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Celery and red hot chile peppers for a pulled pork salad.

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A Mayo-free pulled pork salad.

 

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Makes a nice sammich.

Saturday's lunch was pulled pork salad, vinegar based to keep things light and simple. I started with some celery and chile peppers, added the pork (more chopped than pulled for ease of mixing) and a bottled vinegar barbecue sauce I received from a friend in North Carolina. I would have also added cilantro, but I didn't have any on hand. Two slices of toast, more thinly sliced cucumber on the bottom and tomato on top rounded out the sandwich.

 

 

(04/11/08)

Long Island BBQ: Karaoke at Bad Bob's Tonite

Start memorizing the lyrics to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, or just start drinking now to survive the onslaught of vocal stylings on display tonight at Bad Bob's BBQ (Oceanside NY). The graphic below has all the info.

 

 

 

 

(04/10/08)

Joints Directory Madness: Buck's Naked Moves Down the Street, Opens Today

Here's the latest batch of Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time, there are two new joints, one move, two new web sites and no new entries into the dead pool, but one on Death Row.

  • Buck's Naked BBQ (Freeport ME) has moved down the street to 568 US Route 1, a larger location at the old Dexter Shoe building, in the former L.L. Bean Factory Outlet space. The new digs will have an upstairs and downstairs, two bars, an expanded menu with steaks and other new offerings and live entertainment on weekends. First day of operation is today. Thanks to Vito for the lead and the Buck's Naked management for the info. www.bucksnaked-bbq.com

  • Fatty Belt Buckle's (Rocky Point NY) opened a few weeks ago, as reported here late last month.

  • Smoken' Joe's (Brighton MA) has a new website at www.smokenjoesbbq.com

  • Harbor Q (Port Washington NY) has a new website at www.harborq.com

  • Royal Rib House (Brooklyn NY) is a Thursday-through-Saturday operation that's just been added to the directory. Thanks to Sledneck for the lead.

  • The Hog Pit (NYC) isn't closed yet, but they've announced (via a letter to Eater) that they'll be closing in January due to their upcoming rent hike. www.hogpit.com Eater post

 

Boston BBQ: Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party, June 18-22

Just as New York City is gearing up for the 6th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, Boston is welcoming the second annual Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party two weeks later.

 

 

The line-up of pitmasters includes:

  • Joe Alexander (of Rasta Joe's, Indiana)

  • Dennis Carino (of Porky 'n' Beans, Florida)

  • Dallas Green (of Cowboys Barbeque and Rib Company, Texas)

  • Dan Johnson (of Johnson's Bar-B-Que, Virginia)

  • Butch Lupinetti (of Smack Your Lips BBQ, New Jersey)

  • Paul Mackay (Awesome Aussie BBQ, Australia)

  • Jack McDavid (of Jack's Firehouse in Philadelphia and co-host of Food TV's Chillin' and Grillin')

  • Tuffy Stone (Q Barbecue, Virginia)

  • Steve Uliss (of Firefly's BBQ, 3 locations in MA)

  • John Willingham (of Willingham's, Tennessee)

 

For more details and tickets, see www.phantomgourmetbbq.com

 

 

 

(04/09/08)

Weekend Wrap-up: Smoked Pork at Home

Sunday looked like a great day to smoke some meats, so I took advantage of it even though the weather didn't fully live up to its promise. I smoked two pork butts in the Big Green Egg and a rack of ribs and one can of SPAM in the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) cooker. Although everything came out good, the most interesting item of the day was the SPAM, which I prepared in an interesting way that I'll document fully in a future post. Here are a few photos of the other meats.

   

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Butts (pork shoulder) in the smoker.

 

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Pork after pulling.

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A pulled pork sammy, home style.

 

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Pork ribs.

 

Weekend Wrap-up: Tremont 647 in Boston

On Saturday night my wife and I met another couple at Tremont 647 (Boston MA), where we sampled a good cross section of chef Andy Husbands's menu. We applied my outside-the-box ordering strategy and went with Andy's '180' ribs as a shared appetizer. Would I give the ribs a 180 (the perfect score in barbecue)? No, although I have had ribs worthy of that score a few years back at his now-closed barbecue restaurant Rouge. But they were good.

 

We followed with a burger (split four ways), Rouge imports collard greens and the Wedge salad, then Tremont 647 classics like Tibetan momos and the Chilean sea bass wrapped in a banana leaf. I won't list everything we had, but the standouts for me were the sea bass, a zucchini appetizer (cut into long thin strips like spaghetti squash, dressed with a delicate assortment of herbs and cheese) and the lobster mac and cheese.

 

Did the other couple (who shall remain nameless) inspire yesterday's Couples essay? No, I had that one written already.

 

 

(04/08/08)

Dining With Other Couples

I'm going to concede up front that this is only loosely connected with barbecue, but lately my wife and I have been joining other couples at barbecue joints as well as more upscale restaurants. Eating out with another couple can be a lot of fun, but more often it can lead to a lot of anxiety. Here’s a baker’s dozen of my reasons why.

 

Picking the Place. Sometimes picking out a restaurant that’ll make everyone happy can be tougher than bringing peace to the Middle East. Different people place different values on quality and have different thresholds of how much they’re willing to spend for that quality. Some won’t spend more than $20 per person (my wife feels deprived if we spend less than $20 per entrée). Some friends are vegetarian. Some can’t have dairy. Some can’t have carbs. Some don't do ethnic. Some don't do spicy. Some don’t do barbecue. I don’t do chains. The focus of the evening out is simply enjoying the other couple’s company, but if we’re at the Olive Garden, I’m too distracted planning the next night’s meal in my head to join in the conversation.


Home Court. In sports, the “home court advantage” is critical, and so it is with couples dining. If the other couple live far away, it’s much more convenient dining somewhere near you than near them: it saves time and gas and makes it easier to imbibe, knowing that you won’t be driving too far. But sometimes you’d rather give up the home court, especially if you know one couple will be inviting the other couple over after dinner. Why clean the house when you can just visit someone else’s house instead? This may not be the best tactic if the other couple has a cat or no concept of how high to turn up the heat. But it does give you more control over when to end the evening (it’s much easier to leave someone else’s house than to ask someone to leave your house). Of course, there are times when you’d rather just have both couples head their separate ways after dinner, and this calls for a “neutral court” location just inconvenient enough to both homes to ensure no invites either way.


The Recommendation. Raving to friends about a restaurant and then having them finally join us there is a joy, but with that joy comes a lot of pressure. It’s not only the restaurant’s reputation that’s on the line, but mine as well, because I recommended it. If the restaurant is less than stellar that one time, my judgment will be suspect.


Favorite Places. If we’re dining with a couple for the first time, I’m always hesitant to bring them to a restaurant where we’re regulars. If they ask to switch tables, make countless substitutions and other high maintenance requests, hate the food, send something back or tip poorly, my reputation is also on the line with the restaurant. It’s a lot of pressure. Similarly, it’s tough to muster a gung-ho response when the other couple has home court and asks, “Isn’t this one of the best steaks you’ve ever had?”


Kiss kiss. I’m never quite sure how this came to be, but there are some couples you kiss, some couples you hug and some couples you just stand back and wave to, and it’s important to keep track of who’s who. Especially important when dining with multiple couples is never mixing couples from different groups. That could get awkward.


Who’s Driving? I don’t mind driving, but I’d rather not drive, because there’s no upside, only potential disaster. I could miss an exit while the other couple wonder what I’m doing. I could take 15 iterations to complete a parallel parking job, while a crowd looks on. Or I could get into an accident (it hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve had nightmares about getting into an accident with $100 of takeout Chinese in the passenger’s seat and having the guests at home wondering whether I’ve made off with their food). Also, as in the home court, why clean your car if you can just ride in someone else’s car? Driving separately and having a designated meeting place is ideal.


Appetizers. This can make or break a night out with another couple. There are different philosophies on how to approach appetizers when you have a table of four. Someone might shyly suggest, “Do you want to split an appetizer?” And to that I say, “Sure!” But I’m thinking to myself, “Only one appetizer? One appetizer for four people? Are you freakin’ nuts? Are you freakin’ cheap? Are you freakin’ anorexic?” Like I said, different couples have different philosophies. Some want one appetizer for the table. Some want one appetizer for each couple, with intra-couple sharing but no inter-couple sharing. I’m with the camp that insists on four appetizers for four people, with sharing all around. As long as you order items everyone likes and make sure serving utensils are used, this is the way to go.


Oh, I almost forgot: there are some couples who don’t even want to go near the appetizers, preferring to go with only an entrée. Again, I say, but this time out loud: “Are you freakin’ nuts?” When we find ourselves with one of these couples, it’s a lose-lose situation, where we have to decide: do we order appetizers and eat them while the other couple twiddles their thumbs (talk about awkward) or skip the appetizers altogether just to keep the peace?


Double dipping. At some restaurants, one of the highlights of the meal is the bread basket, and for me those cases usually involve some sort dip (pesto, aioli, oil) as opposed to butter. Luckily, I haven’t had an instance where double dipping was involved, and I wouldn’t want there to be. But the no double dipping rule sort of takes the bread out of the equation for me, and that’s a tremendous sacrifice. Sitting at a four-top and having the pesto bowl way over at the far reaches of the table doesn’t help either.


Desserts. See appetizers.


Drinks. This category is also pretty similar to the appetizer philosophies, and note that I’m not talking about the financial implications here or with the appetizers—I’ll get to that later. Some couples drink, some don’t. Some drink a lot, some drink a little. Some drink beer, some drink wine. Some drink red wine, some drink white wine. OK, you get the idea. I say drink what you like and like what you drink, but if the two couples are in harmony drink-wise, it makes for a much smoother, relaxed evening. Sharing a bottle of wine or turning each other onto little known microbrews is as much a part of the meal as the food and conversation. If my wife and I are drinking and the other couple aren’t, I feel guilty, and will usually only have one beer.


Splitting the Check. Read Chowhound.com’s Not About Food board and you’ll often see posts debating how to divide the bill. One easy answer is to just divide everything right down the middle. If my wife and I had chicken and fish, and the other couple had more expensive steak and lobster, no big deal. If my wife and I had two drinks apiece and the other couple had three drinks apiece, again no big deal. If they had six each, I’d like to think someone would speak up. If my wife and I had appetizers and the other couple didn’t, or we had beer and the other couple had refillable Cokes, there’s no way I’d divide the check evenly: we’d pay more and we’d do so willingly. But I’d still obsess over whether the other couple was thinking as we’re ordering that I’d to try to split it evenly. With some couples, there’s a comfort zone and you don’t have to obsess, but too often the mental tabulating and calculating can drive you nuts. This reinforces the idea that if you get another couple who shares your appetizers and drinks philosophies, you’re in luck.


Tipping. For every Chowhound post on dividing the bill, there are probably three on tipping, and everyone has different thresholds for what constitutes bad service and how well to reward good service. I like to give a generous tip and I don’t expect the other couple to do the same, but fair is fair. There have been times when the other couple was so stingy with the tip that I went back afterward and gave our server an extra $10. One time we dined with another couple and there were a few service issues, but more due to kitchen errors and poor training than on the server’s ill intent. We left a decent tip, they left no tip, and now I always wonder if the server thinks it’s me who stiffed her whenever we go back.


Method of Payment. Yes, this is yet another source of neurotic obsessing. Ideally, both couples pay in cash. I almost always pay in cash, because it’s better for the server. But I also don’t want the other couple to think that I’m using plastic because I can’t afford the meal, or to pad my airline miles, or to get a cash advance or use their contribution to subsidize a portion of our meal. Similarly, I confess that I’m sometimes wary of couples that seem to always take my cash and pay by credit card. And then there’s the dilemma of whether to peek at the credit card slip to see if they really left the tip we agreed on.


Well, there you have it. A little long winded, but I think I covered all the bases. Don’t get me wrong, dining with other couples can be a lot of fun—but if they don’t eat like you, drink like you and tip like you, the anxiety just might outweigh the fun. Either way, the car ride home talking about the other couple with your spouse is guaranteed to be fun.

 

 

(04/07/08)

NYC BBQ: Big Apple BBQ Block Party, June 7-8

It's exactly two months until the 6th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party rolls into Manhattan. On June 7 and 8, you can taste the array of barbecue profiles from Texas to Alabama to Mississippi to the Carolinas and back to New York City as national and local pitmasters converge for this 2-day event. The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party is also an excellent opportunity to meet some of the nation's legendary pitmasters, such as Chris Lilly, Mike Mills, Ed Mitchell and more.

 

So far, the line-up of New York BBQ restaurants includes:

  • Blue Smoke (Kenny Callaghan)

  • Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (John Stage)

  • Hill Country (Marc Glosserman)

  • Rack & Soul (John Wheeler)

 

The line-up of nationally-known restaurants/pitmasters includes:

  • 17th Street Bar & Grill (Illinois, Mike Mills)

  • Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (Alabama, Chris Lilly)

  • Black Jack BBQ (S. Carolina, Jimmy Hagood )

  • Mitchell's BBQ (N. Carolina, Ed Mitchell)

  • Salt Lick BBQ (Texas, Michael Rodriguez)

  • Ubon's (Mississippi, Garry Roark)

 

www.bigapplebbq.org

 

 

 

(04/05/08)

Boston BBQ ('burbs): New Menu at Firefly's

My wife and I stopped into Firefly's (Framingham MA) last night, where the menu has been updated. Fried green tomatoes are back on after a long hiatus. Quesadillas are off the menu. Dixie Kisses (think barbecue sauce version of General Gau's chicken) have been renamed Buttermilk Tenders, because they're now available with different sauces besides Dixie Kiss. Coca Cola cake is off the desserts menu; Hummingbird cake and strawberry shortcake are on.

 

Sliders now include a new sausage patty and a new Pearl hot dog patty in addition to the pulled pork, and you can mix and match them in various quantities. I thought the sausage was OK, but I really enjoyed the Pearl hot dog in its new shape.

 

Pearl frank, as a giant disc instead of a tube.

 

 

(04/04/08)

Home Cooking: Spring Beef Burgers

I'm running a little behind finishing the long essay that was originally supposed to go here, so instead I'll offer a photo of one of the burgers I cooked last weekend. There was nothing special about the beef, but I topped it with fresh tomato slices, bread and butter pickle chips and some high quality jalapeño cheese that I purchased from Wasik's, my favorite cheese shop in Wellesley MA. I also love burgers on a fresh onion roll, which wasn't as white as the flash made it. I was happy.

 

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(04/03/08)

Boston BBQ: Smoken' Joe's Review

The site's 136th review is now posted for Smoken' Joe's BBQ in Brighton MA. If you remember my post from last summer, I visited Smoken' Joe's on its opening night and found several kinks that needed to be worked out, so I purposely waited a little longer than usual to make my final visit before writing a review.

 

See the review via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.

 

This past weekend I joined a couple of barbecue competition friends at Uncle Pete's (Revere MA), where we shared burnt ends, wings, ribs and a pulled pork sandwich. Uncle Pete's is one of my next projects for a review update, with only six photos in the current review. That was pretty standard for those early reviews (it was posted on the very first day of this site's existence), but the update should have around 20, with commentary on the other meats beyond ribs.

 

 

 

(04/02/08)

What Would Matt Do?

One of the highlights of last weekend's Snowshoe Grilling Challenge was finally meeting Matt Fisher, the BBQ blogger ("Hampton Smoker") who recently became the pitmaster of the soon-to-open Wildwood BBQ in Manhattan. Matt and I had exchanged many emails over the past few years, but for whatever reason, we managed to travel in the same circles without coming face to face until Saturday.

 

His blog posts aren't that frequent now that he's immersed in the restaurant world, but they're often filled with poignant writing and some of the tastiest looking food porn (home cooked) you'll ever see. Some of my favorite Matt Fisher writing is found not on his blog, but on Chowhound, where he posts as BackyardChef.

 

In this era of my-joint-is-best, your-joint-sucks closedmindedness, it's refreshing to see someone posting with a level head. When a Chowhound poster asks advice on a barbecue joint, Matt doesn't get into the partisan fray. Instead, he'll extol the virtues of a few different joints, letting readers make up their own minds. It's not so much to avoid negativity, but to allow for the fact that Matt's favorite joint might not be your favorite, and vice versa.

 

Inspired by this approach, I now ask myself, "What would Matt do?" whenever I sit down to write a review. It doesn't mean I have to like everything (believe me, I don't), and it doesn't mean I have to hold back when I think something's awful. It just means I can get my point across without taking cheap shots. We'll see how this plays out in the review I'm posting tomorrow.

 

 

 

(04/01/08)

RUB, Virgil's Make NYC Food Guy's Fries List

Food blogger NYC Food Guy recently posted about the city's "French fries at their finest" and among the nine selections were two BBQ joints. RUB's chili cheese fries and Virgil's trainwreck fries both made the cut.

   

Chili cheese fries at RUB.

 

Trainwreck fries at Virgil's.

Photos courtesy of NYC Food Guy. Used with permission.

Read NYC Food Guy Recommends... French Fries

 

 

My BBQ Fries List

With visits to more than 150 barbecue restaurants in the last few years, I've had some really good fries here and there, but as a general rule I avoid fries with barbecue. The way I look at it, the meat is decadent enough, so my preferred accompaniment (most of the time) is collard greens and cole slaw. On New York City trips especially, I'm trying to maximize the number of joints I can hit in one day, so fries would be a rare treat. In my 16 visits to RUB, I still have yet to try the fries, chili cheese or otherwise.

 

That's not to say I don't love fries. At some point in the next couple of months, I'll be heading to Portland ME to check out a few barbecue restaurants, and one of them just happens to be two doors down from Duck Fat, whose Belgian fries are literally cooked in duck fat. They looked great on the cover of Gourmet magazine a few years ago and I've been meaning to try them ever since.

 

Anyway, the point of all this disclaimer-like meandering is that I haven't tried the fries at many of the BBQ joints I've visited, so keep that in mind as you read this list of my favorites, as I'm sure there are good ones I still haven't discovered. Sadly, my top two fries so far came at joints that are now closed: Premier Palette (Manchester NH) and Holy Smokes (West Hatfield MA). Both versions allowed you to taste the natural flavors of the potato, with just the right amount of oil and seasoning.

 

1. Route 7 Grill, Great Barrington MA

That same natural potato flavor as at Holy Smoles and Premier Palette, without being too crisp or too mushy.

 

2. The Smoke Joint, Brooklyn NY

There's something about the spice seasoning that made them addictive on my one visit there.

 

3. All Star Sandwich Bar, Cambridge MA

These are always served super hot and very crisp. You can get them with chili, cheese or Inner Beauty hot sauce (I prefer Inner Beauty on the side). I'm pretty sure the fries are the same as at their (older) sister restaurant East Coast Grill.

 

4. Bailey's Smokehouse, Blauvelt NY

These also come with a potent seasoning. They're large, crisp and included with every combo in addition to two other sides.

 

5. Uncle Pete's Hickory Ribs, Revere MA

Hand-cut and crisp, these take second fiddle only to the onion rings on Pete's list of sides.

 

March 2008 archive

February 2008 archive

January 2008 archive

December 2007 archive

November 2007 archive

October 2007 archive

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May 2007 archive

April 2007 archive

March 2007 archive

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December 2006 archive

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October 2006 archive

August/September 2006 archive

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Recent Eats (click photo to view larger image)

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BBQ Sampler at Smokin' Q, NYC.

 

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Pulled pork sandwich at Blue Smoke, NYC.

 

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Burnt ends at RUB, NYC.

 

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Rib sandwich at Georgia's Eastside BBQ, NYC.

 

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Deluxe BBQ Combo (brisket, babybacks, pork) at Rick's Roadhouse, Providence RI.

 

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Smoked sausage fatties with rasta dipping sauce at Jake's Dixie Roadhouse, Waltham MA.

 

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Brisket, pork ribs and sausage at Hill Country, NYC.

 

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Bacon chunks at RUB, NYC.

 

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Sampler at Virgil's Real BBQ, NYC.

 

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Pulled pork sandwich at Dinosaur Bar-B-Q, NYC.

 

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Ribs (3 wet, 3 dry) at Daisy May's BBQ, NYC.

 

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Spare ribs at SoulFire, Allston MA.

 

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Lobster mac and cheese at Tremont 647, Boston MA.

 

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Sliders (pulled pork, the new sausage patty and the new Pearl hot dog patty) at Firefly's (Framingham MA).

 

 

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