Archives - March 2009
New York BBQ: Hill Country Continuing Monday Night All You Can Eat Deal; Will Add Whole Hog on Tuesdays a Week From Tonight
New York City's Texas honky tonk known as Hill Country is re-upping on their Monday night all you can eat deal that includes bever-ending lean brisket, pork ribs, chicken and sides for a special April price of $25 . That's a return to the original price that hiked to $29 after the first month. The understadable fine print is that everyone in your party must partake, no doggie bags are allowed and there's a $2 premium for mac and cheese, campfire beans and chili. Trust me, this is one sweet deal.
The $20 Sunday family deals (1/4lb Lean Brisket, 1 pork rib, 1 beef rib, 1/4 chicken, two sides, dessert) now have extended hours: 4:00PM to 10:00PM. This one has a $1 premium for mac and cheese, campfire beans and chili.
Starting on Tuesday April 7, Hill Country introduces whole hog as a weekly special. Details are still forthcoming, but I'm sure it's worth a look. www.hillcountryny.com
Daisy May's and All Star Sandwich Make Bon Appetit's Top 10 Chili List
Last month's Bon Appetit magazine had a salute to the chili joint with a top ten list of some of the country's top bowls. Two of them are joints that are in the Pigtrip BBQ Joints Directory: Daisy May's (New York City, ranked #5) and All Star Sandwich Bar (Cambridge MA, ranked #7). Both jonits also made my own top chili list posted in October 2007, and both will be included toward the top of my 2009 edition, for which I'm still doing research.
Bon Appetit Top 10 Chili List
Pigtrip 2007 Chili List
Sledcam: Pulled Pork Sliders at White Castle
The White Castle chain, legendary for its sacks of burger sliders and perhaps more legendary for its association with late night hijinx, has now introduced pulled pork sliders. Sledneck, who may have provided this site with more tips on new joints than any other reader, has once again proved invaluable, supplying photos of the new offering. Unfortunately he offers no report on the flavor, because he was too afraid to try it. Based on the photographic evidence, I can hardly blame him.
Competitions: 4th Annual Grillin' On The Bay is This Saturday in Brooklyn
Grillin' on the Bay, New York City's original grilling competition, is holding its 2009 event in Sheepshead Bay this Saturday to benefit St Mark School. Sponsored by RUB and Butternut Beer and Ale, Grillin' on the Bay is sanctioned by the New England Barbecue Society (NEBS). This year's categories include chicken breast, fish, pork and chef's choice.
Now in its fourth season, Grillin' on the Bay attracts some of the Northeast's most accomplished barbecue and grilling teams. Two previous GOTB victors are returning to the event, including reigning champs Smoke In Da Eye and first year champs Purple Turtle Catering Company. Some of the Boston area's top talent will also be on hand, including Steve Farrin (cooking as Team Agave) of NEBS team of the year I Smell Smoke, reigning NEBS ribs team of the year Transformer BBQ and Andy Husbands of Tremont 647 and the nationally ranked IQue competition team.
This year, Grillin' on the Bay organizer Robert Fernandez has added a separate chili contest called Brooklyn Chili Smackdown. For competitors, the entrance is free as long as you provide at least one gallon of chili (2 gallons is recommended). There are no rules as to what can or cannot be in the chili—"if you call it chili, we call it chili" is the motto. For chili aficionados more into tasting than cooking, $10 gets you all you can eat until the chili runs out, along with a vote for the people's choice champion.
Grillin' On The Bay looks to be chock full of local luminaries, including Josh "Mister Cutlets" Ozersky of The Feedbag, Daisy Martinez of the Food Network's Viva Daisy, Big Lou Elrose, Robbie Richter and many more.
Matt Fisher of Atom's Ribs and The Hampton Smoker blog (and formerly of Wildwood Barbeque) will be on hand vending ribs to the public. He'll be doing double-duty, because he's also onboard as a grilling competitor. Butternuts Ale will be selling Pork Slap Ale and their entire line of beers.
New York Events: Bacon Takedown in Brooklyn Tomorrow
Matt Timms and the people who brought you the Chili Takedown are at it again, this time with bacon. For $10 you can sample bacon creations from thirty different entrants and help determine the winner. The event starts at 5:00PM tomorrow at Radegast Hall and Biergarten. www.chili-takedown.com
Image courtesy Chili-Takedown.com. Used with permission.
New York BBQ: Rack & Soul Reviewed
The site's 157th review is now available for Rack & Soul at the edge of Harlem. I was delighted to find out there's just as much rack as there is soul, and that's a good thing. Check it out via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Providence BBQ: Casting Call For Models, Tonight at Rick's Roadhouse
Rick's Roadhouse (Providence RI) is holding a casting call for female models tonight at 9:00PM. The gig? A spot on "Rhode Island's sexiest new female paid promotional team to hit the beaches, bars, pubs and clubs all summer long" for the Original Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. Registration starts at 8:45.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning four states. This time there's no closings at all, just seven new joints.
Mobay Restaurant (NYC) is a Harlem joint whose name is derived from Montego Bay in Jamaica. There's a pulled pork sandwich, a pulled beef sandwich, traditional brisket and ribs, but much of the menu takes on a Caribbean/tropical feel: babybacks with honey rum sauce, barbecued wings with guava pineapple sauce and the like. I like. Thanks to Sledneck for another great find. www.mobayrestaurant.com
Ribs on the Run (White Plains NY and Yonkers NY) is a tandem of joints widely dismissed as a boil-and-broil, not barbecue, but even though I hate that, the directory does not discriminate (some people actually prefer that style). Thanks to Sledneck for tracking down that elusive Yonkers location and for asking whether they smoke the meats, eliciting this reply: "We bake and do light smoking." www.ribsontherun-ny.com
Route 22 Restaurant (Stamford CT and Armonk NY), from the looks of the website, is a squeaky clean mini-chain, and said chain claims to have "award winning ribs," however vague (or believable) that may be. Thanks to Mark for noticing the "Voted best ribs" sign and passing along the info; thanks also to Ted for tracking down the website. www.rt22restaurant.com
Smoke and Spice Bar-B-Que (Derry NH) is a new joint that's currently open Wednesday through Saturday for take-out only, offering the "basic four" (ribs, pork, brisket, chicken) plus chili and just a few sides for now. I like that you can get chili as a side, that you can get two sliders for the price of one sandwich and that they have smoked chicken salad. Thanks to Sean and Larry for the info. http://www.smokeandspicebbq.com
LL Dent (Carle Place NY) is a Southern style restaurant that also offers pulled pork, brisket and ribs. The "LL" in LL Dent represents owner Lillian Dent and her daughter, chef Leisha Dent, who both hail from Georgia. Chef Leisha holds a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and was once Eddie Murphy's personal chef. Thanks to Vinny for reminding me about this place. www.lldent.com
T Bones Roadhouse (Plymouth MA), from the looks of their website, is more all-purpose restaurant than full-on barbecue joint, but they do offer pulled pork, brisket and smoked turkey in addition to ribs, so there's hope. I plan to give them a test drive fairly soon and report back. With some recent closings in that area, even a close approximation of a barbecue shack would be a nice addition to the 'hood. Thanks to Janice for the find. www.tbonesroadhouse.com
Silk Road Barbecue (Belmont MA) is a barbecue fusion (mostly cental Asian, with some Greek and American touches) roadside stand that's still looking for a permanent location. This think-outside-the-box joint is worth a visit, if only to see what crazy delicacies will be on offer, but I suspect this may be a good one. Ironically, the proprietor years ago sold a Backwoods smoker to NYC's Robbie Richter, who at the soon-to-open Fatty Cue in Brooklyn is also fashioning an Asian approach to barbecue. www.silkroadbbq.com
Boston BBQ: Redbones to Unveil Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA in Simul-Cask, Thursday Night
Redbones (Somerville MA) is one of a few select East Coast venues chosen by Dogfish Head to be the first to offer the Delaware brewery's new cask-conditioned ale known as Dogfish 75 Minute IPA.
Image courtesy Dogfish.com
According to the announcement on the Dogfish website,
Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA is a blend of 60 and 90 Minute IPAs with a special whole leaf cascade dry-hopping session. Post-hopping the beer gest transferred into firkins and dosed with fresh yeast and maple syrup from the ole family homestead.
But enough of the technical mumbo jumbo, let the Redbones bartenders demonstrate, starting at exactly 7:50PM in the "Simul-Cask."
New York BBQ: Brother Jimmy's is Part of the New Yankee Stadium's Restaurant Lineup
Brother Jimmy's (NYC) is in an expansion mode of late, having opened outposts in midtown, Murray Hill and even Puerto Rico within the last 20 months. Next month they're going to be part of the new Yankee Stadium restaurant lineup that also includes Johnny Rockets and Lobel's of New York.
It seems like the Yankees/Mets rivalry for stadium concessions buzz is already at a level approaching that of the rivalry for viewership and back page newspaper space. I'm a lifelong Red Sox fan, but given the choice, I'd take the Mets, Shake Shack and Blue Smoke (both a part of the Mets' Citi Field) over the Yankees, Johnny Rockets and Brother Jimmy's any day of the week. (Then again, if you put the next outpost of RUB in Madison Square Garden, I'd even be willing to endure a Knicks game. Maybe someday.)
The complete Yankee Stadium lineup from Serious Eats
Boston BBQ: "Uncle Pete" Cucchiara Dies
This is sad, sad news, folks. I just learned that Peter Cucchiara, owner and pitmaster of Uncle Pete's Hickory Ribs (Revere MA, formerly East Boston) died last Friday. I couldn't find any details other than the brief obituary linked below.
I'll always remember the distinctive flavor of the ribs and the innovative sauces at Uncle Pete's. I'll remember the night Pete won a rib competition at East Coast Grill, beating not only the home team but also the Linwood Grill and Blue Ribbon. I'll remember how Pete freely admitted that his ribs were a day old and claimed that the refrigeration before reheating sealed more flavor into the meat. But what I'll remember most is that Pete was a nice man who loved nothing more than watching his customers enjoy his food. He loved talking 'cue, always had a story or two and one afternoon was kind enough to offer a friend and me a tour of the kitchen and a peek inside the smoker. I'll miss him.
Boston Globe obituary of Peter "Uncle Pete" Cucchiara
(03/21/09) (updated 3/23/09)
see permalink for expanded version with more photos
Competition Grilling: Wildwood Barbeque Wins Snowshoe Grilling Challenge permalink
The weather was brisk but sunny for the 16th annual Snowshoe Grilling Challenge today in Abington MA, and it was the team traveling the furthest distance—New York City's Wildwood Barbeque—who claimed grand championship honors. On a day when few teams drew multiple calls, Wildwood pitmaster Big Lou Elrose walked three times to the stage to claim trophies, taking third place in fish, third place in pork loin and second place in burger (for sliders featuring Wildwood's custom beef blend). The fourth trip to claim the grand championship trophy was almost a foregone conclusion.
Wildwood pitmaster Lou Elrose holds the grand championship trophy, flanked by Barry Stockman and Robbie Richter.
The Snowshoe saw the competition reunion of Elrose and Robbie Richter, who two summers ago were deputy pitmaster and pitmaster, respectively, at New York City's Hill Country Barbecue.
IQue took the reserve grand championship trophy to go with two category trophies picked up along the way. I Smell Smoke finished third. As usual, Michelle and Gary Taft organized a great event, and more than $500 was raised for the Abington Food Pantry. For complete contest results, see www.nebs.org.
permalink with more info and more photos
Boston BBQ: Cochon 555 is 5 Chefs, 5 Pigs and 5 Winemakers, April 5 at the Liberty Hotel
If yesterday's post about Tony Maws and the nose-to-tail offerings at Craigie On Main got your juices flowing, you may want to check out Cochon 555. It's an event that'll get the wine flowing too, paired with creative treatments of whole pig at at the Liberty Hotel in Boston on April 5.
This is a tasting event that allows you to sample different preparations of whole 70-lb heritage pig along with wines by family-owned vintners.
Tony Maws (Craigie on Main)
Jamie Bissonnette (Toro)
Matthew Jennings (Farmstead) Jason Bond (Beacon Hill Bistro) Joseph Margate (Clink)
Krupp Brothers Vintners
Patz and Hall
(more to be announced)
Sounds like a fun event, so get your cochon!
Boston, Not BBQ: Pigs' Tails at Craigie on Main
Two Saturdays ago my wife and I made our first visit to Craigie On Main (Cambridge MA), a restaurant that had been high on our list of places to try even before the move from Craigie Street to Main Street. The initial fascination was that chef Tony Maws is an East Coast Grill alum; I've yet to visit an ECG alum's restaurant that was anything short of very good, and most verge on the spectacular. Equally fascinating were the Chowhound reports of the creative, well executed plates that consistently emerged from the kitchen. More fascinating was that Maws was at the vanguard of the locavore and nose-to-tail movements: the menu brims with local ingredients and parts of the pig I've never seen before, much less eaten.
Craigie on Main is quite the popular spot, so getting a reservation earlier than my bedtime was impossible. That was actually a blessing in disguise, since you cannot sit in the dining room and order off the bar menu, but you can sit in the bar and order off either menu. Since the bar menu was more interesting, we chose to take our chances, show up early and sit at the bar. Though not as visually interesting as the grillside seats at East Coast Grill or Tremont 647, sitting at the Craigie on Main bar still includes a theatrical element: these are some of the finest bartenders in the city, able to concoct colorful works of art that flame and hiss on command and are drinkable too. I was disappointed (though my wife was not) that the crispy pork jowl croutons from the online sample menu were not available, but luckily the red wine braised pigs' tails were. We decided to share six smaller plates, two at a time, starting and ending with seafood.
I thought the mussels were very good, though the preparation was typical: white wine, garlic, chiles, herbs. As with any good mussel dish, the best part was the leftover broth, used as a dip for the bread. Octopus was nothing like its more common cousin, the standard-issue calamari that's practically a frozen batch of onion rings. No, this was one large, beautiful creature cooked to perfect tenderness and flavored with a skilled hand. If my wife left me more than a single bite, I could say more about it, but for now I'll just say this was fantastic, even though there was no broth. Note that the diameter of the cross section shown in the photo was about the same as a quarter, maybe larger.
This was the red meat round. We strategically ordered the pigtails with the local grass-fed beef burger, for wine pairing purposes and to use the burger as a hedge in case my wife hated the pig tails. She did. But first the burger: it's an interesting blend that uses sirloin, brisket, short rib, bone marrow and other ingredients deemed too secret to divulge. I was hoping this would provide a Boston equivalent to the Pat LaFrieda custom burger blends that have taken New York City by storm at Shake Shack, City Burger and Minetta. The burger was certainly good—the beef, house-made bun and aged cheddar were all first rate, as was the cooking—but this was a merely moist burger that given its makeup should have exploded juices. It's easily one of Boston's best, but this burger might have fared even better had we not split it, photographed it and delayed eating until after the pig tails; I'll have to revisit it with a fresh eye. The wonderfully crispy shoestring sweet potato fries were much, much thinner than shoestring, allowing them to maintain their crunch for the duration of the course.
The pig tails were a pile of meat with about a half dozen pieces each of two different configurations. The first looked like the butt end of a sausage or hot dog, with no bone and a loose, rubbery skin that had the consistency of a condom (don't ask). If this were crisp, I might have liked it, but the texture was its undoing for me. I much preferred the second type, a small cross section of bone with meat around it, like a Hong Kong style spare rib. The meat here was saturated with pork flavor and the dazzling impartation of red wine braising liquid and liberal use of herbs; the consistency was like a perfectly cooked pork shoulder. I would definitely order this again and give both pieces a try.
Grilled sardines were much like the mussels in that they were perfectly cooked but nothing I hadn't had before, so they wound up being merely good. The star of this round was the Kona Kampachi Kama, marinated in miso and red chiles. It's a slightly fishy, slightly oily fish that was downright porky; if tuna is the chicken of the sea, this could easily be called the pork of the sea. It had a lot of bones that needed careful navigation, so this is a get-down-and-dirty item that's best eaten at the bar, where you're not face to face with your neighbor.
Overall, Craigie On Main is a winner. The food is creative, interesting and very, very good. The bartenders not only know their own craft but are thoroughly versed on the intricacies of the menu, doubling as servers of the first order. We'll be back.
A pleasant surprise that night was spotting and shooting the breeze with general manager Scott Toney, who years ago at Rouge was our favorite waiter and who more recently did managerial stints at Tremont 647 in Boston and Lydia Shire's Blue Sky in York Beach ME.
New York City BBQ: Bourbon Tasting Tonight at Southern Hospitality
If you didn't get your fill for St Patrick's Day, Southern Hospitality (NYC) is willing to help make up for lost time with a Bourbon tasting tonight. Starting at 7:00PM, you can learn about and taste 6 straight and small batch Bourbons from the two most influential Bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, hosted by Southern Hospitality's in-house Bourbon Sommelier Chris Russell.
Competition BBQ: KCBS Barbecue Judging Class in Sayville NY, April 11
On April 11 a class sponsored by the Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) will be held in Sayville NY to certify new judges in the metropolitan New York area. The class will be conducted by a representative from the KCBS and will be overseen by a member of the Board of Directors for the KCBS. Food will be prepared by Phil Rizzardi, former NY State Champion and the founder of the BBQ Brethren.
Attendees will learn how to identify and judge properly prepared BBQ. Actual competition scenarios will be duplicated, as attendees follow standard judging procedures on pork, ribs, chicken and brisket.
Almost every BBQ contest has more people than they can use who would like to judge. Certified barbecue judges (CBJs) are always given preference and are highly sought after by organizers. The registration for judges for the NY State Championships held in Sayville this October will be taking place on-site, immediately following the class.
Sayville Fire Department
107 N. Main Street
Sayville, NY 11782
Class fee is discounted for KCBS members. Fee for non-members includes one-year membership with monthly magazine.
Competition BBQ: 16th Snowshoe Grilling Challenge is This Saturday in Abington MA
Depending on where you live, either today or tomorrow will be as warm as springtime, and that means grilling season has arrived. In the competition world, that means it's time for the annual Snowshoe Grilling event in Abington MA, orchestrated by Gary and Michelle Taft of the Lunchmeat competition team. This Saturday at the Abington VFW, 20 teams will fire up the grills to compete in the categories of fish, pork tenderloin, sausage fatty and burger. Although samples will not be available to the public, this is a great opportunity to observe the artistry of the fire and learn techniques from some of the area's champion grillers. Gary Taft will conduct a grilling demo at 1:00PM, and some cool raffle prizes will be available to benefit the Abington Food Pantry.
Boston BBQ: A Second "First" Look at Roadhouse Craft Beer and BBQ permalink
Barbecue jouneyman, legend and goodwill ambassador Kenton "Jake" Jacobs has been manning the pits for a few weeks now at the Roadhouse (Brookline MA), so I figured it was time for a visit.
Jake Jacobs and the J&R smoker at Roadhouse, Brookline MA.
Here's a flurry of photos from two visits, one on Thursday night and another on Saturday night. Click on the photos for larger versions.
Based on my two visits I can categorically state that the food is much improved from what I tasted last summer and fall. Is the 'cue at the same high level as what usually crossed the counter at Jacobs's former joint Jake's Boss BBQ in Jamaica Plain? Not yet, but let's just say the pendulum has swung about a third of the way already and has the potential to swing further as Jacobs gets time to put his personal stamp on more of the menu.
Some random facts, observations and opinions from two nights of eating:
The meats across the board have more flavor inside and out. It's as if they've finally discovered the value of salt, pepper, cayenne, sugar and all those wonderful barbecue ingredients that collaborate with the smoke to define what barbecue is.
In that vein, the chicken wings no longer depend on just the sauce for flavor. Jake's honey mustard supplies an overdue flavor elixir well before the finishing sauce goes on.
Barbecue combo plates were finally added, with two meats ($21), three meats ($23) or four meats ($26).
Another flexibility improvement is the choice of sides: if you don't want the fries with your sandwich, you can substitute sweet potato fries or mixed greens gratis; any other side substitution is $1.
Cornbread is still available (both regular and jalapeno) as a side, but hush puppies now accompany all barbecue platters, along with choice of any one side. I'd prefer two sides, but the portion of that one side is pretty generous.
Smoked turkey legs supplied less smoke than previously, but more flavor in the meat thanks to the introduction of brining.
Pulled pork was a little dry in the sliders (served on buttered Southern style biscuits) but very moist in a 3-meat combo. Smoke is down a notch or two here as well, as is the previously-annoying fat level. The Carolina style vinegar sauce is more muted and the bark a little less plentiful than I was expecting based on my memories of the pork at Jake's Boss BBQ.
The habanero hot barbecue sauce from Jake's Boss BBQ is now one of the available sauces here. Speaking of sauces, I noticed a nicer, thinned down consistency in the squeeze bottle of house barbecue sauce on the table.
Pork ribs stylistically bear no resemblance to the Jake's Boss version but are much improved, with more pink color and more oomph in the meat. Doneness was slightly off one night, moistness slightly off another, but they're getting close. The ribs are now also lightly glazed to make reheating more manageable in high volume conditions, but Jacobs told me that's a temporary solution.
Roadhouse is experimenting with babybacks, as can be seen in the photos above.
Brisket was the highlight of the meal both nights, with good moisture, crunchy bark, nice beefy flavor and perfect tenderness both times.
The cole slaw and collard greens are the first of the sides that Jacobs has re-tooled. The former is a house chopped version that's rachets up the crispness and flavor; the latter is a chickeny version with a seasoned broth and just-past-wilted greens.
Cucumber salad is less vinegar bitter than before, but it still needs something.
Fried pickles had a batter that was thick and light at the same time.
To its credit, the macaroni and cheese is virtually unchanged from the version I tasted last fall. It's an adult rendition that's creamy without being loose, and sharp enough to pair with the hoppiest of beers.
The Roadhouse menu is even more far-ranging than when the joint opened last September. New items (based on quick observation and memory) include fried pickles, fried okra, catfish fingers, BBQ shrimp, biscuits and gravy, pulled pork sliders, smoked kielbasa, a vegetable ragout and seven different seafood dishes. Oh, and there were also more than a few nightly specials this weekend, including an impressive crawfish boil. Flexibility is good and variety is great, but you have to wonder whether the quantity of menu selections is affecting the quality of their execution. Because barbecue isn't cooked to order, a steady flow and a high turnover rate are critical to quality, so all those alternate choices may actually be sabotaging the success of the 'cue.
The joint is still not open for lunch.
There's still no website, but I learned that one is in the works.
The beer garden re-opens April 15.
The beer is still good. Selection, pricing and serving have never been an issue.
Overall I'm pleased with the progress. There's still plenty of room for more improvement, but I think the changes so far represent a very good start. If you're looking for a barbecue epiphany, you probably want to wait at least another few weeks. If you're looking for a full service barbecue meal with good value, good atmosphere and very good beer selection, it's safe to go in now.
Boston BBQ: Blue Ribbon's "Big 3" Rib Combo Offers Pork, Beef and Lamb Ribs; Smoked Corned Beef Coming for St Patrick's Day
Geoff Janowski is rocking the specials at Blue Ribbon this weekend and into St Patrick's Day. The "Big 3" rib platter supplies three different ribs, plus two sides and cornbread. A thick cut beef short rib was braised on a recent special but smoked this time around and topped with a molasses-infused Kansas City style sauce. The lamb rib will vary by location: at the West Newton outpost, it'll have an orange mint sauce; at Arlington it's a curry-spiked version of the Angry Hornet hot sauce. Rounding out the trio is a large "Carolina" pork spare rib topped with traditional sweet sauce.
St Patrick's Day specials will most likely be available starting on Monday. Smoked corned beef will be served with traditional boiled dinner vefetables and topped with horseradish butter. Also on offer will be Guiness beef stew made with beef tenderloin.
New York City BBQ: A Progress Report on Southern Hospitality permalink
Well, it finally happened: I managed to hit Southern Hospitality (NYC) when the full menu was available, the visit was virtually unnoticed, and neither weather nor time could stop me from walking through those doors. This was the final stop on the New York City BBQ crawl that also included visits to Pig Heaven (Chinese-American ribs) and Wildwood Barbeque. When I do the re-write of the Southern Hospitality review to incorporate the changes and improvements brought on by Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ), I'm not going to base it all on this visit, nor will I base it all on my last visit. But here's what a friend and I sampled on this visit and what I thought of it.
We started with a pulled pork sandwich. The meat was fairly abundant, well sauced and tender, possibly veering toward over-tender. I think much of one's enjoyment of this sandwich hinges on the sauce: if you like a dark, sweet sauce on pulled pork, you're in luck. If you like a Carolina style sandwich, you may prefer the one up the block at Brother Jimmy's.
When in doubt, order the largest sampler possible for variety. In this case, we opted for the King's Combo Platter ($29.95), which according to the menu is "a huge platter of our Memphis-style dry rubbed spare ribs, sliced brisket and our famous fried chicken and your choice of two sides." Well, the platter itself may have been huge, but the meat on it was a little skimpy for $30, even in New York.
The ribs were a 1/3 rack of Memphis dry rubbed spares, my favorite rib choice on Southern Hospitality's menu. They're served without sauce and some additional dry rub sprinkled on after cooking for that style popularized by the Rendezvous in Memphis. We wound up with the short end of the rack and some ribs were much thinner than what I received on my last visit. As a result, the ribs were also much drier than the juicy specimens from that last visit, but they still had a pleasing flavor, both from the rub and the meat itself.
The brisket was four very thin slices, drizzled with sauce and, like the ribs, topped with a shriveled (huh?) scallion. The meat was tender enough, but when it's sliced deli thin, it's hard not to be. The meat was only borderline moist, with a nice flavor at the center and a light char at the edges that bore a faint lighter fluid taste.
The one piece of fried chicken was a large breast with a thick and bumpy batter that was crisp and sweet like a waffle. Inside, the meat was extremely juicy.
I wasn't sure how soon I'd get another chance to visit Southern Hospitality when the full menu would be available, so we ordered—but did not put much of a dent into—the giant Lone Star beef rib. Outside, the rib was lightly glazed then grilled to form a crispy crust. Inside, the meat had a hearty beefy flavor, a little fat for moistness and a faint smoke ring. The meat fell short of melt-in-your-mouth succulence, but was plenty tender. And there was more meat on that bone than on the entire King's Combo. I'd recommend this as a shared appetizer for four, best eaten before the appetites begin to wane.
For sides, we chose the barbecue spaghetti and the collard greens with the King's Combo. The spaghetti had a nice smokiness and the barbecue sauce worked well. It was light on meat, but it was a side, so it's hard to complain. Still, there's enough potential that I'd like to see a meatier version offered as an entree. Collard greens were good, with bacon to add flavor. Onion rings with the Lone Star beef rib had an unusually high batter-to-onion ratio that did not impress. Cole slaw was simple but had a nice kick.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning three states. This time there's no new joints, one announced seasonal expansion, one closing and two new websites.
Cubby's BBQ (Hackensack NJ) has been a part of the New Jersey BBQ scene for more than two decades, but you oughtta know by now that it has a website. Thanks to John for the info. www.cubbysbarbeque.com
Smitty's Smokehouse (Lyndhurst NJ) is a newer barbecue joint that had a faulty website and replaced it with a new one, also privided by John. www.smittysbbq.com
Jessie's Lip Smackin' Roadhouse (Merrick NY) is now closed. This is the latest blow to an area that at one time had four "barbecue" joints located in close proximity, with Hog House (Merrick) and Laura's BBQ Roadhouse (Bellmore) casualties over thelast year or so. Thanks to Vinny for the info.
Smoke Shack BBQ (Boscawen NH), which also happens to be the most recent barbecue joint reviewed, has announced on its website that a second location at Weir's Beach in New Hampshire will be open on May 15. www.smokeshacksouthernbarbecue.com
New York City BBQ: A Progress Report on Wildwood Barbeque permalink
A few weeks ago Nick Solares reviewed Wildwood Barbeque's burger on A Hamburger Today, calling it "the most compelling item on the menu." That same day I posted a comment saying the lamb ribs were the most compelling item on the menu, and then it dawned on me: I hadn't had them in a while, and I hadn't visited Wildwood in a while. So two Sundays ago I took a Boston BBQ buddy on a New York City rib crawl, starting at Wildwood.
Wildwood's lamb ribs were everything I remembered from last time, from the thick, rub-infused outer bark to the intoxicating smoke presence to the tender inner meat with a pleasing caramel-like chewiness. Sure, there was also some fat that needed to be discarded, but a little adjustment pre-bite was all it took. The flavor of the meat was intense without being gamey, and I learned from pitmaster Lou Elrose that it's because Wildwood is using American lamb instead of the more common Australian variety. Whatever the reason, I think these lamb ribs are fantastic, and as I've said many times before, I'm not even a lamb fan. If I were to pick five must-try New York City BBQ restaurant items, the Wildwood lamb ribs would easily make that list.
Lest you think I'm a shill for Wildwood Barbeque, let's segue from the highlight of the meal to the lowlight: the pulled pork. I've tried it three times now and all three times I found it underwhelming. There's something in the flavoring that just strikes me as odd, though I can't place it. I'm pretty sure it's not the vinegar, because I prefer Carolina style vinegar sauces to anything overly thick or sweet on pulled pork, but this sauce tasted odd too. The meat is tender, but a bit too much so, veering on mushy.
Pork spare ribs swung the pendulum back to the positive. Wildwood's pork ribs are still the most gargantuan to be found in the city, edging out their nearly-as-hefty counterparts at Blue Smoke and Virgil's. But size isn't everything, as any fan of RUB's and Daisy May's svelte but flavor-packed pork ribs can attest. Beyond size, the Wildwood spares presented a healthy sprinkling of rub on the glazeless au natural crust, a more subtle smoke than the lamb, a firm but yielding tenderness and a nice porky flavor. They weren't as gushingly juicy as on my two prior evening visits, but the fact that they were close to that level on a Sunday lunch visit is a very good sign.
On this visit I tried Wildwood sausage for the first time, and it was very good, with both the meat and smoke flavors very assertive. This sausage is very similar to the kind offered at Elrose's alma mater Hill Country, only lighter and much less greasy. We went with the jalapeno variety and enjoyed the fact that it not only brought faint heat but a peppery fruitiness to the equation.
I also revisited Wildwood's chili, which didn't wow me last time. It's still the best chili presentation ever, served in a miniature kettle and topped with a generous amount of cheddar. But I was more interested in whether this would be a more serious chili than last summer's bowl, which was a little too light on the chiles and a little too heavy on the sugar. It was. The chili still has room for improvement (did somebody say brisket?), but I like what they've done since last time: the broth is thicker with a meaty silkiness, the beans are still noticeable but unobtrusive, there's less sugar sweet but more pepper sweet. I'm not saying this chili is in the same league as Daisy May's (Elrose's other alma mater), but there are echoes of that same ancho flavor, with some barbecue notes in there too.
Mac and cheese was nicely done, a little smoother and much sharper than I remembered from previous visits.
A new grilled shrimp appetizer special hit several of the tables, including ours. Served in a small skillet, the shrimp are wrapped in crisp bacon, with a slice of pickled jalapeno tucked in for good measure. The tartness and heat of this addition ups the ante; a creamy chipotle dipping sauce seals the deal. This is the perfect marriage of wedding food and bar snack, so next time I'll try them at the bar while watching a Sox-Yankees game. I'll tell the bartender to just keep them coming, one order per beer, and enjoy them almost as much as watching the Red Sox kick the Yankees' ass.
New Hampshire BBQ: Smoke Shack Reviewed
The site's 156th review is now available for Smoke Shack in Boscawen NH. Check it out via the Reviews page or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
Providence BBQ: A Rhode Island BBQ Mini Crawl to United BBQ and Rick's Roadhouse
I still haven't talked about my early January Providence BBQ daytrip, whose main objective was to check out the new United BBQ. Despite a shaky report on Chowhound that pointed out some weaknesses in the sides, I joined a barbecue buddy and visited with an open mind. I couldn't really disagree with the Chowhound poster's assessment of the sides—the cole slaw was basically cabbage without condiment—but who judges a barbecue joint primarily on the sides? United is still very new, having opened in December, so there are still some kinks and stylistic choices being worked out (for example, I wish the brisket were sliced, not chopped), but I did generally like the meats. I thought the ribs were quite flavorful all the way down to the inner meat; the wings were good enough to make my late January favorite wings list.
On a second visit the ribs exhibited a beautiful outer bark and had even more flavor inside. The meat was tender, leaning slightly toward overcooked but well within my acceptable zone of doneness. The Recent Eats photo of these ribs drew very positive comments and emails from some of the finest competition cooks in the area. That second visit also saw significant overall improvement on the sides, though the cole slaw was still bland. Speaking of sides, one really sweet deal at United BBQ is that if you order a sandwich, you can get not only the side that comes with it but as many extra sides as you want for a dollar each.
One of the Providence visits also hit Rick's Roadhouse to monitor their quality after a half year of operation. I still get the impression that Rick's Roadhouse is more of a place to hang out and drink than to savor a true pitmaster's barbecue vision, but the 'cue had improved noticeably. Just as on the first visit, a barbecue trio of ribs, pulled pork and brisket relied heavily on the sauce but this time had more flavor in the meat aside from the sauce's contribution. Alas, the "guacamole prepared tableside" that was promised in the website's pre-opening tease still hadn't made it onto the menu.
New York City "BBQ": Wafels and Dinges Truck Confirmed at 7th and 22nd; Pulled Pork "Dry"
One of my most reliable moles was in New York City's Chelea neighborhood at lunchtime today, on a mission to hit RUB. I suggested that he also check out the Wafels and Dinges gourmet waffle truck that's reportedly camped out at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 22nd Street on weekdays. The truck location is confirmed and the first report from someone I trust is in on the waffle topped with pulled pork from Staten Island's Smokin' Joe Mizrahi: "Dry. No flavor. Cole slaw average. But the waffle was awesome."
Here are some photos he provided via cellphone.
Am I discouraged? No way. But like I've advised so many others to do, I've set my expectations accordingly.
New York City "BBQ": Ribs at Pig Heaven
I'm still transcribing my notes from last Sunday's New York City BBQ crawl bookended by Wildwood and Southern Hospitality, so here's a brief report on a place we visited in between: Nancy Lee's Pig Heaven (1540 Second Avenue, just a few blocks north of Southern Hospitality). It's a Chinese restaurant that hit my radar by virtue of its inclusion in the Travel Channel's "Ribs Paradise" roundup last year. The idea was that the ribs here are atypical because of the cooking method: rather than having the rib racks sit flat on racks of the cooker, the rib racks hang in a giant charcoal oven the size of a phone booth, slowly cooking above the fire.
Just about every table in the place ordered the ribs, which I thought were a very good rendition of a Chinese (make that Chinese American) rib, but certainly not atypical. The meat was plentiful and moist, if slightly greasy. Light char added flavor without dominating the rib. The red glaze seemed to have an extra layer of clear, super sweet glaze over it, like rib varnish. Pig Heaven is a nice add-on if you have a small group working a rib crawl that includes Southern Hospitality and Brother Jimmy's (also in the neighborhood). Just know that you're going to get a very typical, very well executed "old school" Chinese American rib.
Boston BBQ: Redbones Raw Bar Returns on Friday Nights in March, Starting Tonight
Redbones (Somerville MA) is welcoming the return of "super shucker" Jimmy McDonnell to take your orders for oysters and clams every Friday night in March from 6:00PM to 9:00PM. Because oysters and stout are called the perfect pub partners, Redbones also has a special selection of stouts on tap, including Black Fly Stout from Gritty Mcduff's, Shakespeare Stout from Rogue, New World Porter from Avery Brewing and Young's Chocolate Stout from the U.K.
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning four states. This time there's two new joints, two closings, one reopening and one name change.
The 402 Food and Drink (South Easton MA) is a reincarnation of a former pub, with an emphasis on lower-priced items. In a recent Wicked Local article, thr owners call it "classic American with a barbecue twist" and are offering an all-things-to-all-people menu that includes ribs, pizza, pulled pork and burgers. I can't find a phone for the place, even on their website. Thanks to Brian for the lead. www.the402easton.com
Smokin' Rock BBQ (Rocky Hill CT) is a south-of-Hartford joint that was profiled earlier this week in a Hartford Advocate article. www.smokinrockbbq.com
Billy Sunday's (Brooklyn NY) is now known as Whiskey Sunday's. Check out this recent review in the Village Voice. Thanks to Robert for the info.
Denny Mike's (Old Orchard Beach ME) is no longer a restaurant by the amusement park, but is now now offering their line of barbecue "products" on their website. Thanks to Sledneck for the info. www.dennymikes.com
Memphis Roadhouse (South Attleboro MA) is in fact closed, as reported here tentatively last week. Thanks to Jed for both the early lead and the confirmation.
Outlaw BBQ (Foxborough MA) is open again, as reported here last week. www.outlawbbq.com
Boston BBQ: The Redbones "Chef's Table"
I'm a big fan of open kitchens, because when I'm dining out, watching the cooks perform their magic is every bit as integral to my enjoyment of the meal as the caliber of the food itself. The Boston area is fortunate to have more than its share restaurants with open kitchens and a good many of them have some degree of barbecue in the mix. At East Coast Grill (Cambridge), the grillside table is our unspoken defacto seating assignment whenever my wife and I arrive. Tremont 647 (Boston) has two stools that look right into the action, and that's where we sat a week ago for the pork tasting. My seat of choice at Blue Ribbon (West Newton) is the one closest to the pick-up counter—not so I can have a shorter walk but so I can have that perfect view into the entire galley. Last Saturday night we hit Redbones (Somerville), whose six stools at the far end of the main level dining room are practically inside the cramped kitchen. Just as with ringside seats at a heavyweight boxing match, you may get splattered, but that's part of the fun.
From our vantage point at what I'm calling the "Chef's Table" you can see right into the J&R smoker and watch every rib get chopped, every basket get lowered into the fryolator and every plate gets assembled. Throughout our stay, we watched the crew pump out an amazing volume of food with speed, grace and efficiency. I don't think there was a single plate that waited more than 3 seconds before an expeditor swooped in and dispatched it to the proper table.
The sneak preview of all the meats on offer allowed some informed decision-making when ordering. The brisket looked fantastic that night, so that's what I went with, on a sandwich. Seeing many of the same items hit the counter for expediting, I thought it was quite interesting that—through no fault of the crew—some plates of a particular item looked so good that I was kicking myself for not ordering it and other plates looked so ordinary that I applauded myself for not ordering it. The volume may have had something to do with that variation, but I attribute it to the randomness of barbecue: no matter how good you are at cooking ribs, some racks are just going to look better than others.
Brisket in the sandwich had a beautiful smoke ring, a firm but tender texture, not much moisture (though not dry) and a pleasing, slightly smoky flavor. This was the first time I had ordered it as a sandwich, so I was surprised by the inclusion of cole slaw, pickles and onions on the open faced bun. The sides were potato salad and a very good rendition of black-eyed peas, which was a pleasant surprise (as a platter guy, I was expecting the beans I'm not fond of there).
"One perfect rib" was a giant trapezoid of meat. Good? Yeah. Perfect? No. Overall a good meal where the apps, sides and atmosphere made the night more so than the 'cue, but the 'cue was still pretty good.
New York City BBQ: New York Magazine's "Best Of NY" Issue Is Out, Sans BBQ Category
It's that time of year again, when New York Magazine announces the winners in the annual "Best Of NY" issue. So who took the barbecue crown this year? RUB? Hill Country? The answer is neither, though neither was upstaged by an upstart. This year's issue doesn't have a barbecue category per se, but it does have a "Pig Out" category. The victor here is Irving Mill for its "charcroute" plate that features pork sausages, pork shoulder, pork belly, deep fried ribs, pig's head terrine and "pig's trotters."
read about the Pig Out winner
Digging 'Cue, Digging Out
I returned last night from another New York City BBQ crawl and just now finished shoveling my driveway. I'm already late for work, so I'll save the details for another time. I'm still digging out from some other past adventures, including last month's Rhode Island BBQ crawl and Saturday night's visit to the legendary Redbones in the Boston area.
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