Archive - March to May 2011
Boston Burbs BBQ: A Return Visit and an Updated Review for Horseshoe Grille
Five years after my last visit to the Horseshoe Grille (North Reading MA), I figured it was time for an update. So last Saturday I stopped in and ordered the same three-meat platter. The weaknesses are still weaknesses, the strengths are still strengths and the place is still a good choice as long as you save it, only to be played when not everyone in your group wants a gritty barbecue hoedown.
See my review update for the Horseshoe Grille
Boston Burgers: TBS Burger at the Butcher Shop Reviewed
The Butcher Shop Burger had been on my radar for more than a year, but I never took the time to investigate that burger to the point of seeing a photo. Then, by accident, it hit me: thumbing through the pages of Boston Magazine a week before my visit, I saw the burger in a feature of Boston's best dining bargains, and it was love at first sight. How any $18 burger can be considered a bargain, I'm still not sure. How I managed to get through an entire week without hightailing it down there, I'm also still not sure. But I did, and my findings are in the site's 10th burger review.
See my review of the Butcher Shop Burger
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning five states. This time there are ten new joints, one expansion, three closings, one closing with a follow-up move, three website additions, four website changes and one menu change.
NEW JOINTS and/or NEW TO THE DIRECTORY
Porky's BBQ (Hyannis MA) is a new Cape Cod barbecue joint. Thanks to Marty for the lead. www.porkysbbqcapecod.com
RJ's Grub (Sunderland MA) is a trailer operation slightly up the road from the more famous Bub's. It's parked in the lot of Snowzee's, a bar that allows you to bring the grub inside. Thanks to Mark for the info.
Finn Bque's (Newington CT) is an Irish/BBQ hybrid. Thanks again to Marty for the lead. www.finnbques.com/finn.php
Big Paw's (Biddeford ME) is an outdoor joint with picnic tables and 1950s-style car service.
Mainely Bar-B-Que (Kittery ME) is a new addition to the directory that's a mile or two north of the shopping outlets on Route 1. www.mainely-bbq.com
Estelle's (Farmingdale NY) is a Long Island joint that's taken over the former Fatty Beltbuckles space. Thanks to Eric for the lead. www.estellesbbq.com
Iron Pig BBQ (South Glen Falls NY) is a north-of-Albany joint with a stripped-down menu that includes only four meats, three sides and a pie or cake of the day. Thanks to Sledneck for the tip. www.ironpigbbqrestaurant.com
Gator Blue (E. Islip NY) is a new Long Island BBQ joint in the former space of Tennessee Jack's. according to a Yelper, there's a smoker in there. Thanks again to Sledneck for the lead.
Southern Hospitality opened their second location in Hell's Kitchen, adjacent to Ember Room. www.southernhospitalitybbq.com
Auntie G's BBQ, Bakery and Deli (Ridgefield CT) is no more.
Mara's Homemade (NYC) closed in late April after a 7-year run. According to their still-active website, they'll be opening in Syosset (Long Island) soon. Thanks to Vinny for the info. www.marashomemade.com
Firefly's Bar-B-Que (Marlborough MA and Framingham MA) closed their Quincy MA outpost in April. The original two locations remain intact. Thanks to Steve for notifying me initially and to Fred for reminding me. www.fireflysbbq.com
Smokin' Jim's (Gloucester MA) also changed its website address: www.smokinjimsbar-b-q.com
Jerry Remy's (Boston MA) resumed their smoked meats program... sort of. After being off the menu all winter, the ribs and pulled pork are back, but the brisket and chicken are still on the DL and most likely retired. The other part of the "sort of" is that the smoking process has changed dramatically since last year, as mentioned in my previous post. www.jerryremys.com
Boston BBQ: A Return to Remy's
A return to Fenway Park last week for my first visit in a few years was the perfect excuse for my first visit to Jerry Remy's (Boston MA) since mid-season last year.
First, a quick run-down on my experience with Remy's:
I had low expectations before my first visit last April, and rightfully so: sports bars owned by big name celebrities generally have questionable food at best; add the proximity to Fenway and you have the perfect ingredients (captive audience, spending mood, name recognition) for overpriced mediocrity.
After my first three visits in April 2010 I was pleasantly surprised by the style (cured-then-smoked) and caliber of the 'cue. Exceptionally pink, smoky ribs were dependably good; brisket was dependably bad (fatty, tough, improperly cut); chicken had fantastic flavor but occasionally rubbery skin; pulled pork was mild and plain but at least legit. The Remy Burger (bacon, cheddar on fried dough) was a steal at $10 with inconsistent execution. Service was friendly, professional and well beyond competent.
A fourth visit later in the season found the ribs similarly styled but disappointingly muted in flavor and a little old tasting. The Remy Burger's beef was more ordinary than previously; the dough continued its downward spiral. I like that it's not an overly sweet dough, but instead of the potentially ideal texture of Boston Creme donut minus the chocolate and filling, it was just stiff and unmanageable.
During the off season, Remy's took the barbecue fare off the menu. Whether in response to reduced traffic or less favorable weather conditions for smoking, the idea made sense. As the 2011 Red Sox season resumed, ribs and pulled pork were both on the menu; chicken (missed) and brisket (not missed) are still on the DL.
Having already hit nearby Eastern Standard for their exellent burger, a friend and I chose Remy's for a porky dessert alternative: splitting a half rack of ribs. Strangely, ribs were not on the menu even though I saw them on the online menu earlier that day. Our server told us that it was because Remy's was working on some hotdog specials for the upcoming Cubs series, but we could definitely still order ribs.
I wound up trying parts of two ribs, which impressed with their moistness and unusual meat thickness that included part of the belly. But they were no longer pink, no longer smoky, no longer fresh (the moistness was more steamy than juicy) and no longer all that flavorful. According to the kitchen via our server, "They're still smoked, but with a different rub." I'm assuming the ribs are also no longer cured, but they didn't really seem smoked either. Floppy consistency was more akin to stewed soul food ribs than what I enjoyed at Remy's last year. For those who enjoy super tender ribs whose meat literally falls off the bone when picked up—and I should say that even though I'm not in that camp, I try not to cast shame upon those who are—this may represent an improvement. Liberally applied sauce was still a tomatoey/molassesy blend with some heat, this time closer to brick color than dark brown, with more tomato, less molasses and less heat than last year.
Corn salad (tomatoes, onions, herbs) was the more interesting of the two heaping starchy sides (what, no cole slaw?). I also liked the "German potato salad" even though it's about as German as the planes that bombed Pearl Harbor. Maybe that's their way of saying it had hard boiled egg mixed in.
Overall, the ribs were decent enough, but aside from the generous cut didn't do anything to distinguish themselves from your run of the mill chain restaurant ribs. Maybe the hotdog promotion had something to do with it, so I won't write Remy's off altogether. But I'm not exactly buoyed with confidence.
Worcester Burgers: Ritual's "Freakin' Burger" Reviewed
Best. Burgah. Evah.
Well, maybe not the best ever, but an outstanding burger that's easily the best of Worcester and not out of place when discussed with some of Boston's best. It's in an unlikely location: Ritual, a Mediterranean tapas bar.
See my review of Ritual's Freakin' Burger
Boston BBQ: Larry J's House of Q Reviewed
The site's 209th barbecue review is posted for Larry J 's House of Q (Chelsea MA), a recent addition to the Boston BBQ scene. Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
See my review of Larry J's House of Q
Boston Burgers: Scholar's Burger Reviewed
There's currently no burger counterpart to the PigTrip BBQ Joints directory, because while I absolutely want to try every great burger in Boston and New York, I'm not compelled to try, review or even list every burger. For that reason, the burgers I've reviewed so far have pretty much been limited to those that have been good to excellent*. When I first looked at the intriguing menu for the month-old Scholars (Boston MA), I fully expected their Bacon Fat Burger to join the ranks. Did it? Well, to the extent that I reviewed it, yes.
See my review of Scholars Bacon Fat Burger
*Three burgers among my very favorites are all conspicuous omissions, but only temporarily: Shake Shack (New York NY), Craigie On Main (Cambridge MA), Eastern Standard (Boston MA). All have been mentioned here previously in varying detail, two with photos. All will probably wind up with a formal burger review, starting with the least likely of the three.
Connecticut BBQ: Nat Hayden's Real Pit Barbecue Reviewed
The site's 208th barbecue review is posted for Nat Hayden's Real Pit Barbecue (Windsor CT), an old timey joint slightly north of Hartford. Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
See my review of Nat Hayden's
Connecticut Burgers: Corey's Catsup & Mustard Reviewed
Fret not, there's another barbecue review coming later this week. On the way to the target for that review, I stopped in at the burger bar Corey's Catsup & Mustard (Manchester CT). The meat composition was ordinary but the overall sandwich composition was a lot better.
See my review of Catsup and Mustard
New York City BBQ: A Return Visit to RUB
Actually, my most recent visit to New York City included two stops at RUB, spaced two days apart. My staples there are the pork spare ribs and the burnt ends of brisket, but the mission this time also included test drives of their relatively recent Monday night burger special and their very recent 12-hour wet ribs.
First up is the burger, which has been a Monday night special for a year or so. In more than two dozen trips to RUB, I'd never hit them on a Monday night, so it was never a possibility even though RUB's burger has been on my wishlist since inception. Finally, during a four-day stay in the city, I split the RUB burger with my young bride. There was a Jamaican style specialty burger also available that night, but we avoided the curry and kept things simple: a thin, diner style
model with plenty of surface personality (crusting, seasoning) and a buttered toasted bun. The burger was a
little more done than I like but still juicy and very tasty. The beef blend was vibrant.
Splitting that burger allowed some sampling of the burnt ends, the do-not-miss item at RUB. Crisp and rub-bumpy outside, meltingly tender and smoky inside, these didn't disappoint.
The final meat item of the first visit was a half rack of spare ribs, which I assessed visually rib by rib before the plate even hit the table. Working from left to right in the photo below, I'm thinking: near-great, great, near-great, good, good, good.
So this posed an interesting dilemma: do I take the best three and give up the other three, figuring that difference in quality would be lost on anyone not as psychotic as myself? or do I give up the best three, figuring that over the top quality will grease the skids for return visits to RUB? As you might guess, I took the great one second to the end, but gave up two near-great ones and can't remember the rest. Like I said, we were there again two days later.
The ribs on the right end were moist and trickled juices; the ones on the left flowed more freely. All were competition tender, allowing a clean, easy bite without any falling-off-the-bone nonsense. Rub and smoke levels were both fairly high compared to most ribs but a little lighter than usual for RUB.
On the Monday visit I also wanted to try RUB's new 12-hour wet ribs, introduced just a week prior to our visit. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as things turned out), with burgers such a focus on Mondays, the wet ribs weren't offered that night. Througfh a variety of circumstances, we were back Wednersday night, when the wet ribs were not only available but featured in RUB's weekly Wednesday night all-you-can-eat special for $26.95. For a few dollars more than the whole rack price but including two (not usually included) sides, it's a break-even if you even come close to finishing a rack. If you finish a rack or more, it's a deal.
Believe it or not, I stopped after a half rack, partly because I wanted to share some with a free conscience and partly because I wanted to try something else beyond ribs.
As for the ribs themselves, I enjoyed them. Stylistically, I'm more aligned with RUB's everyday ribs, which stand on their own, stand up to the bite and stand out in flavor and moisture without sauce as a crutch. But these wet ribs were super tender without coming anwhere close to approximating the laughably mushy faux 'cue served a block down the street. Without compromising rub, smoke or glorious pink flesh, RUB managed to add an offering that appeals to the falling-off-the-bone crowd while still being a delighful splurge for a purist like myself.
Sliced brisket was the secondary meat, and it was solid. Sliced thin and bearing a pink smoke ring, the brisket's moistness was closer to perspiration than sweat. Flavor was pleasant, with a faint sweetness accenting the natural beefiness and smoke.
The only item ordered twice in the two visits was the addictive onion strings that are sliced thin, lightly coated with crunchiness and aggressively seasoned with a perfect blend of salt, spice and sugar that mimics the barbecue, minus the smoke.
New York City Asian/BBQ Fusion: Ember Room Reviewed
Another review, another celebrity chef, this time the controversial Todd English, along with Ian Chalermkittichai. According to the restaurant website, these "culinary geniuses" have created "a totally unique dining experience that blends Asian sensibilities with the American palate."
I'm no culinary genius, but in the site's 207th barbecue review, my thoughts on Ember Room might just be more sensible.
See my review of Ember Room
Boston Burgers: The Radius Burger Reviewed
It's not insignificant that the last review before what I'm now calling "The Hiatus" and the first one upon my return are for burgers, but PigTrip isn't switching over to a burger blog. PigTrip won't even be limited to barbecue and burgers in its next phase, but that's another post for another day.
At the tail end of my first vacation in three years—and it was more than just a vacation, but again, that's another post for another day—I took advantage of a Friday off to try "The Burger" (their quotation marks, not mine) at posh Radius (Boston MA). The award-winning creation of chef Michael Schlow is a burger that's been on my wish list for a few years now and one that I'm glad I tried. But just how good is it?
See my review of "The Burger" at Radius
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