Archive - October 2011
Hartford Burgers: Plan B Reviewed
The burger reviews continue, this time for one of Connecticut's most popular burger joints: Plan B (West Hartford CT).
See my review for Plan B
New York City BBQ: An Updated Review for Wildwood Barbeque
Not much has changed with Wildwood Barbeque (NYC) beside the lamb ribs coming off the menu, the beef ribs going on and the pork ribs becoming reliably great instead of occasionally great. Overall, the place still ain't perfect, but it's a lot closer—at least meatwise— than most. Check out the changes and the updated review via the Reviews page, the link above or link to reviews using the red icons in the Joints directory.
See my updated review for Wildwood Barbeque
Vermont BBQ: The Vittles Stop Reviewed
The site's 232nd barbecue review is for The Vittles Stop (Windsor VT), a driveway eatery that's just down the road from the longest covered bridge in North America. The Vittles Stop isn't covered, so the elements were a factor in my meal. 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 the Vittles Stop
Boston BBQ: Progess Report on Firebox BBQ
Last week I made a return to Firebox BBQ (Bedford MA).. Since it was my first visit in a while, I ordered a 3-meat combo to survey as much as possible.
Menu: Burnt ends appear to be renamed as grilled brisket, which more accurately describes their product that's cooked the same as brisket (it is brisket) but reheated s little differently, Fish rollups and salads topped with barbecue meats—both steals at $2.25 at the outset and still reasonable when raised to $4.50—are now off the menu entirely. It's a little odd that fish tacos aren't on the menu, since that would be a perfect fit for the increased surfing element in the Firebox decor.
Ribs: A quartet of St Louis cut spares made up for their shortness with an impressive thick cut, thick crust, abundance of rub and hints of pink. But they looked a little underdone, or at least underheated (finished on the grill). The still-wet rub was shy of crisp and the cut sides of the ribs looked clenched. Before even taking a bite, I confirmed my original suspicions: the ribs were cut 99% of the way through between each bone and I still had to wrestle with them to tear them apart. Each bite was an adventure (chewier than a doggie chew toy), but flavor was good. I liked the smokiness and I liked the rub flavor, even if it arrived a little soggy.
Chicken: A thigh quarter on the combo arrived thickly rubbed and only slightly crisp, with moist meat beneath. Flavor was pleasant, with the effects of both smoke and rub. On its own, this chicken was good, easily in the top third of all barbecue chicken I've sampled. Compared to Firebox chicken of the earliest days (a bonafide top 10 and potential número uno), this was a bit of a disappointment.
Pulled pork: The photos might not do this justice, but the pulled pork on that platter was solid, coming in with perfect texture (tender with some bite-back), good smokiness, plenty of bark, plenty of rub (possibly added after as well as pre-smoke) and s pool of porky juices. There was no slippage here—the best of the Firebox meats from the earliest days was the best again and worthy of a spot in my top 10 for pork (and probably toward the top).
Sides: Collard greens were leafy and floppy, with more natural flavor than additive. Beans were big and spicy, with more of a chili feel than cliched molasses.
Cornbread: A large slice seemed more like honeycake than cornbread, but was a good rendition within that style choice.
Sauces: Still a nice array, with a good variety and a homemade feel. Although the pork was fantastic without the sauce, I enjoyed some of it with the jalapeno vinegar.
Outlook: A better rib turnout might have swung my opinion in a different direction, but ribs have never been a strength here. Even though I see less upside than I did initially, I still like Firebox overall and love their pork. I'll probably hit them again in the next month or two to compare barbecue results and share one of their burgers.
Massachusetts Burgers: White Hut Reviewed
There's more barbecue ahead, but for now here's a review of a burger joint I had my sights on since before this site began: the 7-decades-old White Hut (West Springfield MA).
See my review for White Hut
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning seven states. This time there are eleven new joints, six closings and one new phone number.
NEW JOINTS and/or NEW TO THE DIRECTORY
BBQue's Smoke Shack (NYC) is a new joint with a log cabin atmosphere and a dozen different barbecue sauces. Thanks to both Chuck and Robert for the lead.
DaddyO's BBQ and Sports Bar (Staten Island NY) is a new NYC joint that officially makes possible the anticipated five borough crawl. A quick perusal of their Facebook photos reveals a smoker onsite. Thanks to Robbie for the info. Facebook
The East Ender (Portland ME) is a replacement for the now departed Norm's East End Grill that's less barbecue-centric but still offers slow smoked barbecue. It's good to see that Portland barbecue scene hasn't eroded with the most recent closings and it's especially good to see another reason to hit Duck Fat, the eatery next door with fries that live up to the hype. Thanks to Simon for the info. www.eastenderportland.com
Sea Smoke BBQ (Scarborough ME) is a new barbecue joint tucked into a strip mall on Route 1. www.seasmokebbq.com
Vermont Maple BBQ (Randolph VT) is a barbecue trailer run by a team that scored second for ribs at the BBQ Championship of New England at Harpoon—the most prestigious competition in the area. Because of frequent participation at local events, the stated location isn't a constant. Thanks to Sledneck for the lead. www.vtbbq.com
Eddie's BBQ (Narragansett RI) is yet another addition to the ever expanding roster of barbecue food trucks. There seems to be no fixed location, but appearances are promised to be listed on their website. Thanks again to Sledneck for the info. www.eddiesbbqri.com
Midtown BBQ and Grill (Needham MA) is a new barbecue joint that opened last Friday in the former Village Fish location. If they were open for weekend lunches, I might have hit them already, but I'll probably make it in within a week. Thanks to both Geoff and Marty for the lead. www.midtownsmokehouseandgrill.com
Max Burger (West Hartford CT) is an upscale burger joint with a few barbecue selections (smoked ribs, smoked pulled pork sandwich) on the menu. Who knows, this one might serve as the first joint with separate reviews for burgers and 'cue. www.maxrestaurantgroup.com/burger
Macadoo's Grille (Northport NY) is a Long Island eatery occupying the same space vacated by Smoking Sloe's, but not using a smoker. www.macadoosgrille.com
Hot Chix (Brooklyn NY) might not have hot chicks (or a smoker), but based on the Facebook photos, at least their grilled chicken is doable. Facebook
Twain's Chicken and Ribs (Oceanside NY) is a new Long Island joint whose ribs, according to Wednesday's Newsday profile, are "boiled for an hour, steamed for half an hour, then dry-rubbed before being grilled to order and coated with either barbecue sauce or more of the house-made dry rub." Ugh. Thanks again to Sledneck for the find.
The Dancing Pig (Cumberland RI) is sitting out future dances, having closed at the end of September.
The SoPo (South Portland ME) is now closed. The restaurant is for sale, so there's still a chance it may wind up being another barbecue joint in the same location.
T&G's Smokehouse (Carlstadt, NJ) is now closed.
JT's BBQ (Newark NJ) is now closed. Thanks to the recorded message on the phone that said the number was out of service and to the website which is now a barbecue sauce and not a restaurant.
Joey's BBQ (Hoboken NJ) is now closed.
Jim Dandy's BBQ (Cedar Grove NJ) is now closed.
Providence BBQ: An Updated Review for Rick's Roadhouse
Maybe I was a little hasty to review Rick's Roadhouse (Providence RI), within its first few weeks of operation. Or maybe not—three years and three visits later, neither they nor my opinion have changed all that much. 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 updated review for Rick's Roadhouse
Boston BBQ: Spoon Truck Reviewed
The site's 231st barbecue review is for Spoon (Roxbury MA), one of the newest arrivals on the exploding Boston food truck scene. I have a couple of other Boston barbecue truck reviews in various stages of completion, but the combination of opportunity striking and fleeting warm weather thrust Spoon's review unexpectedly to the head of the queue. 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 Spoon
Site Talk: That's the FAQ, Jack
Here are the answers to a dozen of the most frequently asked questions about the site.
Q: What makes you an expert on barbecue?
A: I'm not an expert on barbecue, I've never claimed otherwise and have never allowed somebody else's claim otherwise to go uncontested. I'm just a guy who's been to a lot of different Northeast barbecue joints, so that gives me some perspective, but that hardly makes me an expert. On the contrary, I'd say my limited travels to the South (I've had 'cue in the Carolinas and Virginia but not Tennessee, Missouri or Texas) make for an incomplete resume. But even completing that resume wouldn't make me a barbecue expert, because there's no such thing.
Q: How do you get a job where you can just ride around and eat all day?
A: It's not a job; it's something I do on weekends and after work. My boss thinks it's something I do instead of my work, but that's not true. Well, at least not usually.
Q: I expected someone who eats as much as you do to be a lot fatter. Why aren't you?
A: Gee, thanks (I think). My weight fluctuates and I'm not real thrilled with it right now, but generally speaking, I get a lot of cardio in and I don't eat the entire portion of everything you see photographed on the site. While it may seem like I'm eating barbecue 4 times a week, much of that frequency is on barbecue crawls that take me and a few barbecue accomplices to three spots in one day. Think of it as one three course meal, only each course is at a different restaurant. So it may look like three meals, but it's really only one. (That's what I tell my wife and my doctor, and they don't believe me either.)
Q: You travel to New York City a lot. Do you ever take the bus?
A: No, and the number 1 reason why I don't take the bus is the number 2 reason. Anyone who's ever done an extensive crawl with me knows what I mean.
Q: Why haven't you visited [fill in restaurant name here] yet?
A: There are several reasons why this may be the case. Geography and who I'm with are the two biggest factors—the closer ones are a lot easier than the farther ones, and when I go to the farther ones, I'm generally going with or meeting other people, so I wind up going to places that they've requested or are in their wheelhouse. Sometimes a friend's postponement of an intended joint visit has a ripple effect for months. I might skip that joint to keep it in play for the next time around, and then that next time around never comes around. Just as basketball has "tweeners" (a player not tall enough to be a forward and not quick enough to be a guard), so does barbecue: places like Smokey Joe's (Stamford CT) and RW's BBQ (Brookfield CT) had gone unvisited for the longest time because they were almost in New York City. Even though they were on the way back, they were so close that I'd still be full or not yet ready for a pit stop. New Jersey is an area where I foresaw numerous visits at the time I created the site, but the work-related reason for the trips went away. I should point out that there's no necessary correlation between how frequently I go to a joint and how much I like it. I've visited Buck's in Auburn MA a lot more than I've visited Goody Cole's Smokehouse in Brentwood NH even though I like Goody's much more. Buck's happens to be the easiest barbecue restaurant to get to at lunchtime from where I work.
Q: Why were you so easy on [fill in restaurant name here] in your review of them?
A: The goal of the site is not to rip restaurants to shreds; it's to give an unbiased description of what they serve and an opinionated but honest account of how well they do it. Although my personal preferences play a big part in how much I enjoy any joint's 'cue, I've been increasingly attempting to factor out those preferences when assessing quality. I like barbecue sauce as an optional add-on rather than a necessary crutch, and I like ribs a little firmer than fall-off-the-bone tender. But if a joint comes through with a saucy, super tender product that's done really well within their chosen style, I'm not only going to give them credit, I'm probably also going to like it. I want to make the site useful to everyone—not just those whose tastes are very similar to mine. I also am somewhat sympathetic to barbecue's inherent inconsistency and try not to jump all over a place if two of their meats are good and one of their meats is dry. And I also don't judge a barbecue joint by how good the hamsteak is.
Q: Have you tried Famous Dave's yet?
A. Yes, I have. While it's probably the best of the national barbecue chains that have penetrated the northeast, it's not a place I have a hankering to visit all that often, if ever. And this site isn't about chains.
Q. Why are you so hard on Long Island barbecue restaurants?
A. I'm not hard on Long Island barbecue restaurants. Most of them simply aren't that good. I have a few theories on why that's the case, but I'll save them for another post down the road.
Q: Why don't you judge barbecue competitions anymore?
A. Questionable hygiene and questionable ethics equal questionable food. I'm not saying that's the case with all competition 'cue (the best of it is superb), but it's true of enough of it that I'd rather allocate my limited time, travel resources and calories to 'cue that'll serve as fodder for site content.
Q: Why did you visit a restaurant really close to me and never ask if I wanted to go?
A: This one's complicated, because there are many possible reasons, and none of them diabolical. The most frequent of them are: 1) I did already ask you and you didn't get back to me; 1a) I asked you on a previous trip and you didn't get back to me; 2) I was with my wife or family and wanted to keep it to that; 3) I had no idea I'd wind up where I did until I was practically there, and didn't want to complicate things with phone calls (not allowed while driving in Connecticut and New York), waiting or having to cancel last minute. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll offer a few less than innocent (but far from diabolical) reasons: 6) I generally prefer small groups and don't want to have to worry about endless planning that gets more complicated with more people; 7) You haven't expressed an interest in joining a crawl in several years; 8) Someone I'm already with can't stand you; 9) I can't stand you; 10) You have a track record of late arrivals, no shows, stingy ordering and/or stingier tipping.
Q. Why doesn't your site allow comments?
A. It's not that it doesn't allow comments, it's that it's a home grown site (not a full fledged blog powered by Blogger or WordPress or the like). There's a PigTrip Facebook page where I post any time a new review is available and also post news, leads, photos and commentary not available on the main site. Comments are more than welcome there. If you'd like to comment to this post, look for the corresponding Facebook page post with today's date that links to this site post.
Q: Why don't you have rankings or ratings?
A: Good question, and a question I ponder frequently. There should be rankings and ratings, but I've held off for these reasons: 1) For rankings, my depth of coverage varies area to area, so it's tough to rank joints I've been to only once and even tougher to leave out joints I've never been to; 2) Barbecue joints across the board vary so greatly from visit to visit that the rankings would be volatile and the ratings near meaningless; 4) I'm the king of procrastination; 5) In my quest to make the site just as useful for those whose style preferences vary from my own as those who have a similar palate, I'm hesitant to scare them off with ratings that might reflect my own biases. That said, I recognize the need to at least have rankings, so that'll be one of my next projects for procrastination.
At some point soon, I'll follow this up with a set of questions I would ask if I were a reader of this site.
New York City BBQ: John Brown Smokehouse Reviewed
The site's 230th barbecue review is for John Brown Smokehouse (Long Island City NY), a joint that I previewed in August and visited again recently to get a full fledged review in the books. Helmed by Josh Bowen, a Kansas City native who previously manned the pits at Hill Country, this joint serves an ever expanding variety of meats smoked over pecan and peach woods. 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 John Brown Smokehouse
Boston Burgers: The Russell House Tavern Burger Reviewed
How good can a burger on an English muffin be? Sometimes pretty good, as you'll see by the photos in my burger review for Russell House Tavern (Cambridge MA, in Harvard Square).
See my review for Russell House Tavern
Connecticut Burgers: Burgers, Shakes & Fries Reviewed
This joint had been on my radar for about four years, and I finally managed to hit them last weekend. Here's my burger review for Burgers, Shakes & Fries (Greenwich CT, just over the NY border).
See my review for Burgers, Shakes & Fries
September 2011 archive
August 2011 archive
July 2011 archive
June 2011 archive
March to May 2011 archive
February 2011 archive
January 2011 archive
December 2010 archive
November 2010 archive
October 2010 archive
September 2010 archive
August 2010 archive
July 2010 archive
June 2010 archive
May 2010 archive
April 2010 archive
March 2010 archive
February 2010 archive
January 2010 archive
December 2009 archive
November 2009 archive
October 2009 archive
September 2009 archive
August 2009 archive
July 2009 archive
June 2009 archive
May 2009 archive
April 2009 archive
March 2009 archive
February 2009 archive
January 2009 archive
December 2008 archive
November 2008 archive
October 2008 archive
September 2008 archive
August 2008 archive
July 2008 archive
June 2008 archive
May 2008 archive