Archive - October 2013
Site Talk: Unendorsable
Last week I received an inquiry from one of those new restaurant search sites looking to place an ad on PigTrip. They targeted PigTrip specifically, the rep said, because it has a strong Brooklyn presence.
Being both curious and wary of placing an ad for an outfit I might not want to indirectly endorse, I decided to give this site a test drive. I did a search on barbecue restaurants in Brooklyn and got some interseting results. Where was Fette Sau—probably the most well known barbecue joint in Brooklyn based on quality and longevity—on this list? Not at the top, not anywhere. How about BrisketTown, the current media darling? Nowhere. How about Fletcher's or Mable's, both relatively new but well established? Nope. Smoke Joint or Pies 'n' Thighs, both visible via segments on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives? No and no. Much publicized newcomers Hometown BBQ, Beast of Bourbon or Morgan's? Stink. Stank. Stunk.
I sent a few questions back but never heard from him again. Probably left his job if the paychecks were as reliable as the search results.
Worcester Burgers: Brew City Reviewed
Time for another burger review, this time for Brew City (Worcester MA), a pub with a deep burger menu and a do it yourself option.
See my review for Brew City
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning
five states. This time there are fourteen new joints, one contraction, one definite closing, two likely closings and one new website.
NEW JOINTS and/or NEW TO THE DIRECTORY
Morgan's Brooklyn Barbecue (Brooklyn NY) is a Prospect Heights joint with a couple of things going for it: pitmaster John Avila is an alum of Franklin Barbecue in Austin and the pit is a J&R. Facebook
The Cecil (NYC) is a new "Afro-Asian-American brasserie" in Harlem from former Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard Parsons. The chic space has an inventive transglobal menu whose smoked items include pork ribs, turkey and duck. I also have my eye on some of the upscale soul presentations as well as a wagyu rib burger. www.thececilharlem.com
CityRib Barbeque (Queens NY) is a Jamaica joint that's "all about the sauce," according to their website. The menu features babybacks, spares and beef shortribs, as well as the standards of brisket, pulled pork and smoked chicken. The specialty cocktail list is deep and interesting. Thanks to Eater's Robert Sietsema for alerting me to this joint via a recent article. www.cityrib.com
Depot Sports Grille (Pepperell MA) has the look, at least according to their website, of a generic morph of sports bar, 1970s-style barbecue joint and Applebee's style chain restaurant. A recent Groupon deal description syas it "specializes in barbecue with pulled pork and ribs smoked onsite," while the online menu confirms only the ribs and lists brisket as "slow roasted." The something-for-everyone menu also offers burgers, pizza, subs, calzones and nine different salads. One of these days, I might try it, setting expectations accordingly. Thanks to Steve for the lead. www.thedepotsportsgrille.com
Double R Q (New Rochelle NY) is a husband and wife project aiming to mix traditional BBQ southern flavors with modern flair. Accordingly, the menu has the expected classics, plus burnt ends and smoked turkey, plus a wide appetizer roster that includes pig in a blanket and fried grit balls. Vegetarians will find this menu quite navigable. Thanks to Jason for the lead. www.doublerq.com
AOA Bar and Grill (NYC) is a restaurant inside the Hilton Garden Inn that offers house smoked brisket, pulled pork and ribs. Thanks again to Groupon of all sources for alerting me to this one, as I saw it mentioned in a Groupon deal for the hotel. www.aoabarandgrill.com
Buckley's Great Steaks (Merrimack NH) is offering a weekly barbecue combo special, every Thursday night in the bar area only. Chef Charlie Cicero is an award winning competition cook, so he brings some of that competition feel to the standard ribs and whatever rotating meat (brisket, pulled pork, chicken, turkey) happens to share plate space with it that night. Thanks to the chef for letting me know. www.buckleysgreatsteaks.com
Standard Gastropub (Bridgton ME) is a converted gas station with the gas still there. The ambitious menu includes standard barbecue offerings plus some unusual breakfast sandwiches; they open at 8:00AM. Facebook
Bludini BBQ (Norwalk CT) is a new joint in the space tha once housed Jeff's Cuisine. The very deep menu has both beef and pork ribs, brisket, pork, ham, turkey, sausage,red hots, smoked chicken and "Smokafried" chicken. Facebook
It's All Good (Indian Orchard MA) is a Springfield barbecue and soul restaurant that's been open about a year. Thanks to LD for the lead. Facebook
Bobby Spur's Barbeque and Brews (Wallingford CT) is a 2-month old joint in what could be shaping up to be a nice little barbecue town.
Best Yet Market (NYC) is a regional supermarket whose Harlem outpost offers legit smoked meats by the pound. Thanks to Chuck for the lead, along with a recommendation. www.bestyetmarket.com/harlem.php
Fire 'n' Brew (Wells ME) is a new dinner-only restaurant on Mile Road just off Route 1. It's mostly new American with smoked fare limited to smoked wings and a pulled pork sandwich. www.firenbrew.com
Whistling Pig Smokehouse (Bangor ME) opens today with a menu that has everything I like. Both pork ribs and beef ribs? Check. Burnt ends? Check. Smoked wings? Check. Smoked meat chili? Check. Meats in flexible combos and by the pound? Check. Are they any good? I'll check it out. www.whistlingpigsmokehouse.com
Cherrywood Kitchen (NYC) closed, less than a year after it opened. Maybe the Asian fusion and highbrow concept was a little too highbrow for its own good.
Harley's Smokeshack (NYC) has closed its Midtown expansion within a year as well. The East Harlem original is still going full steam.
Gary's Rib House (New Milford CT) has apparently closed, claiming that they lost their lease.
Hanbone's (Hamden CT) appears to have closed. A recent Facebook post announced that the smoker and one of the principals are both now at Bobby Spur's. Whether that's a temporary situation until a new location gets lined up is not yet known.
Pride and Joy BBQ (NYC) still hasn't opened. Some recent activity within the building ended a dormant period caused
by an ownership breakup (and inevitable lawsuits), but it's not known
whether the barbecue component will still be there when it eventually
Salvage BBQ (Portland ME) now has a website. www.salvagebbq.com
Brooklyn BBQ: First Look at Hometown BBQ Permalink
Hometown BBQ in Red Hook has been open only a month or so, but has quickly established itself as one of the heavyweights in the exploding Brooklyn barbecue scene. After studying barbecue with some of the medium's brightest stars, pitmaster Billy Durney has developed a multiregional and multicultural barbecue menu to appeal to varying tastes. I visited the former warehouse a few weeks into the operation and had one of my best meals of the year there. I'll keep the descriptions brief and let the photos do most of the talking until I follow this "first look" up with a full-fledged review after a few visits.
Billy Durney handles the meat.
Brisket, babybacks and pulled pork.
A closer look at the brisket. You can see how voluminous and coarse that rub is, and the flexibility of the slice.
A closer look at the brisket. As tender as it gets while still retaining structure. Juicy too, with fat rendered into lubricant.
18 more photos and more thoughts in the permalink
Maine BBQ: First Look at Portland Joints Salvage BBQ and Elsmere BBQ Permalink
Barbecue has come to Portland in a big way. Sure, Uncle Billy's left town, Beale Street begat The SoPo which be gone now, and Norm's Eastside begat the East Ender which is only part barbecue, as is Binga's Stadium. Then Buck's Naked moved in before the end of last year and two much-talked-about upstarts opened their doors by the end of this summer: Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill in South Portland and Salvage BBQ in Portland proper. I'll be visiting both at least one more time each before posting an official review, but here's my first take of a first meal at each.
Salvage BBQ, located across the street from a medical center and around the corner from where the Portland Seadogs play, has so many of the edgy elements associated with hipster barbecue that it looks like it could have dropped in from Brooklyn—and that's a compliment. I love the space: it's wide open with rows of communal picnic tables in the back and retro lounge sofas and space age tables up front. They make the perfect chill-out lounges for the hipsters-at-heart to whip out their modern gadgets and probably play a quick game of Bingogodz while waiting for the order. You wait in line and order from one clerk market style, pay another clerk, get your drinks at the long bar and they'll bring the 'cue out to you when it's ready. Gotta love the signage on the brick wall and the free parking out back.
Sausage: Ordered as a single link ($6), this sausage arrived as a bunch of slices instead, each one a monotone bologna gray and each one somehow slimy and dry at the same time. Flavor was interesting. The meat had a gaminess that was a slight plus for me and a minus for my guest. Smoke was light, heat was more noticeable and sweetness found its way in there too—I guessed honey or maple, but it's brown sugar. Juiciness was absent. The casing not only didn't get crisp but was annoyingly tough. So overall, decent flavor and multilayered texture failings made this a below average sausage, and one that sat in the boat mostly uneaten.
Brisket: One of the quirks of the menu is that there are no substitutions allowed. Since the brisket sandwich is described as consisting of chopped brisket, I asked if I could make a quasi substitution: sliced instead of chopped. I was (politely) rebuffed. So I called an audible and switched the order to a half pound of sliced ($17/lb). I was so thrilled to avoid the chopped that I forgot to make the distinction between moist and lean on the brisket, so they gave me lean by default. And boy did they default: this was some dry, gray meat, sliced super thin deli style. A pleasant mix of beefiness, sweetness and all-around body ensured that flavor held up its end of the bargain, lack of smoke notwithstanding, but lack of moisture, color and texture did this brisket in. Just as with the sausage, most of the slices sat uneaten.
Pork: Oddly, a quarter pound ($14/lb) had the the same dry, gray appearance, but it wasn't too bad. While hardly bursting with (or even trickling) juices, this pork managed to avoid being completely dry and simultaneously delivered some nice pork flavor with smoke's first appearance of the night. A little of the table vinegar barbecue sauce gave it the nudge it needed to fully clear the moisture hurdle and brought out the smokiness too. With the sauce this pork was very doable.
Ribs: We skipped ribs on the first visit, mostly because a) you have to commit to a half rack of them at minimum—a not so uncommon practice—and b) the ribs I saw on other customers' trays looked small and monotone.
Potato salad: Cubes of potatoes. Mayo. Not much else.
Collard greens: Another simple treatment kept the condiment restrained and the bitterness unbridled. Good texture.
Sauces: Two sauces grace the table on plastic squeeze bottles. The tomato-based one is very close to ketchup; the vinegar-based one is mostly tart.
Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill
Elsemere, plunked into more of a suburban setting across the Casco Bay Bridge in South Portland, has tighter but more diverse seating, with booths, tables, outdoor tables, big stools at the neon-lit bar and more bar seats facing the signature wood grill. Here it's full service.
Wings: A sizeable order ($11 for 12 pieces) served sizeably plump wings whose black-pepper-studded skins burst open in places. Two flaws here: the skins could have been a lot crisper and the doneness was a little shy of done. That said, these wings were still very enjoyable thanks to the intense flavor of the rub (strong, coarse black pepper rather than just chile heat) and a smoky, chickeny, almost gamey interior. Moistness was nice too. With a few tweaks these could be worthy of a spot on the next Wings List.
Ribs: A quarter rack of St Louis cut on the 3-meat combo ($23 with 2 sides and cornbread) brought average size and well-above-average rub quantity on the crusty surface. Smoke was moderate; rub and pork flavor were off the charts, making these ribs delicious. Texture didn't quite keep pace: although the meat tore and pulled off the bone easily, it was a bit chewy and dry. Overall, still satisfying thanks to the flavor component.
Brisket: Here, the moisture was very evident. Some mid-thickness slices had plenty of give, good tenderness, flowing juices and a near melt-in-your-mouth quality without falling apart. Flavor wasn't lacking but light in beefiness and smoke. Rub was noticeable on the edges but less so at the interior.
Pork: A pile on the 3-meat brought similar qualities to the brisket: tenderness and moistness excellent; flavor not lacking but light. Bark was impressive.
Mac and cheese: It was moist enough and the macaroni was cooked properly, so it was enjoyable, but if someone handed this to me and asked me what it was, I'd say it was macaroni salad, not macaroni and cheese.
Beans: Big, puffy and plain, these beans lacked oomph but not originality. Definitely not out of a can.
Sauces: Two table sauces in plastic squeeze bottles bring familiar flavors. The Kansas City style molasses sauce adds some heat to the equation. The mustard sauce is tangy, slightly sweet with a bite.
The Early Word
It's still quite early in the game, and Salvage and Elsmere both have a need for much improvement (both are struggling to supply good flavor and texture in the same bite), but both have potential across the board. For now I'm giving Salvage the edge for atmosphere and Elsmere the edge for food and service. I'll be back to both and rooting for both.
Yelp reviews of Salvage BBQ
Urbanspoon reviews of Salvage BBQ
Yelp reviews of Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill
Urbanspoon reviews of Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill
Permalink to this article
New York BBQ: Mo Gridder's Reviewed
The site's 297th barbecue review is for Mo Gridder's World Famous BBQ (NYC), a trailer operation that's received much press over the years. The auto body shop location is a novelty, but how's the food? Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or the red icons in the Joints directory.
See my review of Mo Gridder's
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