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Roadhouse

1700 Beacon Street

Brookline, MA 02445

(617) 487-4289

 

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A Second "First" Look at Roadhouse in Brookline

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. So six months and four days after they first opened, I went back to see what had changed with the passage of time, the benefit of corrective action and the installation of a new regime.

 

Jake Jacobs and the J&R smoker at Roadhouse, Brookline MA.

 

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 and to the right.

  • 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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