Casey's Crossing is a converted railroad station on a small street that runs parallel to and 3 blocks in from routes 16 and 126 in Holliston. It's an unusual cross between Irish pub and sports bar, where the bar's namesake isn't the owner but rather Casey of the famous baseball poem "Casey at the Bat". Legend has it that Mudville is in or near Holliston. The decor inside Casey's features a Mudville 9 sign, large pictures of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, some Red Sox and Patriots neon signs and assorted visual references to the Boston sports scene and Ireland. It's an interesting looking place, with very high ceilings in the center of the room, low ceilings on the ends, a few arcade games, a lottery scratch card vending machine and an upstairs billiards room.
According to the menus, the place is now also called Armadillo Smokehouse at Casey's Crossing. A study of the menu items and wording reveals that there is a connection to Armadillo Depot in Worcester. I also spotted the same BBQ "chef" from Worcester. Like its Worcester counterpart, Casey's also offers salads, wings and burritos. Here, you can also get burgers, beer, better atmosphere and a free parking spot.
My wife and I sampled onion rings, ribs, BBQ chicken and pulled pork. The onion rings, beer battered and puffy, came out first. They were thickly sliced, crisp and piping hot. After two experiences at Armadillo Depot receiving food that was luke warm or worse, this was a good sign. Then came the ribs and pulled pork. Both were warmer than the meats from Worcester, but not by much. The ribs looked pretty good, with a nice crust and a beautiful pink coloring. There was actually a nice flavor to the meat, but it was a little dry. The outside's thick rub had good flavors, but there wasn't enough heat to form a crust. That turned a nice arrangement of spices into an ashy mess that detracted from the rib. Dry chicken had a heavy rub that seemed to be paprika and not much else; it needed some salt. The pork looked and tasted fairly plain and was also dry.
The collard greens weren't bad: they had a nice firm texture, good color and lots of meat. Very strong vinegar taste though, which I liked but some may not. Mustard slaw had much more mustard than slaw; I wanted to like it but couldn't down more than 2 forkfuls. The huge cornmeal biscuit was the highlight of the meal.
Three sauces (house, hot and tangy) were served with the combo, and all three came straight out of the refrigerator. Whatever benefit adding them to the pork did for the moistness was far outweighed by the horror of subjecting meat a few degrees above room temperature to sauce 40 degrees below room temperature.
The bottom line: Maybe it's me. Even though I'm a dry rub guy and prefer spicy, naked, natural tasting meats to their over-sauced, over-sweetened counterparts, maybe I just don't "get" the sludgy, ashy cold meat concept. The most frustrating thing is the food is almost really good. The crowd that night was happy, mostly because of the beer and the St Patrick's Day spirit. As for the barbecue, there is no joy in Mudville. After some long fouls with home run distance, Mighty Casey has struck out.