Kit Kat's Smoked BBQ is a barbecue operation that started as an outdoor stand in Rhode Island, then moved to cozier indoor digs just a few feet over the state line in Pawcatuck CT. The street is mostly residential and the place itself looks like a converted apartment, dressed up with a fishtank. A counter in the back of the dining room suggests self serve, but a half dozen (foldout) tables allow indoor eating with full waiter service. An assortment of smokers churns out barbecue in the lawn out back. The owner pitmaster is Hilbert Gibbs, who hails from the South. There's no bar or alcohol served, but it's BYOB.
This is a barbecue joint that mostly sticks to the basics: pork spare ribs and babyback ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and smoked chicken. Specials round out the menu; a recent addition is smoked pizzas. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, there's an all-you-can-eat special on their pulled pork.
Kit Kat's was very high on my must-try list even when they were still in Rhode Island, chiefly because of their website's wallpaper that featured a thick, pink, perfectly cooked spare rib. I finally made it in on a Saturday afternoon as the second stop of a burgers-and-barbecue crawl, joined by a burger eating machine who was mostly killing time between burger stops.
Wings: These aren't smoked, but we ordered 'em anyway, with no regrets. The wings looked baked, but that was a minor concern what with all the crispy surface, moisture oozing out and arsenal of spices and crunchy bits on top. These gave off a great aroma and flavor with a strong oniony component, as if made with onion soup mix, but a better, homemade version. Inner meat had nice tenderness. Overall, a unique and solid wing that made a good bookend to the fries (see below).
Pulled pork sandwich: Served in a basket with a pile of prepackaged tortilla chips, this sammy ($5.50) filled a soft roll with a thick middle layer of unsauced pork that showed lots of pink color and lots of near-black bark. Smokiness was high, rub was low (at least surfacewise), but a pleasing natural pork flavor hung onto every bite. If there was a downside, it was that it didn't bite back—this was nearly as soft as the bun and a little steamy to boot. Fattiness might have been a little high, but not a problem within the context of the sandwich. Flavor superceded, making this sandwich at least a little above average and showcasing the potential for greater heights.
Ribs: Three large untrimmed ribs comprised the rib plate ($11.00), and as with another joint a few weeks earlier, the ribs looked very different in the flesh from their website photo. They still looked good, just not as good. The surface appeared to be a little sauced, but it turned out that our request for no sauce was honored; the shiny red probably came from some bastings down the stretch. A well established crust gave way to juicy, very pink and very tender inner meat. These had almost the same profile as the pulled pork: light but unquestionable smoke, no noticeable outer rub but plenty of porky flavor. Texture was fine on the surface but clearly showing the signs inside of being loose and overcooked. As with the pork, fattiness was also a concern. And as with the pork, despite some obvious flaws, the flavor and succulence was enough to make these ribs enjoyable overall. For someone who likes 'em extra tender, these ribs would be well above average.
Brisket: The brisket platter ($9.50) brought the weakest of the three meats I tried: chopped rather than sliced, devoid of pink color and outer bark, moist but pot roasty in texture and lacking overall in flavor despite an interesting flurry of an unknown seasoning on top. Clearly below average. Our server asked if we wanted the brisket as is or tossed in onions and banana peppers, and we opted to take these on the side rather than mixed in. Next time I'd try the brisket in a sandwich with the full treatment and see how that fares.
A quartet of squeeze bottles graces the table and the sauces are a strength because they're all homemade and all different from each other in texture, color and taste. The Sweet is a nice take on the stereotypical dark, sweet sauce, but with a little more complexity. Mustard is a surprising brown, not gold, and carries a deep flavor buoyed by the inclusion of many spice bits. Kit it Up a Not is a spicier sauce that doesn't seem derived from one of the others but has a personality all its own, with flavor prioritized over heat. Sweet and Sour is a slippery number that's similar to a Chinese sauce, but it works okay with barbecue. The first two sauces were the standouts for me.
Fries: I leaned on server Emily to help decide our last side selection, and she recommended the fries, with no real reason other than that they were good. I asked if they were homemade, and she nodded. Were they ever. These arrived in their own basket, irregularly sliced (about 1/4" wide and a slivery 1/8" thick), with skins on and topped with a unique mix of dried onions and sauteed onions, plus a vigorous salting and a few other spices thrown in for good measure. They wound up being both crisp and a little wet at the same time, and tasted like the wings, which tasted like a more homemade version of onion soup mix. This might not be everyone's cup of oniony tea, so Emily probably should have mentioned the onions in her rec, but in my case the surprise turned out just fine.
Collard greens: These have no meat to cheat the dish into better flavor, but there was flavor aplenty with a dark brothy mix that cooked into these way-past-wilting leaves without leaving any liquid behind.
Cole slaw: Crunchy? Yes. Moist? No. Flavorful? Kinda. Different.
Cornbread: Two versions are available here, but the sweet one was in stock during our visit. The creamy variety was soft, doughy, moist and malleable, with a very fresh flavor and consistency. It was sweet too.
The Bottom Line
Kit Kat's isn't your everyday cookie cutter barbecue, so it's definitely worth a look. Where it stands in the pecking order is still to be determined, but I mostly like what they're doing. Get the pork over the brisket.
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