The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America

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While barbecue has blossomed in Boston over the last 10 years, as it has across the US, Boston’s old school favorite seems to be a little bit forgotten these days.  Celebrity chefs, modern interior design, flashy dishes and the like tend to steal the headlines from a no-frills, charmingly dated place like Redbones.  Nevertheless, out of duty to my devoted readers, I thought I should check it out.

The good: the dry rubbed, spicy ribs are some of the best you will find in Boston, and, while they did not appear to be anything out of the ordinary, the fried pickles/jalapenos were deceivingly delectable as evidenced by my fork finding it’s way back time and time again.

The not-so-good: The pork sandwich was average, but it was the sides that disappointed.  I found the mac ‘n cheese, beans, potato salad, slaw and cornbread to all be rather bland and boring.  

Overall: If you go to Redbones for ribs, fried pickles and a pint or two off of the excellent beer list, you will not be disappointed.  I’m not quite ready to give it the overall stamp of approval, though.

Filed under boston barbecue bbq redbones fried pickles pork pulled pork ribs barbeque fried jalapenos beans slaw potato salad

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B.T.’s Smokehouse

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived at B.T.’s Smokehouse in the small, South Central Massachusetts town of Sturbridge.  B.T.’s has received a lot of positive local press, but lines like “It’s late so things have probably been sitting for a few hours” were running through my mind.  Excuses be damned, B.T. delivered.

Like many of the best-in-barbecue I have met on the Barbecue Rankings Tour, Brian Treitman has a background in fine dining.  B.T.’s started out small by cooking at local festivals, but today at opening you will find a 20-30 person line with 900 people finding smoked satisfaction each day in the 40 seat restaurant.

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The brisket, pork, ribs, beans, grits and sauces were all excellent, but I think my two favorite items were the brisket rueben sandwich and the buffalo wings.  You really can’t go wrong at B.T’s, though.  Everything I tried was pretty darn tasty.  Not only is it worth a stop…it’s worth the drive.

Filed under barbecue bbq massachusetts brisket pork ribs chef

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An Interview with Gary from www.pigtrip.net

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www.pigtrip.net is a deep, deep resource for Northeastern barbecue hunters.  Gary’s Best Barbecue Meal from Boston will be featured in the next Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and he was kind enough to share some of his story and knowledge with us.

Congratulations on hitting the 8 year mark at www.pigtrip.net!  When you started this project, did you see it lasting 8 years and growing into what it has become?

Thanks! To be honest, I had no idea how long I’d continue the site and at what output level. I’m not even really sure what it has become. The concept was not just for reviews, but a reference source for barbecue joint locations and contact info—this was before Yelp was a household word, before Google maps got as reliable as now, before social media, before “big boy” restaurant sites like Eater and Thrillist, and before barbecue became cool enough to warrant attention from the mainstream media. So in a way, even though the readership is at its highest level now, PigTrip was a bigger deal in the early to middle years.

How many barbecue restaurants have you been to in these 8 years?

I’d guess nearly 400. One reason that count is so high is barbecue crawls: with four barbecue aficionados in one car, you can head out and hit four joints in a single day, trying a good chunk of their menus by creative ordering and sharing.

Do you still love barbecue?  If you knew you only had one meal left on earth, what would it be?

I still love barbecue and am still wowed by great barbecue. If guaranteed great, barbecue would be my final meal. If not, gimme a burger.

Reviews and opinions are often controversial.  Have you received harsh criticism from any of your reviews?

One disgruntled barbecue joint owner who didn’t think I was so fair sent me eight f-bomb filled emails over the course of two hours on a Saturday afternoon. I can imagine him in a dimly lit office with a bottle of whiskey, looking at his bills and blaming me for his troubles when I basically said his barbecue was good but his reheats (cold temperatures, slushy surfaces) needed work.  

When America thinks of barbecue, we think of Birmingham before Boston; KC instead of NYC; and Lexington, North Carolina rather than Lexington, Massachusetts.  How have you seen barbecue change and grow in the Northeast?

Decades ago barbecue joints attempted to pass off boiled-and-baked meats covered in barbecue sauce as barbecue, assigning names like “Texas brisket” and “Carolina pork” without any resemblance to the real thing. But back then, you didn’t have cable TV shows unmasking the fraudulence. Now, pitmasters are either improving their approximations or veering off in their own direction and tossing those silly labels. Oh, one more thing: the execution may sometimes leave something to be desired, but there might be more joints smoking with real wood within a 50-mile radius of Lexington MA than Lexington NC.

The barbecue scene in New York has received a ton of attention recently.  Is it well deserved?

I can’t wait for you to find out and report back on your site. Sure, there’s an element of bombast, but I say the attention is mostly deserved. What New York lacks in barbecue culture, they make up in sheer numbers. To have great barbecue you have to turn it over and serve it fresh, and that’s what the best joints in New York City are doing, particularly in Brooklyn. But the numbers help out even beyond that. Niche businesses not only survive but thrive in New York, so sourcing better cuts of meat that may cost more but yield tastier results also result in commercial success: there are enough affluent, sophisticated customers that demand is high.  And there are some great BBQ joints in New York City.

Are there any contributions or unique creations that have come from the Northeast barbecue scene? 

Creativity is also high: some chefs-turned-pitmasters are using meats like duck, lamb, pork belly and pig’s head, and mixing flavors from Asia, Central America and all over the world. The barbecue’s often as interesting as it is good.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the www.barbecuerankings.com audience?

First, thanks for inviting me to share some thoughts with your readers.

Because it’s cooked for as many as 18 hours, barbecue is much trickier to get right than a steak or a burger. To do well you have to be great not only at cooking barbecue but also at predicting how big the crowds will be and at what time they’re going to arrive. That means every joint, no matter how good, will have an off day. I try to remember that, keep an open mind and revisit joints that might not have been the best but showed potential. The elusiveness is a big part of what makes the great barbecue meals so great.

Thanks, Gary, for being with us today!  I use your website extensively to find places to visit in the Northeast and appreciate you taking the time to speak with us!

Filed under barbecue bbq barbeque restaurant

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The Saucekers!

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I had a great time last weekend at bbqsaucereviews.com's Saucekers.  I have tasted over a thousand sauces since I started this project in October and was happy to try quite a few more as a judge at the Saucekers.  

Nearly all of the sauces that I try are made by restaurants.  Some are made in house daily or every few days while others use commercial packaging plants to produce and bottle their sauces (which is required if it is going to be sold at local grocery stores, online, etc.).  There were a handful of restaurant sauces at the Saucekers, but the vast majority were Craft Sauces.  Like the craft beer scene, the craft barbecue sauce scene has taken off.  Small batch, locally produced sauces offer greater varieties and often include organic ingredients and fewer (if any) artificial preservatives.  A grocery store may not want to carry a local caramel molasses sauce or a craft smoked peach serrano sauce, but sauces like these are gaining popularity and can be really darn good.

After the judges were sauced (barbecue sauced that is), Fat Redneck’s “That Yellow Sauce” came home with the Sauceker.  

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Congratulations to all of the winners!

Tomato Mild

1. Meat Mitch Whomp! BBQ Sauce
2. Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ Happy Apple (tie)
2. Outta the Park Original BBQ Sauce (tie)
3. Daniel’s Bar-B-Q “Competition Blend #9″

Tomato Spicy

1. Russ & Frank’s Extra Fiery
2. The Picky Pig Barbecue Sauce
3. Fat Ferg’s Backyard BBQ Sauce – Hot and Wild

Mustard

1. Fat Redneck “That Yellow Sauce”
2. Fat Ferg’s Backyard BBQ Sauce – Zesty Mustard
3. Firebud Brands Slap Sauce

Vinegar

1. YT’z Carolina Hurricane Sauce
2. Daniel’s Bar-B-Q “Kansas City Original”
3. Sir Dax Longfellow Original BBQ Sauce

Specialty

1. Big Dave’s Wildfire Sauce
2. Daniel’s Bar-B-Q “Shine of the Moon” Cinnamon Apple
3. Holly P. Saucery Mad Apple BBQ Sauce

You can’t go wrong with any of these sauces, but…my recommendation is to give the YT’z Carolina Hurricane Sauce a try…it’s incredible!

Filed under barbecue bbq barbeque sauce saucekers winning

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Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

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Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is probably the best known barbecue restaurant in the Northeast.  It started in Syracuse, New York, but has spread to 8 locations across the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area.  In 2015, they will expanding west to open up shop in Chicago.

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A biker destination, Dinosaur is defined by it’s music, culture and atmosphere as much as it’s food.  How does it stack up against hundreds of other places across America?  You are going to have to wait for The 100 Best Barbecue Rankings in America book to find out!

Filed under bbq barbecue barbeque chicago ny new york dinosaur

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Top of the Hill Grill

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Jon Julian is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.  I had the pleasure of talking to him when I stopped by Top of the Hill Grill in Brattleboro, Vermont.

When I arrived, the first thing I noticed was a line with at least 20 people waiting to order.  Top of the Hill Grill is exactly that: a grill on the top of a hill.  With pleasant outdoor seating, a casual BYOCB (Bring Your Own CRAFT Beer) atmosphere and a lovely view, it’s a fun place to go with friends and family.

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Top of the Hill Grill began 18 years ago in the same parking lot with an old concessions trailer and barrel stove.  At first, the only items on the menu were grilled chicken and cornbread, but as demand grew and Jon proved that the restaurant could be successful, he built on to the kitchen, added seating space, grew his staff and expanded the menu.  Even after 18 years, the unofficial policy of the place remains “Cook good, serve generously - people will come”.

So how about that food?  Jon is well traveled and the variety of dishes and spices on the menu reflect this.  There are a variety of Cajun dishes (including jambalaya and gumbo), Mexican dishes (including fajitas and enchiladas) and sweets to go along with the typical barbecue plates.

For barbecue items, the burnt ends were quite good and rubbed with an interesting blend of spices.  The mac ‘n cheese, made with high quality Grafton cheddar was good too, but my favorite item was the jerk chicken sausage with island fire mango sauce.  Getting away from barbecue, I also really enjoyed the fish tacos which included a Mexican spice marinated catfish filet on a fire touched corn tortilla topped with a cilantro vinaigrette slaw and a chipotle, adobo cream sauce.  Delightful! 

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Top of the Hill Grill might not be strictly barbecue, but it’s strictly fun…if that can be a thing.

Filed under vermont brattleboro fishtaco bbq barbecue barbeque chicken burntends top of the hill grill