BEST BBQ BOSTON AND NORTH
Here we have our list for Best BBQ in Boston and North.
The Northeast isn’t known for its BBQ, or is it??? We have come a long way in the last few years in the BBQ game but we are no way near a true BBQ capital. We looked at all of the “Best BBQ lists” and found they have many places in common. So we went out and tried a real lot of them. What did we find? A lot of just Ok BBQ. We aren’t about trashing restaurants so we prefer to recommend those that we feel are superior or offer something special and not mention those that are lacking.
Several of the BBQ restaurants that come highly recommended had meat that was so smoky and so salty we found it almost inedible. The sides were ok; nothing to write home about and the cornbread was dry and cakey. Another of the Bests was undercooked quite a bit. The flavor of the Beef and pork ribs was good (just the right amount of smoke and salt), but were tough and chewy because they weren’t cooked enough. They also were the most reasonably priced. Perhaps it was a bad day.
One of the best BBQ places for many years had ribs that were dry, salty and too smoky. They had the texture of being re-heated. The mac and cheese side was dry, tasteless and re-heated. It felt like we were eating yesterday’s BBQ dinner. They were out of several items as well. Below are the ones we reccomend. BBQ isn’t cheap so make sure to bring plenty of money.
Sweet Cheeks Q is the love child of Chef Tiffani Faison, runner-up from the 1st season of Top Chef. Chef Faison helped ignite the BBQ craze in Boston when she
opened Sweet Cheeks Q in 2011. The décor is rustic yet modern with some nice outdoor space. Their meats are responsibly sourced, all natural and never treated with hormones, antibiotics, or chemical additives. The pork is Berkshire and chicken and turkey are from organic local farms. We had the Fat Cheeks Tray ($26) which comes with 3 meats, 1 hot side and 1 cold side. We also ordered a pulled pork sandwich ($11.50) on a grilled bulkie roll and added coleslaw to the sandwich. A pretty awesome heaping serving of homemade pickles and onions came with every item.
This is first rate BBQ and you will think you are sitting on a picnic table in Texas when you are eating it. Across the board, the meat was flavorful without being too smoky, juicy and perfectly cooked. The ribs were fall of the bone without being overcooked and dry and the brisket was perfectly done. The pulled pork was the biggest surprise. Often unspectacular elsewhere, here it’s full of flavor and waiting to sop up some of Faison’s fantastic house made sauces.
Although the meat really does not need any sauce, go ahead and try some. Sweet Cheeks offers 3, an all-purpose typical Texas sauce full of flavor and not too smoky, a North Carolina vinegar sauce without heat but plenty of tang to it and a spicy mustard sauce that offers the right amount of heat. Worth mentioning are the sides. This is one of the only places where the sides receive as much attention to detail as the meat does. The broccoli cheese casserole, mac and cheese, and collard greens were so good that I would come here for them. The potato salad had good flavor and was also a solid offering.
DO NOT MISS the giant bucket o’ biscuits with honey butter and jam since hands down these will be the best biscuits you have ever eaten. The jam selection rotates depending on the season. Ours came with a spiced peach jam which was delicious. They do offer some interesting desserts like a small frisbee-sized Giant Nutter Butter, strawberry shortcake and butterscotch pudding. We did not try any desserts because we were too full. 1381 Boylston St., Boston www.sweetcheeksq.com
THE SMOKE SHOP, KENDALL SQUARE, CAMBRIDGE
Less than a year old, The Smoke Shop is the brainchild of World BBQ Champion Andy Husbands. Located in the trendy Kendal Square area, The Smoke Shop is modern and clean; not the typical décor of a BBQ joint. The menu showcases slow-cooked, competition-style barbeque including platters of burnt ends, pulled pork, Texas hot links and ribs with savory sides. The best way to sample the menu is the Pit Boss Platter ($26) which includes 3 meats and 3 sides. You can choose from burn ends, brisket, pork ribs, hot links, wings, chicken thighs, and pulled pork. You can also add a 4th meat very easily to this. Choice of sides includes Pimento mac and cheese, zucchini salad, bacon collards, crispy fried okra and several others.
The brisket is a winner here. It is flavorful and tender and you can ask for “fatty” brisket because remember Fat equals flavor! The Best Bar Wings are tasty and flavorful. To be honest, the chicken wings were one of our favorites. We assumed there for the people who don’t eat a lot of meat and we didn’t give them a lot of respect. But they surprised us and were moist, tender and flavorful. Saturday night they offer Prime Beef Ribs ($35) which are a rarity in Boston. They are super moist, tender and have some fat on them.
For a group of 10-12 people, you can order a Whole Hog or Whole Brisket with all their sides. They require 48 hours advance notice. The drink menu is very creative and refreshing and the beer menu includes lots of local and craft breweries. Over a hundred American whiskeys are available. Located at 1 Kendall Square in Cambridge. www.thesmokeshopbbq.com
Brother and Sister team Edward and Shawn Wilson are veterans on the Boston Food Scene. Shawn opened up Viga Eatery in the late 90’s and later joined by her brother Edward. This year they decided to open something completely different, a BBQ restaurant. Shed’s is a no frills, no china, no metal cutlery BBQ restaurant. It’s exactly what BBQ is supposed to be, relaxed and friendly, but it’s all about the BBQ meat.
Shed’s uses a pair of indoor smokers that vent outside so you don’t have to worry about your Armani suit smelling like burnt hickory here. However they do use hickory to get the BBQ just right. Each smoker hold 400 lbs of meat and is loaded to capacity each night and Edward’s attention to his smokers is what makes Shed’s authentic. The BBQ has that signature smoke ring and the meat is tender but the smoke isn’t overpowering which is so often the case at other BBQ restaurants. Shed’s is only open for lunch. 32 Bromfield St, Boston www.shedsbbq.com
Redbones, Davis Square, Somerville
Closing in on its 31st anniversary, Redbones is still a popular and a fun place to eat in Davis Square. The restaurant doesn’t really specialize in any one aspect of barbecue; there’s a giant menu that has a little bit of something for everyone, so it’s an easy choice if you’ve got a large group to feed. BBQ is good, not too smoky or salty. Redbones has a great vibe and a fantastic beer list with over 30 beers on tap, including lots of local microbrews. We like to sit at the bar and try a few different ones.
Appetizers are not necessary but there are some great picks. Our favorites are the cat fingers (breaded and fried catfish), BBQ Hash (A mix of pulled pork, chopped brisket, potatoes, onions, peppers & spices), beignets, and the sausage of the day. For BBQ, you can get sandwiches and platters with a choice of two sides (greens, beans, rice, mac & cheese, and the like). We prefer the St. Louis ribs over the baby back. The fried chicken is excellent and there are some vegetarian entrees available as well, like a Portobello sandwich and a veggie burger. 55 Chester St., Somerville, MA www.redbones.com
KC’s Barbeque, Manchester
KC’s is a decent BBQ place in Manchester, NH. The décor is very rustic with most of the seating in a wooden barn. There is also a huge outdoor seating area. Prices are moderate, especially compared to Boston pricing. On the menu is a make your own combo with 4 meat choices, 2 sides and cornbread for $29. Also offered is The Feedbag Shovel for 3 to 5 people that includes 1 full rack of ribs, 1/2lb each of pulled pork, pulled chicken, and beef brisket, 1 sausage, 2 pints of sides and 4 pieces of cornbread. The price? Only $70.
Surprisingly, KC’s had the best burnt ends that we had. They are not on the menu so you have to ask for them. If they are available you can purchase them by the half pound. Also offered on the menu are sandwiches, hamburgers, hotdogs, salads and a BBQ version of Chinese pie (shepherd’s pie). There are about 10 different flavors of chicken wings with the Diablo flavor being insanely hot. I never thought I would find wings so hot I couldn’t eat them. These are them. I literally burnt my palette on them and couldn’t taste anything after that. 837 Second St., Manchester, NH www.ribshack.net
Goody Coles, Raymond NH
Goody Coles looks like an authentic BBQ shack. It is on the side of the road with a dirt and gravel driveway. Smoke is pouring from the chimney, wood is piled high and there is no air conditioning in sight. So far, so good. They smoke the meat low and slow for 12 hours without the aid of gas or electricity. Goody Cole’s BBQ Pit only uses 100% Hickory Wood. They prepare all the sides in house using many southern family recipes. For New England, this is pretty darn good BBQ. You are not going to feel like you’re in a fancy Boston restaurant made to look like a shack. It ACTUALLY IS A SHACK. Don’t come here expecting something else. The food is why you come here.
The meat is not overly smoky or salty and not over or under done. The ribs are St. Louis style and delicious. We always get a platter with 3 different meats for $15 and it comes with a couple of sides and a roll or cornbread. I doubt you will find a better priced spot. They also have several family meals that feed 3-4 people with the most expensive is $49 and includes 3 lbs of meat, 1 pint of bean, 1 pint side dish and 4 rolls or cornbread. In addition to the usual ribs and brisket, Goody Coles also offers smoked turkey and kielbasa which are nice additions to the scene. 374 Route 125, Brentwood, NH www.goodycoles.com
In the News
DINE OUT BOSTON, August 6-11th and August 13-18th (Sunday thru Friday)
Restaurant Week or Dine Out Boston…whatever you call it, is just around the corner. This is a fantastic opportunity to experience that restaurant you’ve heard about or have wanted to try at special prices. Participating restaurants design prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner. Each participating restaurant selects ONE of the three price options and then the Chef then prepares a menu to delight diners.
Diners can choose from old favorites to the latest culinary hot spots, from nationally known chain restaurants to local chef owned bistros, from Asian or Argentinean fare to French, Italian, tapas and sushi, from the award-winning restaurants of Boston and Cambridge to the gourmet gems in the suburbs north, west and south of the city. Each restaurant will be offering tasty prix fixe lunch or dinner menus (or both) and there are three pricing tiers for each meal period: $15, $20 or $25 for lunch, and $28, $33 or $38 for dinner. Price and number of courses vary by restaurant, so look at the participating restaurants to find one that fits your appetite and your budget.
If you are in the mood for a great steak they give these steakhouses a try: Davio’s, Del Frisco’s, Capital Grille, Flemings, Morton’s, Ocean Prime, Ruth’s Chris, The Palm and Strega and those with multiple locations are offering the deals at all of them. If Italian in the North End is what you crave, then try these: Aria, Antica Forna, Lucca, Nico, Strega, Tresca and more. You can check out the participating restaurants on the following websites and we will post a link on our website and facebook page as well. www.bostonusa.com/dine-out-boston www.restaurantweekboston.com