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Soul Fire BBQ-yum

2 of us went to soul fire last night.
We both thought it was great!

They were very nice and made sauce suggestions based on our orders, then the owner who was nice as could be came by to ask us how everything was. I thought this was a very nice touch considering they were closing at 11 and it was after 10:30.

I thought the mac and cheese was perfect.
Nice and creamy with lots of flavor.
The wing and rib combo was good too.
I like how you are able to pick your own warm sauces to go with them.

The pickle sides were yummy and the potato salad was excellent too!

I will definitley go back!

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  1. I went in with a friend on Saturday and had the mac n cheese balls, coleslaw and the rib/wing app. The mac n cheese balls are evil; Evil in the way that I could have devoured the app myself and considered finding room for more. I wasn't sure they could live up to the hype but they were creamy and slightly salty. They were lightly fried, not too much crunch on the outside. Melt in your mouth delicious!

    The ribs and wings were fine, not spectacular or terrible, just kind of average. I had just had the wings at the Plough the day before, which were very good, so I may not have had the most open mind.

    The coleslaw was super fresh and cruncy but not super tasty. I would have enjoyed it more if it were dressed a bit more. My pal who doesn't like creamy style cole slaw that it was terrific.

    I'll go back for sure. The mac n cheese balls are my new guilty pleasure. ;)

    1. I love this place! I have already been several times (live in the neighborhood)The collard greens are the best I've ever had-lots of bacon in them and I am a fan of the baked beans as well. I do like that you can add your own sauce but I wish there were descriptions of what the sauces were made of instead of just names like "soulfire". Also wish the corbread was served a little warmer and that there was a really kick ass spicy sauce and that burnt ends were an option instead of only bulk. I read somewhere on here they were waiting for a liquor license? Are they planning on having a bar atmosphere? It seems really big for what they currently do-lots of take out and quick eating folks. anyway-love love love it there! Excellent addition to Harvard ave-hope the street keeps getting better.

      1. Hmm. Maybe I hit it on an off night, but I had a decidedly more mixed experience. The collard greens were great, but I found the baby back ribs a bit dry and chewy, and the mac 'n cheese, though creamy enough, was too bland for my taste.

        I agree that they could use a better hot sauce, I asked for the hottest they had and it was far more sweet than hot (maybe they mixed up my order?). But that was easily corrected by my trusty bottle of Melinda's XXX.

        5 Replies
        1. re: BobB

          Never, ever, ever, EVER get babybacks at a barbecue place. Babybacks lack the necessary fat and connective tissue to really benefit from a low and slow smoke. Always go for spareribs or beef ribs.

          1. re: Dax

            Not the way I do them. Dry rub, 4 - 5 hours smoking at about 250° indirect heat, baste a couple of times in the last half hour. They always come out reliably tender and juicy. I live near Soul Fire and was hoping I could get my rib fix without the hassle, but no such luck.

            1. re: BobB

              I never pay attention to Dax on BBQ, he's a real amateur... ;-).

              But seriously, for the best ribs, they've got to be full on pork ribs, not baby backs.

              1. re: BobB

                FWIW, I have found most of the 'cue places in the Northeast, depending on turnover, are inferior to ribs smoked at home. You will rarely, if ever, get something straight off the smoker. Spareribs can last a while before drying out, babybacks less so.

                I always smoke spareribs on the offset for about 6-7 hours and they're twice the size of babybacks even after I trim.

                I have yet to try this place but want to give it a shot soon.

                1. re: Dax

                  I like it and like even better the fact that it's practically next door, but I like it with reservations. The major one is that the meats I had were tender and not dried out, but I prefer a stronger smoked taste. Part of why I'm really disappointed that they won't regularly have burnt ends, even in bulk, since those tend to have the most smoke flavor. The pulled pork had the strongest smoke taste of the parts of the menu I've worked my way through, which includes the spare ribs but not yet the baby back. Spare ribs I got had plenty of meat, weren't dry and had a nice taste, I just prefer a richer 'cue taste. A friend had the chicken and thought it was excellent. Other criticism is that sometimes the meats have been room temp cold - not even barely warm, which probably doesn't help the smoked taste come through well.

                  Sides so far have been very good. Potato salad superb, speaking as someone who doesn't care much for mayo - pleasingly chunky textured and not drowning in mayo. Collards very good for this style (I still preferred the quick cooked Brazilian couve)

                  For those who want real spice, they do have a bottle of "hell sauce" on the counter near the sauces. It's not macho hot, but it has some pleasant heat and has flavor, not just heat. One other criticism - the hottest BBQ sauce didn't go well on the spare ribs for my taste, because I think both the rub on the ribs and the sauce had a lot of the same seasonings, resulting in a too strong taste of chili powder/cayenne.

                  Certainly not going to challenge Blue Ribbon for the BBQ taste itself but a nice addition to the neighborhood vs having to trek all the way over to Arlington for a bit of a BBQ fix.

          2. Unlike most of the above posts, I really did not like Soulfire at all when I went there on Saturday afternoon. Below is my post from eatanddestroy:
            If you have been reading eatanddestroy for a while, you know that I rarely eat at a place that I do not like. I think that I have only posted one negative review in the past 9 or 10 months. Unfortunately, over the weekend, I had a crappy meal. And, I blame the Boston Phoenix since they had a positive write-up of Soulfire’s Fried Macaroni & Cheese Balls.

            PK and I like fried and we also like Mac & Cheese, so we were both looking forward to checking out Soulfire. We planned on only getting the one appetizer; however, due to the smell of the BBQ sauces, I also wanted to try their ribs. We ordered the Southern Fried Mac & Cheese Balls ($5) and the Rib Sampler ($7).

            We already knew that the rib sampler was going to be a rip-off since $7 is a lot for two baby back ribs and two spareribs; however, it was a worse deal than we thought since most of the ribs had very little meat on them. Also, the ribs were very dry and had almost no flavor. I know nothing about cooking ribs, but I do wonder when the ribs were originally cooked since the lack of taste made me think that they have been sitting around for a while and were recently reheated. I do want to point out that they had a variety of BBQ sauces that were actually pretty good, even though I am not a fan of the fact that they keep the BBQ sauces warm since I like BBQ sauce at room temperature.

            On to the Mac & Cheese Balls... They had a good fry, but that is the only compliment that I can give them. They were just fried balls stuffed with bland pasta shells. Neither PK nor I could taste any cheese. We were both disappointed since we were hoping that these would taste something like we imagined a mac & cheese mozzarella stick would taste like. At the very least, they could have drizzled some cheese over them.

            Verdict: A waste of $12.

            1. I stopped in last night for a pulled sandwich with a side of collards.

              As far as hot sauce, I asked for it and was told they only had the "hot" (not hot) barbecue sauce and the hot relish (hotter). They need a bottle of tabasco and/or the hot peppers in vinegar to spice up the collards.


              The greens had the right grease factor and were well cooked but I prefer fatback to bacon and they were a little on the sweet side. At least there was lots of bacon. Maybe they're using that abomination called maple bacon, which is why the greens tasted too sweet.

              As far as the sandwich goes, I'm generally a fan of barbecue being served dry, for the most part, to accomodate varying tastes (I rarely, if ever, use sauce when I smoke my own ribs). To me however, NC-style pulled should be mixed with a little cider/white vinegar and spices (mostly red and black pepper) so that the sauce has a chance to infuse the meat rather than just sit on top of it. Make no mistake, the pulled at Soulfire is as dry as a bone. I thought the rub was a bit subtle, but perhaps that is because the pork on my sandwich (which was a lot by the way) had little bark. There must have been almost a 1/2 lb of piggie on that sandwich. God bless 'em. All in all, not bad at all but I doubt Blue Ribbon is quaking it its faux cowboy boots.

              The room is too red, they need to re-create some of the old blues album covers that decorate the bar and put something on the walls.

              They're still working on the liquor license.

              1. Although this place is no more than a quarter-mile from my house at best, I only stopped in for lunch this afternoon. My initial report is extremely positive, based on the brisket sandwich. Now, my ongoing problem with barbecue in Boston has been that it's easy enough to get good pulled pork here, but as a native Texan, I've been dissatisfied with the brisket everywhere I've tried. I was so impressed by the brisket on this sandwich that I did something I never do and sought out the pitmaster to compliment him.

                There's a very small sweet spot for good brisket. On one side, it's not cooked long enough to render the fat properly, leaving the meat fatty, rubbery and limp. This is where most bad brisket lies. On the other side, the meat is cooked to death, leaving it both dry as cardboard and over-smoked. This is less common, but just as nasty. The brisket on this sandwich is right in the middle: nearly every bit of fat was rendered, leaving lean but still juicy beef, and it was -- properly -- cooked dry, with only a mild spice rub, and served dry, on a decent sesame seed sandwich roll. After a little taste test, I went with about a 60/40 mix of the sweet and fiery sauces. (They're kept warm, which is a nice touch.)

                The beans were, I thought, way too sweet, but a little dose of the North and South Carolina sauces (one adding heat and vinegar, the other mustard) soon put that to rights.

                So, for this Texan, Soulfire passed the most important test: brisket makes or breaks a barbecue place, as far as I'm concerned, and they do it right, better than anywhere else I've tried in Boston.

                6 Replies
                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                  See, as a native North Carolinian, I would say that I have found plenty of places that do acceptable brisket in Boston, but nowhere that does good pulled pork.

                  On your advice, I will try the brisket at Soul Fire, and I'll tell you to quit eating all that bad pulled pork! ;-)

                  1. re: bobot

                    What is it you look for in "good" pulled pork? I may know a place that does it how you like it.

                    1. re: GaryLovesFood

                      Perfect Eastern NC BBQ - pulled pork with the cracklin' mixed back in, vinegar-based sauce. The way I like it, the meat comes to you only lightly sauced (certainly not marinating in a steam tray all day- kills both the texture and the natural smokiness of the pig) with some more sauce in a bottle on your table. Everywhere I've been here drenches the meat in sauce and leaves it- so you get served a stewy mess.

                      If you know NC at all, I'm talking about a Skylight Inn, or B's, kinda cue.

                      1. re: bobot

                        The pulled at Soulfire is not drenched at all, in fact, it's too dry, not sauced at all. I prefer a quick saucing of cider & white, red, black and maybe crushed red pepper just before serving.

                        You might find a bit of the bark mixed in up here, but I have never found true cracklin in pulled up here. Where I grew up in Georgia, my favorite pork was chopped finely (but not processed) with a bit of vinegar/pepper sauce and a big crunchy piece of cracklin on top, sandwiched between two slices of sunbeam bread.

                        You won't be finding Allen & Sons pulled pork here. But Blue Ribbon's and East Coast Grill's pulled is pretty good

                  2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    The two times I had brisket from Soul Fire it was devoid of moisture and tenderness. The first time it was rubbery and dry to the extent only a thorough soaking made it edible. Hoping that wasn't the case all the time I made the mistake of trying it again.

                    The second time it was also dry and had the consistency of cardboard. Having done BBQ in Memphis and being as howndish as they come I find it surprising that people are liking this place. I want to like it very badly as it is the closest BBQ joint to my house but truly can not.


                    1. re: DaveB

                      Are you going the same time of day and maybe that's a factor (even though it shouldn't be)? I've never had it dry or rubbery there. I just have an issue with it not having much smoked flavor.

                  3. I am still a Huge fan of Soul Fire. I picked up takeout for some friends and again it was terrific. I switched up and got the catfish sandwich which was a large piece of fish on a roll with lettuce and a wonderful tartar sauce on the side, which I was told was homeade. My only complaint so far and this is strictly on takeout was if you ordered a full rack of ribs you get 2 sides, cornbread but they pile everything into one carton. I told the owner I would prefer the sides in seperate containers esp. if your mixing and matching with others. But over all this place is a godsend. Hope they get a Booze licence since it would be a great place to watch the Pats, have some Q and a couple of cold ones.

                    1. I tried Soul Fire just last week. I like the concept -- fast bbq. But I thought the bbq was just not good. Meat not tender. Not so tasty. I don't think I would go back.

                      1 Reply
                      1. Hit Soulfire last night. Had the 1/2 rack of pork ribs. Cue was nicely done and juicy. I tend to like it a little drier and barkier, but can't really fault the ribs. They were excellent. As Dax has noted, the collards were WAY too sweet. The house sauce was good as was the not so spicey "Spicey." The mustard sauce was all wrong, too sweet, not vinegary enough. Also thought the NC vinegar sauce was just not right. Mac and cheese was good, not great.

                        All in all, if you want pork ribs (and it is about the ribs) a pretty good place to go.

                        1. Baby back ribs. Not juicy. Not tender.

                          1. Where is this place? Anyone....

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ipsofatso

                              182 Harvard Ave Allston - first block of Harvard Ave off the Harvard Ave stop on the B line

                            2. The mac and cheese is a slight upgrade from Kraft, the barbeque sauces tasted like something you would put together with ingredients in your fridge, like say ketchup. The spareribs lacked any smokey flavor whatsoever and the dry rub, while not awful was a far cry from the competition and a little too caked on. I'll try a sandwich next time, but it better impress.

                              1. My gf and I went tonight, just got back. It was OK, I guess. But it wasn't as special as I had hoped it would be.

                                Atmosphere: It lacks much atmosphere despite the excellent decorations. Once they get the liquor license maybe that'll improve.

                                We had:

                                Iceberg Wedge Salad: Boring. It was a salad. Not served in a wedge shape, which is the whole appeal of a word "wedge".

                                Fried Mac&Cheese balls: Not cheesy enough, but pretty good.

                                Spare ribs: Pretty good, but not smokey enough. Too fatty.

                                Brisket: Too dry, I'm afraid. Nice smoke ring but no real smoke flavor.

                                Greens: Good. Ever-so-slightly sweet, but that wasn't bad.

                                Coleslaw: Good. Faint taste of caraway. Not too much dressing, which I liked.

                                Potato salad: nice. Has some mustard in it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: secretlyironic

                                  He's started keeping burnt ends on the menu, which definitely have the smokiness that I agree is missing with things like the brisket. I'd asked about them before and he'd said that part of the problem was he was afraid of their drying out, depending upon turnover, so he keeps them in a bit of sauce, which means you don't get the max crunchy texture in places. But definitely a much better smoky flavor.

                                2. i went in there to grab a menu to see what they had and the prices IMMEDIATELY turned me off. who pays $13 for a quarter rack of ribs??? no thanks.

                                  1. Went to Soul Fire last night and I have to say, it was a bit of a bummer. The ribs were basically good but coated in a damp, sandy layer of dry rub which was just a little unpleasant--why not brush it off after it's worked its magic? The sides were just weak--slightly fridge-y cornbread, and mac'and'cheese that was strictly of the Velveeta school--gluey and orange, though I did appreciate the potato chip crumbs on top. And the slaw was almost flavorless--it really tasted like almost dry minced cabbage, no salt, no dressing, nothing. I know the ribs are the centerpiece and they were totally decent, but the sides make the place and I am a coleslaw freak! Creamy, tart, Asian--whatever--I love almsot all of it, but don't give me a pile of chopped-up cabbage and call it slaw! It was just clear that no one had even thought of tasting it before it went out of the kitchen. Taste, people!

                                    $11 sounded like a lot for a quarter rack of spare-ribs, but they were awfully meaty and generous--seems like a fair price. Hope they get their beer and wine license soon. But in meantime, they might want to brush on on the basic sides a little. I found myself thinking wistfully of the slaw at Pete's and the cheese grits at Blue Ribbon...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: greengage

                                      Man, makes me glad I stuck to the meat rather than try the sides. Agree that the BBQ is decent but nowhere great and expensive to boot, especially considering how economical it is to chow around Allston.

                                    2. I went to Soul Fire for the first time last Saturday. I agree with greengage's assessment of the sides and would add I was shocked by the small size of the portions. I've gotten used to Blue Ribbon's over-the-top generosity, but I thought Soul Fire was a bit stingy. In particular, the two tiny squares of cold cornbread that tasted like Jiffy mix were not worth the $1 they cost. At Blue Ribbon, the cornbread is often warm and on more than one occasion, I've gotten an extra piece when the server decides that one piece was smaller than it should have been. I found the ribs meaty but they were rubbery and tasteless. The prices are fair but the quality just isn't there.

                                      1. I went there before Rosh Hashana for D and my all out pork/traif meal. We were totally bummed. I probably would have been less bummed if they had served me some beer.

                                        The spareribs themselves were fine and the some of the accompanying sauces were good. We also had fried catfish which was tasty. That, however, is where we stopped. The sides of collards were ok, but not as vinegary as I like then. Mac & cheese was cold and tasted like the fridge. Ditto for the potato salad. The cornbread was completely useless.

                                        It's pretty clear to me everything is premade then heated when ordered, but they should get some baking soda to clear up that stink in their kitchen fridge.

                                        1. Yeah--forgot to mention that my daughter ordered chicken wings and then we heard the guy say "do we have any chicken?" They were mostly warm, but a whole part was completely cold. Weird.