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Real BBQ--a myth?

I'm looking for a good BBQ place in Southern NH (preferably 93 area) or in the Merrimack Valley. I had great hopes for Word of Mouth in Methuen, MA (Redbones chef transplant) but they were woefully dingy and mediocre and now, gone. Help?

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  1. Try Down n Dirty on Armory St in Manchester NH. There's also a new Southern place on Elm Street run by a black lady from Georgia that features her secret wood-fired BBQ--haven't tried it yet.

    1. Goody Cole's Smokehouse in Exeter (and now also Brentwood) is my favorite in New Hampshire and one of the best in all of New England for good, authentic BBQ. It's Texas style, where you sauce it yourself, but their smoky meats stand alone quite nicely.

      For pics and more details, see www.pigtrip.net/review-GCSH.htm

      1. I know this is nowhere NEAR southern NH, but I just had to give a shout out for Hickory Bill's BBQ in North Adams, MA. I have followed this guy from Great Barrington, up to Pownal, VT, and now back down to MA. I am Texas born and bred, and I have to say that Hickory Bill's is the best BBQ I've ever had in New England, and ranks right up in my top 3 of all time, anywhere. It's that good. It is Texas style, with absolutely delicious sides: BBQ beans (they actually spend some time in the smoker), potato salad, collard greens to die for. Run, don't walk....every time I see him, Hickory Bill is threatening to close up shop. He's in his mid 70s, but looks terrific. He doesn't seem to have much business going on in the restaurant, though, and has more success with catering. Anyway, hope this is good information for somebody.

        7 Replies
          1. re: powella

            Thank you for the info, I'll plan a trip the next time I'm in the area!

            1. re: powella

              Is this place open on Sundays do you know? I might be able to make it over there within the next week or two.

              1. re: Jestner

                OOoh, I don't know. We were there on a Saturday night and I didn't look at his hours. If you call information for North Adams, he is listed as Hickory Bill's BBQ. He answers the phone himself if he's there.

                1. re: powella

                  Good news and bad news.
                  First off, this place is tremendous. The owner/operator (one in the same) is a real friendly and very skilled guy. The good news is that this is wonderful BBQ, and not a hackjob like "BBQ" found at Bubs, Curtis, HolySmokes, and such ilk. If you were raised outside of BBQ country, you might be satisfied by the hackjob locations as you don't know it any other way, but if you want tender, fall-off-the-bone, flavourful ribs - I'd highly recommend getting to Hickory Bills quickly. His BBQ sauce is also very good - I picked up a quart (try the ribs without it, as the ribs don't need the sauce).

                  The sides are made from scratch and tasty. Unlike the hacks, he doesn't make his collard greens out of a can. The potato salad was very good, etc. The only thing I wasnt huge on was the pork butt sandwich - but I should've gotten double the ribs rather than fooling around with pork butt.

                  So, you may wonder the bad news. Well, because the owner is older, and he does everything properly from hauling the split wood to his restaurant and up the stairs to his pit, to keeping all his food high-quality (no cut corners here), along with the fact that most people would rather spend a couple bucks on an all-you-can-eat low-quality buffet somewhere, he is retiring next month (December 2006). It's a very sad thing to see this guy go, as he has mastered the art and is very passionate about what he does. But, I suppose, this is the new America where dollars and speed trump quality.

                  I drove a couple hours out of my way to get over to this place and I'm glad I did. I get the idea that he opens up shop when he feels like it, since he is getting to the end of his run. The hours, I believe, were Mon thru Saturday, opening @ 1130am, but I'd suggest calling him to make sure. I showed up at 1130 and ended up waiting till 1pm when he actually opened. Once again, I'm very very glad I did. His passion resonated with me. I felt a bond just from talking to him. I was sad walking out of the place and driving away cause I knew it was probably the last time I'd be able to be there.

                  Hats off to Hickory Bill's BBQ, and to Powella who tipped me off to this wonder of a BBQ Master.

                  1. re: Jestner

                    While I'm happy that you've found a BBQ joint that suits you, I have to take exception to your characterization of Holy Smokes BBQ as a "hack job." You say we don't know any better? Sorry, that's not the case. I've eaten BBQ across the south and my wife was born in Mississippi and grew up in Memphis, TN and Owensboro, KY. We both know good BBQ when we eat it and we both think Holy Smokes' Lou Ekus is a fine pit boss, a passionate BBQ geek and that he makes some damn fine Q.

                    1. re: rcianci

                      Glad it suits you so well. Apologize if my writing confused you. I did not mean to infer that I was speaking from an elitist podium with the hackjob comment, but can see how that came across. Just got real passionate about finally finding a gimmick-free location up north that got it right; and from my limited experience at Holy Smokes, they still have some work to do IMHO.


            2. Good BBQ in Manchester, NH (along with Down & Dirty) is KC's on Second St.

              By the mall is also Famous Dave's, a decent BBQ chain, but my preferences are toward KC's and D&D.

              1. Go south...way south to Holy Smokes in West Hatfield, MA

                6 Replies
                1. re: jefpen2

                  A bid ditto on the Holy Smokes recco. My favorite BBQ place in New England, hands down. Try the gigantic beef rib.

                  1. re: rcianci

                    Make that three-- Holy Smokes is another one of my favorites too, although not close to southern NH. The beef rib is fantastic; sides are very good.

                    1. re: GaryLovesFood

                      Make that four! Jestner may think Holy Smokes is a "hackjob" but it's the best BBQ I've ever had and I absolutely LOVE it!

                      1. re: sryder

                        There is a difference between inedible (Curtis), passable (HolySmokes, Bubs, Famous Daves BBQ Chain), solid (SouthernQue), and extraordinary (Hickory Bills). Don't take the hackjob comment too far - its only intended as the difference between someone who has mastered the BBQ Art, and someone who might do most of the steps but hasn't mastered the art.

                        1. re: Jestner

                          Jestner, any word on when in December Hickory Bill's is closing?

                          If SouthernQue is the name of a place, where is it? Or do you mean 'cue down South in general?

                          1. re: GaryLovesFood

                            Hickory Bill's is closing in December, when his lease runs out. I dont know the specifics - I didnt press further.

                            SouthernQue is a small operation in Meriden, CT off Pomelroy Avenue which is open Thurs-Saturday. The owner operates it from his driveway in a mobile BBQ Unit. I like the Pulled Pork Sandwich, extra sauce w/ coleslaw. The ribs are more flavourful and more tender than the ones found, in my experience, at Holy Smokes and Bubs.

                2. whatever you do, do not go to muddy river smokehouse in portsmouth. The bbq is below average, BUT they have really good frickles (deep fried dill pickle chips). I think I would travel the hour or so from boston just to eat those frickles

                  1. Going to a hockey game on Friday in Manchester and plan to try D&D...KC's will be next. Bitsubeats--I was at Muddy River about eight years ago and that's the last time I had those frickles...I horrified everyone at my table but man, were they good. Gary, I'm up in Exeter a lot on business Goody Cole's has been safe til now. I'll check them out. I have been to neither Hickory Bills nor Holy Smokes but I'm willing to drive. Exciting choices--thank you all.

                    1. Second, third Down n Dirty...excellent brisket.

                      I used to be a big fan of this place and planned trips north around their hours. I had thought they closed for a while but I'm glad to see they've still around.

                      Have to try soon. Hope the new owners keep up the same high level of quality.


                      1. If you don't mind driving north a bit give Buck's Naked BBQ a try in Freeport, ME. It's the best BBQ I've eaten, including many Ques in Memphis, TN. They smoke everyday too so the product is alway really fresh, and they are busy. I've seen the fried pickles there too, but haven't tried them yet.

                        1. new chain in Methuen on Rt. 28 just off Rt. 213, off Rt. 93, awesome ribs - "Texas Roadhouse". Awesome steaks too, pick exactly the cut you want from the case - they fire it up. Lines are very long but you can call ahead for seating. It took us a good 6 months to finally get here after everyone told us how good (we just kept hitting it at the wrong time and didn't want to wait an hour for a table).

                          It was worth the wait, can't wait to go back. Everything was excellent.

                          1. As far as good BBQ in that area SORRY I have been eating BBQ for years I from that area
                            sorry to say nothing worth it there. But if I had to pick for area I would say the Horse shoe bar and grill in Reading Ma. Or the ribs at Loft in N. Andover Ma. The Yankee smoke House in Ossipee is WORTH the ride. Skip the chain restaurants BLAND. Put your trust in a fat plumber been there ate that. Hope it helps

                            1. Since this thread started, been to the place in Manchester on Elm St. " Premier Palette" - awesome awesome. Woodsmoked beef ribs were soooooo good - fell apart. Nice sauce (gives you two choices) Everything is done by hand, slow, homemade. Best grits ever. Excellent sides. Can't wait to go back and try more items like brisket, fried chix, etc. They are from Georgia. It's an Authentic Southern Soul place.

                              1. Gotta tell you even though they're not authentic I love those Texas Roadhouse ribs. I have been to the Yankee Smokehouse and they're fabulous....also, surprisingly fabulous desserts. Haven't tried Premier Palette but I will. I absolutely inhale grits and I could use some fried chicken. Will check em out.

                                1. I am totally deflated. I live in CT and would travel often to Hickory Bill's in Great Barrington for the best barbeque I knew. Then he closed, and it took me a while before I discovered that he had relocated to Pownal, VT. I made a couple of hundred mile trips up there, but before very long he closed. I wondered what happened but supposed that he had retired, or something sadder. In any case, I assumed that he was gone for good. Now I discover that he was in North Adams this whole time and I never got there, and now it's too late. I'm glad to hear he's still in good health and wish him well, but I'm very sad that I'll never eat his barbeque again. It was great stuff.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: hink

                                    I made a special trip up to Hickory Bills the day before his last day there. He was rather sad to hang up the cleats, and was still mulling over ideas to keep his bbq going (in some capacity or another) due to demand of loyal customers - while weighing the impact it has on his body to be doing all that work at his age. He said he was working on a website to sell his sauces through, and I signed up for the mailing list in a book in his old restaurant so if I hear anything, I'll try to post it here.

                                    Unfortunately, my last trip up there - the ribs were nowhere close to how they were the other times. He had already moved the pit out of the restaurant, and so, from what I gathered, he was just reheating precooked ribs for the last couple days. It sort of left a bad taste in my mouth, and helped me not miss his establishment as much as I thougth I would. Excluding that exception, he made the best ribs I've ever had, and is a real master.