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May 3, 2007 01:25 PM

Soulfire: I give up

After a start that I thought was most promising, Soulfire Barbecue on Harvard Ave in Allston has been getting progressively worse with each succeeding visit, and this afternoon's visit ends it. I'm done with this place.

I ordered a chopped brisket sandwich that I started to throw in the trash after two bites. The waitress, to her credit, saw immediately that I was binning an almost untouched sandwich and asked me to stay and talk to the manager so I could get my money back. While I was waiting for him to come upstairs, the guy running the kitchen came out and asked what was wrong with the sandwich. I told him, "Well, I took two bites and had to spit them both out because they were nothing but fat. I realize that brisket is a fatty cut, but this brisket was clearly on the pit about half the time it was supposed to be, because that fat should render off and the connective tissue should have melted properly, and neither of those things happened." He nodded, apologized and withdrew. Fair enough.

I didn't even bother to mention that properly, a chopped brisket sandwich means CHOPPED brisket, not brisket that's in 3/4" chunks. Because honestly, by now, what's the point. The people running this place just don't know what they're doing when it comes to brisket.

So fianlly, the manager came out and first offered me a sliced brisket sandwich -- which was clearly going to be inedibly tough, if it came off the same brisket as this sandwich of unrendered fat chunks -- and then said that all he could do was offer me a gift certificate for the amount of the sandwich. I told him "Since the chances of my ever coming back here are pretty much nil, I'm gonna take a pass on that" and walked out.

I was a cheerleader for this place when it opened, in the face of some staunch naysayers, but given the downward trend in the ensuing months, I have to admit that the naysayers were right all along: Soulfire pretty much blows. Someday, there will be a barbecue restaurant in this town that knows what to do with brisket -- even at my go-to place, Blue Ribbon, the brisket is the weakest item on the menu -- but until then, I'm gonna have to start making my own.

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  1. I have some sympathy for Soulfire because they had to wait a year before they could sell beer - BBQ without beer is a tough road. So I was glad to see they now do have beer, and my pulled pork sandwich was great (and a great deal, I think I got the sandwich and a Harpoon for around $10).

    It's too bad about your brisket but it did seem like they were alert and responsive, maybe the brisket's done better now.

    4 Replies
    1. re: steinpilz

      tho i agree, just to play devil's advocate BRBBQ has awesome bbq and no liquor license in either location...

      I also liked Soulfire, but not enuf to go out of my way for it...the catfish at Redbones is better

      1. re: steinpilz

        I finally got there last nite and thought it was fine. The sides were great, potato salad for me and collard greens for my friend which he had raved about (he goes there a lot). I thought the greens were excellent too, no sliminess which I sometimes get from them. Potato salad wasn't too mayonaisy, some good crunch to it. The pulled pork sandwich was okay. Not sauced at all so I tried each of the three they offer, molasses, hot and soulfire sauce. I liked the SF best. I don't know, there was something about the sandwich that didn't knock me out but it was fine, with one side and a bottle of Harpoon root beer it was $8.35 w/ tax. Their only dessert was a two pack of cookies for $2.50 that looked pretty good but we were too full. And I was on my way to stock up on buy 1/get one free of Hagen Daaz and B&J at Walgreen's (sale thru Sat. you guys).

        1. re: Joanie

          I've been twice and gotten ribs with sides, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Ribs were good (a bit of smoke flavor, not too chewy and not too falling-off-the-bone), if perhaps not the absolute best Boston has to offer. Liked the collards very much (had bits of meat and some heft to texture) and cole slaw, thought the beans were just OK. Liked being able to try lots of different kinds of sauces, too.

          No big complaints here, at least.

          1. re: Joanie

            I usually have the sandwich with North Carolina style vinegar sauce, and maybe a bit of one of the others.

        2. Bully for you for going above and beyond to express your opinion and to provide feedback in order to help them better themselves (whether they take it upon themselves to act upon it is a seperate issue)

          I probably would have just stormed out in a huff.

          1. Hey, do you think that uneaten sandwich is still in the trash? I'd like to try it myself :-)

            1. Have you tried the brisket at Uncle Petes? It's not like any bbq brisket I've had elsewhere (not even Texas) but it's moist and really flavorful without the problems you mention above.

              1. I believe a new BBQ joint is opening soon right in Brighton Center. Let's hold out hope...

                3 Replies
                1. re: tamerlanenj

                  Maybe it's me but I eat at Soulfire frequently and the food is always stellar. The ribs and catfish are always great. I have never had the Brisket but now I have to given the poor responce. I will keep you posted But I am a fan of Soul Fire..

                  1. re: Northstar22

                    I was definitely curious about the catfish when I saw it on the menu. I'll go back for the sides for sure. Wish they'd truck in a cobbler, sweet potato or pecan pie.

                    1. re: gini

                      Wow, that wasn't a problem at all last week. Altho obviously, collard greens weren't coming out of the fridge. But the potato salad was very good.