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BBQ in Philadelphia area

My BIL is dying for some BBQ (he loves ribs). My sister and I don't eat ribs, sister prefers BBQ chicken; I like chicken, brisket or sausage. We will have a 5 and an 8 year old with us as well. The 8 year old is an adventurous eater, the 5 year old eats only hot dogs or pasta with butter (don't ask!!). We would like someplace with easy parking that is not BYO, and we obviously want to eat in. Any ideas? BIL wanted to try Sweet Lucy's, but I've heard mixed things about it. Anything on the eastern side of the city, or even in NJ?

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  1. I think Sweet Lucy's is excellent - one of the few reasons I leave CC Phila and fits your needs perfectly - including a hot dog on the kids menu, but alas, it is BYO

    1. I hate to admit that I've tried Sweet Lucy's and Famous Dave's, and not wanting to recommend a chain over a local establishment, I'll pass on my feelings re: Sweet Lucy's. Other people really like the place, so maybe I hit them on an "off" day. It would be a good place location, parking, and atmosphere wise for your needs though.

      All in all, what I've found is that BBQ in Phily is mediocre at best and hit-or miss. Some places I've tried have been good some times while other times have been pretty bad. My favorite in CC Philly (long shuttered) was the Smoked Joint. I can't think of any other BBQ places (except Dave's) east of Broad since the one BBQ place on South St. closed a few years ago as well.

      3 Replies
      1. re: bluehensfan

        actually there are still two places on south that do barbecue - ron's ribs and phoebe's. ron's ribs might work for the BIL, but probably not for everyone else. phoebe's is delicious, but it is take-out only. there is a barbecue joint somewhere on the edge of fairmount/brewerytown that is supposed to be excellent (but a little shady too). and you won't find good brisket many places (if you'll even see it on the menu), and bbq sausage (like what texans call sausage) you can only find at the chains as far as i know. good luck!

        1. re: mazza3

          Any idea what the place mentioned in Fairmount/Btown is called?

        2. re: bluehensfan

          agreed, Lucy's was bland and impersonal. A McRib had more personality.

        3. Thanks everyone. I know....having lived in Texas for several years, people here just don't know what real BBQ is. My old boyfriend was from Central Texas and his dad always had BBQ when we went up there. The smoker was the size of a station wagon, and they lit it up around 3 AM. By 6 in the morning there would be at least 20 neighbors outside that had come over to cook their meats on this contraption. BBQ is a community event there! I can still smell the wood burning. Lots of sausage in Central Texas and most people actually make their own. The brisket was outstanding, as was everything.
          Even the most mediocre BBQ places in Houston would be better than anything I've tried up here. But, my BIL has never been to TX, so he doesn't know any better!! I'm just longing for some, but my expectations are low, so maybe Sweet Lucy's will do! I did read about that BBQ place near Brewerytown, but I thought it was takeout, and the neighborhood might be a bit scary for the kids.

          1. Just went to Sweet Lucy's for the first time last night, and I was kind of underwhelmed. I had the ribs, Mr travelmad478 had the pulled pork, and we both got mac and cheese and collards as our sides. I found the rib meat tender although on the bland side, and I didn't like the sauce at all--gloppy and too ketchup-y for my taste. The same sauce was used for the pulled pork, which IMO was also a little bland. Mr travelmad478 is a North Carolina native and a pulled pork aficionado--he liked it, but hey, I don't believe that pulled pork is barbecue anyway (ducking now!) I like chicken, but the platter available was "pulled chicken," which I assume would come covered with that same sauce that I didn't like.

            The collards were good, mac and cheese OK although nothing can touch my own mac and cheese recipe. I liked the corn bread, but Mr travelmad478 found it "too fluffy." He likes the dense kind.

            We live not far from there, but even so, I wouldn't make a trip back. I am not a BBQ specialist, but in my opinion, the absolute best I have had in the area is at this little log cabin (really) just over the state line in Elkton, MD, Durham's Best (carry-out only).

            Durham's Best Barbeque Carry
            90 Fletchwood Rd, Elkton, MD 21921

            3 Replies
            1. re: travelmad478

              There is a different vinegar sauce for the pulled pork and pulled chicken - not sure why you got the bbq sauce.

              1. re: travelmad478

                travelmad, I used to live for a time in Cary and then Raleigh NC, so I learned to appreciate the NC BBQ in that area. Would dearly love a bbq pork sandwich Raleigh style rite now! I keep getting disappointed by places claiming to have NC bbq here in Pa. I never really ventured much out of the research triangle area except to go to the coast so I didn't even know there is more than one kind of NC bbq. But I am convinced that I will have to visit my old stomping grounds to get the sandwich or platter I seek. I have had my yearning heart broken too many times. Please let me know if you and the mister find the one true nc bbq, the one with the light, finely minced slaw and the pork with the clear sauce already cooked into that yummy pig. I just made myself tear up a little.

                1. re: givemecarbs

                  In the unlikely event that we ever find it, I'll let you know. Just asked Mr travelmad478 if he's ever had any decent NC BBQ in this area and his response was "I've never had any good NC BBQ outside of NC." So there you go. I am no judge, since I don't really appreciate pulled pork on a hamburger bun with vinegary cole slaw on it even when it is made the absolute proper way!

              2. I have to agree with Bluehensfan. I too am not a big supporter of restaurant chains, but have found for BBQ, you can't do much better in and around the city then Famaous Daves

                2 Replies
                1. re: Chefmonty

                  I really like Duck Deli in New Brittain (right outside of Doylestown). They have great ribs there.

                  1. re: ndelson

                    How about Tommy Gunns? Sounds good but haven't been there yet.

                2. H.I. Rib on Ridge Pike in Plymouth Meeting. It opened very recently. Ribs are superb. They also have chicken and other stuff. My son is a fickle eater but has no problem with their Chicken Tenders. An easy drive from Downtown, and there is lots of parking. Though i've not been to all BBQ places in the area, I have been to several and I prefer this one, so far!

                  1. Had Sweet Lucys take out, It was too sweet for my liking. I am still partial to a little DARK place in NE Philly off of Bustelton and Tyson called Rib Rack. Nothing fancy, but they have succulent, fall off the bone ribs, greatest stuffing w/ gravy and great coleslaw, nice cornbread, slice of watermelon... The BBQ chicken is equally good. I heard the salmon is good there too. because it is small, it gets corwded fast. Good ole BBQ food- not memphis, not Texas, but with a lotta soul!

                    1. If you want great Texas BBQ there is a new catering company in Levittown that does philly as well as many other towns. They are from New Mexico and man the best brisket I have ever had. the pulled pork was great as well as the ribs they also do almost everything else. They are 2 Little Piggys BBQ and Catering. GREAT FOOD

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jtet313

                        go to Holy Smoke Restaurant, Bar & BBQ - in roxborough/manayunk area just off ridge ave. it's a new place - was there saturday, free parking, real wood smoked bbq. food was very good and reasonably priced. link up at www.holysmokephilly.com

                      2. Go to BeBe's on 9th St and Washington, heading up towards Kimball. The ribs were amazing (sooo tender and really flavorful), the pulled pork was melt-in-your-mouth, and the sides (mac and cheese, collards, sweet potato mash, cornbread) were equally good. And the owner is a real southerner - friendly, talkative, and really knowledgeable.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Haverfoodie

                          I just read about this place. As a North Carolinian, born and bred, I can honestly say the picture I saw of a Bebe's pork sandwich was the first time since moving to Philly that I've gotten remotely excited about a place.
                          For whatever reason, people think that a pulled pork sandwich with bbq sauce is "carolina style", when there are so many other factors to consider (sauce, bread, pork, smoke, slaw). I have to say, that sandwich looked pretty close to dead on. Can't WAIT to try it.

                          1. re: hollyd

                            hollyd, you must be from the Western side of the state, as a true NC BBQ sandwich in my mind is tart and sweet from the vinegar, with no hint of that tomato BBQ. I grew up in the Piedmont, but I much prefer Eastern style to Lexington style. Apparently Bebe's does both kinds, but I haven't been yet. I am scared that once again...they will break my heart like so many others before. If they have pepper slaw I may just save th 500 miles of driving it takes to get my fix!

                            1. re: doxiemom

                              Doxiemom, that's so funny you say that! I just told a friend a second ago that it looked a little tomato-ey for my taste, but it looks good nonetheless!

                              I am from the southern piedmont, where the tomato is present, but only slightly, and the vinegar is still full force. I grew up so close to the state line that many of our local places also serve the SC mustard sauce (yella sauce).
                              Everytime I go home I bring back giant tupperware containers from my favorite joint, including their famous slaw, which is spicy and red from all the cayenne. (never heard it called pepper slaw, but I'm sure we're talking about the same thing here).
                              I too am hoping to not be let down again. Will post as soon as I eat it, which will hopefully be this weekend sometime!

                        2. Went to the Holy Smoke BBQ - Bar and Restaurant last night. (corner Ridge at Leverington)...not the nicest joint ive been in.....needs a mopping..needs some windex on those glass topped tables....more bar than restaurant feel...

                          But the food...was..very good First thing that hits you is the smell of smoke when you walk in.....and its in your clothes for many an hour after :) ..............

                          We had a few beers (they range Bud to Hop Devil types..) and split the BBQ for 2 (house salad (basic but nice) with sweet basil dressing (very nice dressing)..then came basket of corn bread with softened butter (very nice)...then the bbq platter...comprised..half pound shrimp spiced nicely,,half chicken.... half rack ribs....all were very well done...as in juicy and tasty. Well sauced well seasoned.
                          We've been to the sweet lucy's, tommy guns, HI Rib, pig daddy's, famous dave's each has their particular appeal and I rank them as ordered here. Only the first visit to Holy Smoke..but it's an instant favorite..at least par..if not better than Lucy's..couple more visits to try the Gumbo and Etoufee....then will know for sure..
                          oh, forgot...you pick two sides to go with the platter.... we had mac n cheese...and Hoppin John (dont see that every day..)...both excellent...

                          we ate it all. net $33 with the beers. nice time to be had.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: GBak504

                            First I have heard of Holy Smoke and Now I am piffed they are closed on Mondays as I was gittin' to get messy. I always have an open mind when trying a place.

                            Being from Philly, but having spent time down the coast and in Florida I have had more than my share of real Q in a few places....and am dreaming think of the "yella sauce" hollyd speaks of even.
                            When My wife and I first moved back from Florida - we started hitting up all the Q joints in town in all the neighborhoods - Rons, Dwights, Rib Crib - (please don't mention bones -streamed/boiled and grilled stuff) -
                            The smoked Joint wasn't BAD - but EVERYTHING was overly seasoned all the time. It just seamed clearly done by someone that like it but didn't KNOW it.
                            People have ok stuff but nothing like I have had before.....worst thing about the Rob Crib is if you have any sensitivity to MSG - DONE...

                            I was a judge at the first BBQ contest they had in between the vet and CB Park - a lot of people had really great BBQ!
                            Sweet Lucy's was there and it was pretty decent stuff. I have been going to them since they had a little truck in that parking ever since.
                            It, to me, is the best and closest thing around to the real deal....while I still can't find that true taste in my mind that I remember - they beat out any one else.

                            NOW- since they have hit popularity - I must say I agree...customer service is more like ordering a cheesesteak these days....
                            the quantities they are producing ARE affecting the over flavor they produce....corners are being cut since the old days of the truck...less time in the smoke...less moisture...less hands on from Jim and his wife and more time witht other help that doesn't have the heart in the Q....
                            at least in the south...even when the owners not there the help lives and knows the Q so they know how to treat it....let's face it...what do we know in Northeast Philly about showing some pig some smokey love?

                            I still go because there is nothing else around like it....if someone else can do better then I'd say they have a run...

                            Sure hope this Holy Smoke is damned good cause since i moved it's closer...AND the have Victory!

                            Wait did I see Famous Dave's mentioned in the same sentence as appeal? hhmmm

                            1. re: MiscDebris

                              ..wait...er um..famous dave's....i...uh.... sometimes you just gotta..go with the flow...

                              1. re: GBak504

                                er...um...got it! I was just referring to mentioning it's appeal...
                                I go to MANY places of WAY inferior quality because of flow.

                                but for me....Dave's also doesn't make the list of bad/junk/crappy food - guilty pleasures....
                                the kind you at times question your decision RIGHT after eating it....

                                But hitting up Holy Smoke real fast - and still dreaming of slightly tomatoey-vinegar sauce and yella sauce on moist, tender smokey filled ribs with just a little seasoning......