I have read a couple of threads on CH regarding BBQ in the area, but most of them have other topics interwoven. I would like to dedicate this thread to just talking about authentic american BBQ joints. It can be a restaurant, take out, truck on the side of the road, etc. Just want your ideas for the best cue in New England! I will start:
Blue Ribbon- Arlington: My favorite by a country mile.
Redbones- Somerville: Good 'cue. Great restaurant atmosphere. Meat could be a tad smokier.
Lester's- Billerica: Average to slightly above average (last time I had it was in 2006, so not sure if it has improved).
Tennessee's- Peabody, multiple locs: Was good in late 90's, now it is terrible under new management. They seem to cut lots of corners with the smoking process.
I had a pretty great experience with a brisket sandwich at Soulfire recently. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was definitely my favorite beef that I've had in the area. It had great flavor and really wonderful texture, tender yet pleasingly dense with some resistance left and a melty, bacon-like edge of fat. The only flaw was that it wasn't quite as juicy as I would have liked, but it wasn't dry by any means. It was a million times better than the brisket at Redbones (pot roast-y) and at Blue Ribbon, which I found to be overcooked and a bit mealy.
Soulfire's collards were very good as well. I don't know if the rest of the menu will stand up to the standard set by the beef or not, but I'm eager to find out!
I'm a big fan of their collards, although I've noticed lately they're a bit more variable than they used to be, with some batches having noticeably less flavor / fewer smokey bits than others. For sides, try their potato salad some time too. I like it because the potatoes have some firmness and texture vs being the mush almost indistinguishable from the mayo (which I don't like that much in the first place) potato salad is at so many places. Also fond of their BBQ Reuben, which might offer a good alternative with the brisket to add just a bit of moisture. And a friend I take there really likes their chicken, which I haven't tried.
I went to Lester's for the first time last evening and liked it. I only tried the ribs, but I thought the level of smokiness was just right - not overpowering, but very complimentary. A tad on the dry side, but very meaty. Not saucy, the sides of sauce were thin and not at all gloppy. I liked the "hot" sauce, but it wasn't really very hot at all.
WRT sides, I tried the baked beans and cole slaw - both were fine but nothing special. Cornbread was too sweet and "cakey" for my taste.
Beer selection was much better than I expected - I tried something called Frosty Knuckles (allegedly being produced with the help of Ipswich's facilities, but not under their brand), crisp and hoppy - pretty good. They had several other local brews too (details escape me, unfortunately).
Beef: burnt ends at Blue Ribbon.
Pulled Pork: I tend to prefer Blue Ribbon here as well. M'n'M when its on is spectacular, but it's not always on.
Chicken: M'n'M. Vitaminq's point is dead-on accurate.
I don't tend to like the ribs, of beef or of pork variety, in Boston BBQ joints. I also don't get the love for Redbones, which to me is a fun to place to drink good beer and eat good sides, but serves consistently mediocre smoked meats to my own taste.
There is a pretty acceptable BBQ place on the Cape in Wellfleet at Marconi Beach - as long as you ask for the meat to be served without being sauced first. Sort of like Uncle Pete's in that regard - gloppy sauce covering up pretty finely smoked meat products. I just ask for a little oil and vinegar, and some pepper sauce, and it's quite good. Bonus points there for having fresh raw wellfleets, which make a fine appetizer to the pulled pork and chopped brisket.
Thanks for the info on Tennessee's in Peabody. I was out there yesterday and *almost* cracked and ate there - I'm from east TN and the name tried its best to suck me in...
For chicken, sides, and sweet potato pie, my absolute favorite is M&M ribs, which is a truck that parks in a sand lot in Dorchester, outside of New Market Square, on Hampden Street.
I've had mixed results on his ribs and chopped pork, but it's the absolute best bbq chicken I've ever bought (ie, outside of a competition). It's not grilled at a high temp, but actually barbecued and is really tender and flavorful.
I got there about every other week, pick up a half a chicken, a large order of greens, and a sweet potato pie if they have them that day.
I haven't been to Soulfire yet - which has been getting high praise with people whose opinions I respect on the subject - but these are my choices after dozens of visits to each place over the last couple of years. BBQ is so variable in this area -from day to day and even plate to plate, that you really need quite a few visits to get a feel for the general quality of bbq out there.
Pork ribs - Lester's has been the most consistent in texture, smoke flavor, and great rub flavor. I used to be a fan of the ribs at Blue Ribbon in Arlington when they were really smokey - seemed to have dropped off after they started doing all the smoking from the commisary in Newton.
Pulled Pork - Blue Ribbon is consistently good since they stopped chopping the meat too much (which seemed to be an issue mostly with the Arlington location) - sometimes it has good smoke flavor, but its alwasy tender, juicy and lightly sauced.
Beef Ribs - Redbones - always smoky and delicious
Brisket - I have yet to have great brisket consistently in the area to call a clear favorite, but the best I've had was at Redbones - but sometimes it tastes like pot roast. Blue Ribbon can be good too, but many times it doesn't have any smoke flavor and some of their servers need to be trained on how to slice it.
Wings - Bison County's Spicy Carolina wings for their smoky flavor and fruity habanero sauce. They do a pretty good half chicken too.
Sides - toss up - depends on the side - starting to like Blue Ribbon and Lester's coleslaw (which seem exactly the same) after adding some vinegar sauce. Love the beet salad at Blue Ribbon. Collards easily go to Redbones. Still waiting to have some really good mac 'n cheese. I prefer the savory beans at Redbones (a shot of their hot bbq sauce really picks them up) over the sweet beans found elsewhere.
Sauces - Blue Ribbon - not you average gloppy sweat bbq sauce - Best vinegar sauce I've had in the area.
Beer - Redbones - wish more bbq joints had a draft program as good as theirs.
These places I have only been to a few times, so have not gotten a real good feel on their consistency - Uncle Pete's (RIP) - thought most of his stuff was lacking due to the oversweet, asian influenced sauces - meat itself ranged from good to almost inedible. Tennessee's in Framingham is ok but missing the smoke flavor I crave. Firefly's in Framingham also has been pretty good - but there is always some issue that holds them back from being great- like charring the ribs too much when they are reheated, or not enough smoke flavor in some of the meats. I also need to revisit the Roadhouse since my one visit after they first opened was bordering on disaster. And after hearing many lacking reports about Jake's in Waltham, still haven't tried them even though they are my local bbq joint.
I thought I read on CH somehwere that the owner of Lester's is either a former employee of and/ or a close friend of the Blue Ribbon owner. Everything is almost exact from the decor to the menu.
Also agree on your sauce opinion. I am totally in love with Blue Ribbon's carolina vinegar sauce. i get it buy the pint and put it on everything (even after my bbq is gone). I also love their mustard based sauce, which is surprising to me. I never thought I would like a mustard based bbq sauce, until i tried it.
Big thumbs up for American BBQ in Beverly (and Rowley-I've only been to Beverly location though) Excellent ,authentic, smoky, tender, juicy, delicious BBQ. Melt in your mouth brisket. Ribs to die for. Great chili. Pulled pork from heaven. Slaw more delicious than you've ever had. Sweet fluffy cornbread. Great selection of tangy,spicy,sweet sauces. Friendly staff. Reasonable prices. My absolute favorite (if you couldn't tell already-LOL)