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New BBQ in Bedford!!!

A new Barbecue place is going into the spot that had (in the time I've been in the area -15yrs)
an Einstein's Bagels, Barnstormers sandwich shop, then the various incarnations of Knowfat, Lowfat to Ufood healthy restaurants. The new place is called (I think) Firebox Barbecue. Run by a couple of chefs, who've cooked overseas and done local catering. Nice Guys. They were installing a Southern Pride smoker yesterday. Opening is October 12th. The menu seems ambitious, from burgers to burritos to pulled pork and ribs. They want to be upscale it seems: talking about using seasonal produce, finding their own suppliers for meat, seafood, etc. Planning to have various specials to take advantage of their smoker, such as Jamaican and Dominican BBQ.
Looking forward to a new option in the area. I'm trying not to get too excited, but am hoping for a real quality spot!

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  1. I was just reading a little about this place (as well as the new Margaritas which is coming to the old Denny's spot down the street in Lexington). It's indeed called FireBox (they have a capital "B" in the name). From what I was reading, it will be a "contemporary" BBQ place, so yes, it sounds like it will be a bit more upscale than your typical BBQ joint.

    12 Replies
    1. re: hiddenboston

      I was gonna mention the Margaritas (or start another thread).
      Should I be excited? Chain, but what quality? I actually kind of like On the Border in Woburn, how does this compare?

      1. re: justbeingpolite

        Eh. Margaritas is ok, IMO. I like the one in Waltham mainly because they have outdoor dining on the river (and their drinks are decent), but their food is so-so, IMO. I'd probably put On the Border just a skosh (a schtickle?) better than Margaritas.

        BTW, thanks for posting about FireBox. I've been in Bedford a few times over the past couple of weeks, but totally forgot what was happening with the UFood spot.

        1. re: hiddenboston

          No prob.
          I'm hoping the Q at the Firebox is at least as good as, and more consistant than Lesters. Maybe even at the Blue Ribbon level, gasp. I can dream, can't I? If you're in the area soon, drop in on them. The owners are charming, and happy to give a tour and discuss their plans. They're Chowhound fans, it seems, and talk a good game.

            1. re: justbeingpolite

              What do you think is inconsistent at Lesters? For a while there (before the lecture from the dr. and wife) I was eating the ribs at Lesters on avg. about every other week. Sure there was some batch to batch variation as is the case with bbq, but the ribs always ranged from good to f'n good. Always has at least a base level of smokiness (although the FG ones had more smoke flavor), tender, juicy meat that pulled away from the bone pretty easily and always have a smoke ring. Even when they were just "good" they much better than any pork ribs I've gotten from redbones or blue ribbon in the past 2 years.

              The brisket I've tried on different occasions was inconsistent though - one time was really good, others just ok. And I have never really liked the pulled pork there.

              Read recently that Blue Ribbon went back to their old style ribs - so hopefully the smoke flavor and bark will return with them too.

              1. re: LStaff

                Husband and I had a spit-it-out bad meal at Lester's. No chance, no how, ever again.

                1. re: three of us

                  I had a similar experience there about two months ago with my wife and son. The food was beyond bad and we'll never go back

                2. re: LStaff

                  Well there you go.
                  I am usually a rib eater, and I've had the occaisional dry bone from Lester's, something I've faulted Redbones (notice the appropriate absence of an apostrophe, MC) with as well. Blue Ribbon has been my local gold standard, though I've had some of those FG ribs from Lester's. Hope Smokebox (I do like the name) makes some of those FG ribs for LStaff to enjoy.

                  1. re: LStaff

                    I've had several below-mediocre meals at Lester's, all at lunch (it's popular with some of my coworkers). Among other issues, it doesn't look/taste like real slow-smoke BBQ to me. I'm not going back if I can help it.


                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      I've been a few times, but only in the evening for takeout or happy hour. Their ribs are a bit too dry, but at least they are not extremely fatty like Blue Ribbon. And their wings have super smokey flavor, although the sauce is too thin and doesn't adhere to the wings well. See below for the pulled pork. Never had anything bad, but just not as good as I hoped for.

                      We've also had them cater a few work parties, which worked out well.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        >it doesn't look/taste like real slow-smoke BBQ to me.

                        That is an odd statement to me that just doesn't jive with my experience at Lester's. I've been probably 20+ times (at lunch) in the last two years and although the level of smoke in various meats fluctuates, you can always tell it was smoked. Never had any meat there that didn't have a nice smoke ring or at least a hint of smoke flavor, unlike Blue Ribbon (on occassion) or Redbones (much more frequently).

                        1. re: LStaff

                          I used my groupon at Lester's this week and had the three meat combo, brisket, ribs and hot sausage with mashed potatoes and gravy and collared greens and I was very impressed! I have been going to Blue Ribbon since they opened their first location in Newton. Brisket was a bit fatty but very tender and oh so juicy, with a good smoke flavor and the same for the ribs, good smokey flavor with a nice smoke ring. The hot sausage was OK, overshadowed by the BBQ. Mashed with gravy was good and the collared greens was very good.

            2. I got a sneak peek at the menu this weekend. It looks like typical BBQ with brisket, ribs, etc., comfort food sides (potato salad, mac & cheese), and burgers and dogs. Strangely, there is a Cuban on the menu.

              It looks like simple food that, if done well, will be DELICOUS.

              1. So I went in today about 3pm. Really, REALLY friendly service, laid back atmosphere, cheery music, HD TV set on ESPN with a comfy couch facing it. I think it could be a great place to hang out with friends or if everyone in there wants to watch the same sports event. Beer and wine are available in the evenings. I had a combo platter with pork ribs and pulled pork. Ribs were quite tough; I was disappointed. Pulled pork was more "chunk pork" style which I like. Although it didn't really "pull" very well with my fork, it tasted good, especially when dipped in NC vinegar sauce. Sides were average. There's a "bar" of various flavored liquid sweeteners for their brewed iced tea, which was neat, but they'll have to brew the tea stronger to handle the dilution from the sweeteners. Nothing wowed me, but I filled out a comment card, and they were friendly and the place looks fun, so I'll give them another chance. More $$$ than Lester's, so they'll have to improve to keep my business (or my car will have to break, as I can get to FireBox on foot if I have to).

                FireBox BBQ
                347 Great Rd, Bedford, MA 01730

                1. Stopped in for the first time on Sunday ~1:30PM and ordered the pulled pork sandwich for takeout, $6. Eastern North Carolina style, similar to Lester's. But only slightly smokey, whereas Lester's puts a good smoke on theirs, and very very light on the sauce. I suppose I could have got more sauce on the side, but I didn't think of that. Also, contrary to michelles' experience, this was not at all chunky pulled pork. Looked more like it had been shredded by a machine into too-small fragments, much like Lester's, rather than the fork-pulled chunks of meat I would prefer. I'm not a BBQ expert, but I think this is what they called "chopped". Doesn't make for a very stable sandwich, or much texture. Whether it is authentic, others will have to judge. Did come with a nice pickle slice, which I suspect was home-made.

                  Interior is similar to the previous health food joint, so definitely not what I would call up-scale, but it is attractive. And they have a liquor license with an interesting selection of $6 wines by the glass from around the world (didn't recognize any of the labels, but it sounded like they had put some thought into what would go with BBQ and picked something more creative than 2-Buck Chuck).

                  I'll definitely be back, since I work close by, but based on my single pull pork sandwich (which is my BBQ touchstone), I'm not going to call it a drive to destination. In fact, I probably prefer Lester's at this point, given their much stronger smoke.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                    Had lunch there today and think the pulled pork is more like ground pork and very bland. Mac and cheese was decemt; highlight was the cole slaw. Don't think we will be back.

                  2. Checked out FireBox last night. Very pleasant space. Seating area is great, unlike Blue Ribbon in Arlington which is mostly takeout.

                    Ordered a 3-meat combo (pork ribs, pulled pork, burnt ends) and a pulled chicken sandwich. Also, a couple of beers. They have a tap with a half-dozen interesting selections.

                    General comment is that I prefer a deeper smoke to the meats. They have a beautiful Southern Pride 300# smoker that they are still getting used to. All heat and flavor come from wood, not gas. I think they need to experiment with different types of wood, different temperatures, and different cooktimes to get that smokiness needed for top-notch bbq. After talking to the very friendly owners, I am confident they are paying attention and will make adjustments.

                    The pulled chicken was the winner. Very moist, relatively smoky. Good mix of white meat and dark. As others have noted, it was more chopped than pulled, but I haven't found pulled chicken that had a stringy, pulled appearance except when the meat has been braised, which is a bbq no-no.

                    The ribs were tender, not fall-off-the-bone which is appropriate. The meat came clean off the bone with little resistance, which is the standard for judging ribs (I'm a KCBS bbq judge). As noted, I wanted more smokiness. Also, a little more crust from the dry rub would be good.

                    The pulled pork was almost as good as the pulled chicken, but the lack of smoke held it back. Good mix of interior shredded pork (white and pink) and a few good chunks of exterior bark. They serve it unsauced, which I prefer. But, takeout customers will need to remember to grab some containers of sauce.

                    Burnt ends were not. Actually, I received sliced brisket, that was sauced and grilled. Looked like sausage slices in my container. Definitely not from the point part of the packer brisket. I asked the owners about this and they sheepishly admitted that demand far outstripped their ability to produce burnt ends so they've been substituting this brisket concoction. They need to figure out a better response - either smoke more point to produce real burnt ends or properly label their twice-cooked brisket.

                    Notable was the quality of the sauces - complex flavors that matched well with the meats. The homemade pickle alongside the sandwich was also a hit. You can see that the owners care about the details. Maybe too much. They told me that they had a homemade ketchup that bombed. Everyone just wanted their Heinz. A lesson that you need to nail the basics before adding your own twist.

                    The best part of the visit was talking to the owners and seeing their enthusiasm. They aren't trying to make dive bar bbq; they are bringing their extensive culinary background to make bbq with a twist. It was clear that their launch point is their catering and french training, rather than pit-master bbq. They are planning special nights to showcase world-bbq, highlighting different regions each time (asian, north african, etc.).

                    I support their endeavors, and by the good crowd on a Fri night, it looks like they are on track. My advice to them is to wait for the "foo-foo" until they've really nailed the bbq side of things.


                    5 Replies
                    1. re: spicyivan

                      Will have to try the pulled chicken. I've been there several times now, but have only had the pulled pork and pork ribs. Ribs are decent, and not overly fatty like Blue Ribbon's.

                      I'm pretty sure the pulled pork has a vinegar sauce on it, but it is very very light.

                      Potato salad--OK
                      Fried sweet potatoes--Good
                      Pickle--Good, but mild
                      Cornbread--very cake-like, not what I would consider real cornbread
                      Mashed potatoes--With skins, but a bit thin and gluey

                      Are you sure they make their own tomato BBQ sauce? I saw them refilling the squirt bottles (at my request, since they seem to be chronically empty--wake up employees!) from large labeled plastic jugs, suggesting it was purchased (although I suppose they could be reusing the jugs). I can't say I was impressed with the sauce. The spicy version was spicier than average (good), but both the spicy and sweet seemed simple to me. Although, admittedly, I sometimes think ribs are just there to facilitate getting the sauce to your mouth without the embarrassment of using a straw! Probably wouldn't make a good BBQ judge.

                      Homemade ketchup is invariably a bad idea. Food scientists apparently study Heinz for it's ability to hit multiple taste buttons. There was a fascinating article on it in the New Yorker.

                      Anyway, I like a lot of what these guys are trying to do, but I agree with you that they need to take the BBQ up several notches. If you can't impress people with your BBQ, all the other attention to details will go to waste.

                      1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                        TNN - Pretty sure they said they made all their sauces.

                        Agree on the fried sweet potatoes - they were good. Nothing complicated, but well-cooked chunks of potato.

                        Going for lunch later this week, so I'll try to get the scoop on the sauces, as well as try something new.

                        1. re: spicyivan

                          Tried the ribs: the pork ribs were unusually meaty and low in fat. Good flavor but could have been smokier. I thought the beef ribs were excellent, more fat, melt in your mouth type. Similar to ribs I've had from Redbones. The sauces are ok, I prefer a thicker, tomato based sauce (I really like tennessee's Brickhouse sauce). Good local option, hope they'll improve with time.

                          55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                          1. re: justbeingpolite

                            Actually, their chipotle & mango sauce is pretty good. Hadn't seen that there before.

                            1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                              Tried it. liked it, good sauce.
                              They seem to be improving with time.
                              Got a good write up on Pigtrip; if Gary likes 'em, that's a good sign.

                              a Panera's that's been hijacked and turned into a barbecue joint, I like that.

                    2. I tried this place a couple of weeks ago at lunchtime - on a Friday I think. The place was swamped and the three people working the line, including one of the partners, just did not know how to handle the volume. Line was about 10 deep when I walked in, and took about 10-15 just to place an order. Then another 30 minutes of watching the one guy who was seriously in the weeds and not getting much help from the others (was quite entertaining in a Kitchen Nightmares kind of way) before getting my pulled pork sandwich and mac n cheese to go. Hopefully they work out the service issues at lunch, because 40 minutes wait to get food after a 10 min drive there, leaves me only 10 minutes to get back and no time to eat.

                      The pulled pork showed promise with its smoky flavor and tender, almost drinkable, meat. Unfortunately it was overspiced with rub (I assume) and detracted from the porky flavor and was a little salty. Mac n Cheese was really good and the best I've had from bbq joints in the area. Sauces were ok, but some of them needed depth - I thought the house flavor was the best and had a great balance of sweet, spicy, and tangy - and a great candidate for serving heated.

                      I'll check it out again, but probably not during the lunch rush any time soon.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: LStaff

                        Maybe things are picking up. I've been there a few times for lunch-time takeout without having to wait, but the last was probably a couple of months ago and I can't remember if it was early or late and therefore I missed the crowd. I've probably been there 15+ times all told, since it's so close to work and an easy place to pick up takeout for dinner (closer than Lester's or Blue Ribbon, and in some ways I prefer it to them).

                        Great review by Pigtrip (I think I might have been the first to point it out to him when it opened). I've sort of settled on the beef brisket sandwich, which he wasn't as hot on. A couple of times when I stopped in just at closing, the owner pilled on so much extra brisket, I had to save the second sandwich for lunch the next day!

                        I stopped in for takeout last week and had forgotten that they were doing live music. The front and back parking lots were completely full and they had reservations for every table. I didn't hang around, but it must have been standing room only, given the huge number of cars.

                        I really like what these guys are doing. Decent to very good BBQ, friendly, local... Time to head back for after-work drinks and take advantage of the nice little wine list.

                        1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                          I have been to Firebox a number of times. I've found the food excellent and the owners friendly and interested in customer feedback. The pork ribs are very good and very meaty. The beef ribs are large and tasty, although I prefer the pork ribs. The brisket is good. Chicken wings are fried and smoked and addictive. Previous posters have commented about the sweet potato fries which are good. They do make their sauces and there is something for all tastes/levels of spicyness. Beer on tap and bottles. Lemonade is excellent and home made. Microbrew sodas.

                          Overall, I like the place better than Lesters. I think the owners are still tuning to match customer tastes and expectations but the place is good and I don't think you'll be disappointed in the food.

                          1. re: justauser

                            They do need to train the staff much better. 2 visits in past week resulted in: 1) a medium burger that was nicely charred on the outside, but over-cooked to the point of being beef jerky on the inside; and 2) a very cool looking line cook with dark grime under each fingernail handling my food without gloves (I don't care if he was cleaning the smoker or what, it was disgusting). I think I'm going to try Lester's for a while...

                            1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                              What's the story with the burnt ends? I went there yesterday for the 1st time and my burnt ends were slices of brisket heated up! The brisket had a wonderful smokey flavor, but I wanted burnt ends! If they can't keep up with the demand, as someone else mentioned, then just tell me that they are out of it. I'd rather select something else and then get what I expect. I tried the house BBQ sauce which had no distinctive flavor. Not complex enough. I think that I will go back to Blue Ribbon. Have never tried Lester's. If I find myself in Burlington, I will try that. Sounds like lots of folks like what they do there.

                              FireBox BBQ
                              347 Great Rd, Bedford, MA 01730

                              1. re: what can I say

                                That's how they've "interpreted" burnt ends from the beginning here. Definitely give Lester's a try-- for brisket, ribs and most sides they're the definite choice over Firebox. And you really can't go wrong with Blue Ribbon. But before giving up completely on Firebox, try their pork and barbecued chicken, which they seem to nail down much better than the rest of the menu.

                                1. re: GaryLovesFood

                                  I also think the beef ribs are consistently good.

                                  1. re: justbeingpolite

                                    last weekend we placed a large order on line, beef ribs, pork ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey,brisket, burnt ends, beans, mac n cheese,coleslaw. The food was ready as promised on time. We brought it back to a firends house and 7 of us indulged. I don't know if I am losing my tase for bar b q or wasn't in the mood or it was just bad. I did not like one thing! ribs were tough, started to fight with them and gave up, pulled pork greasy,brsket grisly, burnt ends, too burnt, beans no flavor, I really liked the slaw. there was lots of leftovers and when I tried the slaw the next day it had gone rancid. Hubby didn;t seem to mind it and ate quite a bit. Not sure if I will go back, I like redbones!

                      2. Tried FireBox for lunch today (Sunday). The place was empty, but we were there just before noon. I had the pulled chicken sandwich and potato salad. Husband had burnt ends sandwich with beans.

                        We were VERY underwhelmed. My chicken was dry, and as others have posted, chopped rather than pulled. It was mostly white meat, which is not a good thing in my book. It was slightly smokey, but otherwise almost flavorless. I actually had to salt it. The burnt ends had the same issue - dry, and not enough flavor. I warned my husband in advance that the burt ends would most likely be brisket, but he ordered it anyway, and it was indeed brisket.

                        Potato salad was al dente red bliss potatos with sour cream and dill. Not at all what I expected, and quite disappointing. The beans were also flavorless and oddly dried out.

                        The strangest part of the meal, though, were the sauces. I think they must have separated in the containers. We tried the extra hot, mango/habanero, original, and habenero sauces. All but the habanero were dispensed from stainless stell containers, and all were basically just vinegar with a little flavor. I can't imagine that's how their sauces are supposed to be. The North Carolina sauce was in a glass jar, as was the habenero. I had the habanero, and it had no flavor other than just heat. Because the sandwiches were so dry, they really needed some sauce, and we just didn't get anything that helped the situation.

                        We won't be back - no need to look further than Blue Ribbon.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                          Fake burnt ends? How horrible, and impossible, to boot (well, they might have the consistency of a boot, and would make me boot). There's just no way you can approximate real burnt ends "in a hurry." They really should just say that they are out, I think Jake and Earl's did that back in the old days.

                          1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                            Based on my four visits since they opened, this would appear to be an aberration .

                            I have personally never understood pulled chicken and always order it on the bone . This place has some of the best chicken I have ever had. VERY moist and good flavor . Not your typical BBQ rub , more of a herb mix . And not sauced.

                            Speaking of sauce, think you are probably right about the sauces being separated . The mango chipotle is very good and I got a couple pints to go last time I was there.

                            The potato salad is average, but the beans I had were pretty good . Mac n cheese has always been good .

                            Overall, I agree with Gary from Pigtrip that pulled pork and chicken are the strengths of this place . Blue Ribbon does much better brisket . But for me, this place is a lot more convenient to get to, and the availability of seating vs pretty much mandatory take out from either Blue Ribbon location give it the edge , esp based on chicken.

                            1. re: Eatin in Woostah

                              I've been to Firebox about 6-8 times and have had mostly excellent meals. You are correct, they can be inconsistent, but even the worst I've had was OK. They are still getting the crew trained and it makes a big difference when the owners are there and working.

                              1. re: justauser

                                I went there a couple of weeks ago and it wasn't what I'd expected at all. I really thought I was going to discover a labor of love with a funky vibe; instead it seemed like a cold fast food joint. All in all, though, with some practice I think I could have a pretty good meal. I did like the brisket quite a bit, with the Carolina vinegar. And the mac/cheese and mashed were tasty. The pork ribs were underdone, and the house bbq sauce I found too cloying. I'll give it another go if I'm in the neighborhood.

                            2. Second try, first time was was OK, Not so this time. Got two 3 meat combos at lunchtime with brisket, ribs (extra charge for ribs) and dark chicken quarters with Mashed Potatoes and Collared Greens. The sides was good, collared greens could have been cut into smaller pieces.
                              Ribs was VERY tough, I know there should be a bit of pull but not to this extent and not much of a bark on them either. Missing smoke flavor as well. Brisket was extremely dry and tasteless. Again missing the BBQ flavor. The Chicken was probably the best part, nice flavor both on the skin and on the chicken even if it was a tad dry. With all the good BBQ places around I will not be back. People was nice and so was the sauces.

                              1. Any recent opinions on this place?