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Sad Changes at Blue Ribbon Arlington Location

Hadn't hit it in 4 months or so.

In a nutshell, Arlington location:
- Still jammed on a Monday night two weeks ago
- Most of the staff has turned over only ONE familiar face
- The vibe of really being dedicated to good chow seems gone
- Sides as good as they ever were

Now the sad part, now that the ribs are made off-site in a central commissary I swear they re-heated my 1/2 rack of ribs in a STEAMER.

So while it might have been good cue when it left the commissary, by the time I ate it it was soggy, wet, mushy, lacking all semblance of good bark. In short it was ruined, and barely edible. First time I have ever experienced such lame ribs at BR. In the past once or twice I've had overdone, a little too dry, which can happen at any real cue place. But soggy-wet-toilet-paper ribs, inexcusable, It made me sad, very, very, very sad.

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  1. I never get ribs there; I like my own better.
    I get either the Burnt Ends or Pulled Pork.
    Hopefully those are still good stuff...

    1. Are you sure the offsite smoking is a recent change, I thought it occurred longer ago (probably closer to 10-12 months)? At the time West Newton was still smoking in house and I never heard about a commissary, but unless it was on a temporary basis they were smoking offsite before. I would expect they are more likely to keep them in a holding oven than actually steaming your ribs which they would be using anyway when smoked on site. But its possible someone did something silly or they kept them in foil over a water bath like what might be done with pork (or maybe they were stingy about not throwing out older ribs). I think its worth calling and complaining, asking about the changes, especially since you have recommended them frequently in the past you would think they would want the feedback. Not certain they are going to bring back on-site smoking though, my feeling when they started doing it was they were trying to keep ahead of neighbor complaints.

      10 Replies
      1. re: itaunas

        I tend to agree with TheWizard that the ribs are one of the weaker items at BR. I always get a pulled pork sandwich and am rarely disappointed.

        1. re: Gordough

          we were in last sunday-- beside the newish counter woman- every other employee was a familiar face- in fact, 3 of the men have been there for years. we go about 3x a month and had really great wet ribs recently-- of course the pulled pork and the brisket are still strong. the dryrubbed ribs have never really shone, for us.

          1. re: kewpie

            I've only been to the W.Newton BR, and have always loved the ribs. Had them this summer, and they weren't mushy.

            1. re: kewpie

              Aren't the wet ribs just the previous days leftover dry rubbed ribs that have been sauced to keep them moist?

              1. re: LStaff

                not in this recent meal- a completely different marinade and sauce. not even the same size-much, much bigger than the dry rubbed

          2. re: itaunas

            Maybe I will give em another whirl, but they were by far the worst ribs I ever had there. They were not even Redbones quality. Essentially just disgusting.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              Wanna try a place with a good rack..... Three Dogz in Lawrence on rt28 across from the old Manzi Dodge dealership, open about 3 months now. A full rack of Spares, excellent bark, nice glaze and not sauced unless you sauce them yourself, they're brisket is also good but, specify how you like it sliced, thin for a sammie or thick for a dinner. A half pound brisket dinner was $8., sammie was $5 and the full rack of Spares was $17.99, pretty good deal. I'd say.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                Which type of rib are you comparing them to at Redbones? I have found Redbone's St. Louis ribs to be consistently good.

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                Redbones
                55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                1. re: Gabatta

                  Redbones recently has been much better, but for several years their regular pork ribs were just blah.

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                  Redbones
                  55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

            2. I thought their ribs took a huge dive right after they stopped smoking them in Arlington -well over a year ago. Used to be really smoky and not overcooked (usually just a little under like Soul Fire). I heard they also changed the source of the ribs - and brought them back somewhat recently. Everytime I go to BR - either Newton or Arlington, I get a lone bone with my order. As of late, in general they have been getting back to their former self, but still not quite there. Sometimes you do get some complete duds - which can be expected anywhere that makes bbq in the region - you just can't judge the quality of bbq with just one plate or visit - there's too many variables which causes randomness . You could order a plate of ribs that are small, dry and overcooked, yet someone else in you party got large, juicy ribs.

              Pulled pork has been hit or miss too as far as level of smoke since the move, used to be really smoky at Arlington everytime. Brisket has always been a crapshoot - sometimes moist, juicy, and well carved, other times dry, crumbly, or sliced with the grain.

              14 Replies
              1. re: LStaff

                I went to Blue Ribbon in Arlington tonight and it was sad indeed. For years, they were absolute tops in the area for the items they served. Uncle Pete's, for beef ribs,was the only competition. I was a fanatic, any trip down the Minuteman Bike Path meant a stop at Blue Ribbon. I used their catering for several parties - and then they became uneven over the last two years and some top quality new places got my attention and my visits dropped off. After tonight, I think the love affair is completely over. In the last month, I've had barbecue at four places in the area and Blue Ribbon comes in dead last of the four.

                Tops in my opinion was Soul Fire - great ribs, a little fatty but absolutely compelling, great smoke, great bark, excellent texture and flavor (best I've had there). I skipped the sauce for most of the ribs. The barbecued chicken was smoky, flavorful and moist. WIngs were fantastic, great smoke - we especially loved the spicey/honey sauce. Collard Greens were the best of the four, a little sweet to my taste, but very compelling - perfect in my wife's estimation. Baked beans were great, and the mashed potatoes were very good.

                A very close second was Firebox. My wife thought their barbecue 1/2 chicken was the equal of Soul Fire's. We both gave the nod to Soul Fire on the wings. Collard Greens were flavorful but not as compelling as Soul Fire's. Ribs had a great smoke and bark, but fell short of Soul Fire's.

                There was a big drop off to Redbones. I love Redbones, for the overall experience, because it is my neighborhood place and because the owners are great supporters of many charities including one I work extensively with, but their cue is seldom stellar. The beef ribs always have decent smoke and always offer enough resistance to the bite without being tough. Pork ribs lack the smoke and rub of Soul Fire and Firebox, but they are almost always competent and flavorful.

                Blue Ribbon this month lagged behind Redbones. For me, this is huge - for years, ranking Redbones anywhere near Blue Ribbon, let alone above it meant you were not serious about barbecue at all and were probably swayed by the beer. The ribs had little smoke, little bark, little rub and little flavor and sauce was very much needed. The sauces do not seem to have dropped off in quality. The collard greens were bland. The chicken lacked smoke and lacked flavor overall and the texture was unappealing. The brunt ends were still sweet and tasty, but far less complex than I remembered - not much smoke. It is finally time to take my 5 star Yelp review down a few notches. I've never had a meal that was this poor at Blue Ribbon.

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                Redbones
                55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                1. re: pedxing

                  If you haven't driven out to B.T.'s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, I'd highly recommend doing so. I haven't been to Soul Fire or Fire Box, but B.T.'s is really outstanding. The ribs and smoked chicken wings were fantastically smoky. The pulled pork was great too. They have an excellent mac and cheese as well as generally interesting sides.

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                  B.T.'s Smokehouse
                  Sturbridge, MA, Sturbridge, MA

                  1. re: hckybg

                    I agree on BT's. I love their burger as well as their barbecue (it's now my step-son's favorite burger of all time). It has become a mandatory stop when when my wife and I drive to New York City. I'm also looking forward to trying Blackstrap in Winthrop.

                  2. re: pedxing

                    Gosh, so sorry to hear yet another lousy data point.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      Had excellent brisket burnt ends there today.

                      BBQ chicken was just meh, as were the sides we had: blackeyed corn, baked beans, collards, green beans.

                    2. re: pedxing

                      Continuing reports of the poor quality of the ribs is dissapointing. Hopefully the Groupon madness comes to an end and they go back to sourcing quality ribs again.

                      Agree with your take on Redbones beef ribs - have always been the bright spot in their bbq for me and usually what I ordered (with the greens and either beans or potato salad) when having dinner there. Unfortunately, its been months since I've been in (after being a semi-regular) due to their out of hand beer prices.

                      1. re: LStaff

                        To my mind, Redbones beef ribs are still good, and their baby backs (a steal at $11.99 at dinnertime) are my favorite thing on the menu. Their beer has gotten a little ridiculous, I agree.

                        I'm a semi-regular there too, and often go for beer and a tableful of apps with friends. But when I tried to go this past Friday around 3pm, I was turned away despite there being plenty of tables upstairs and most of Underbones being empty. They actually told me that if I wasn't there for a full dinner, I could either sit at the bar or leave. The bar was full. We left. Is this a Friday thing or have they changed for the worse?

                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                          Yeah, the Redbones management seems to be making some questionable decisions. I still can't figure out why they felt the need to sell Groupons when the place is full so much of the time. Could it be that they are running out of cash?

                          Who are they aiming at with some beers now sold by the quart and the prices of the more interesting brews so high? I wouldn't order anything off the board now without looking at the drink menu that has the prices, and I love how they don't include the tax in the beer prices, so you end up paying even more than you thought.

                          With the prices they're charging for beer, I'm amazed they wouldn't give you a table, especially downstairs.

                          1. re: nickls

                            >I still can't figure out why they felt the need to sell Groupons when the place is full so much of the time.

                            Kind of strange for a place like Redbones or Blue Ribbon who seem to have enough patrons to get into the Groupon game. I think Groupon has some convinced there is free money to be taken when people who buy the Groupon don't show up to redeem them before they expire. IMO it just cheapens the value of your product and becomes a game of diminishing returns since Groupon customers won't return until they offer more Groupons - which just makes them rely on it more and more.

                            1. re: nickls

                              Per Groupons, they might have wanted a quick cash infusion to help with costs of their new food truck and the new Rib Shack in Kendall Sq. -- that's my guess.

                              Given that almost every table downstairs was empty and 1/3 of the tables upstairs were available, my only guess was that they didn't want a group of guys hogging a table and chatting while nursing a beer just before the Friday dinner rush, which I can understand, but they could have been much cooler about it. Maybe they're tired of bad customers. The last time I ate dinner there, I was seated next to three drunk college guys nursing tankards of PBR and bellowing gruesome stories at top volume about women they've bedded. Their food was packed, they'd paid, and the staff was ignoring them. There were kids next to me. My server was a jerk. It made me want to avoid one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants.

                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                I can't understand that all at 3pm on Friday and plenty of as you describe there were plenty of tables upstairs and most of Underbones being empty. How many were in your party? That just sounds like bad business for a place like Redbones. How long do you usually sit there as a regular? Unless you usually hog a table past 5pm while nursing one beer, I can't see this hurting their ability to serve other customers. What constitutes a full dinner there anyway? They offer lunch specials until 4p, and the full menu isn't even available until then. It all doesn't add up.

                                I do have to say that the last time we got takeout from Redbones, there were a few mistakes and missing items in the order. When I called to let them know, they credited the entire order back to my cc without my asking.

                                1. re: Gabatta

                                  Redbones is very accommodating in my experience: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7892...

                                  As for the food, I used to be a huge fan of their house sausage. The casing had a pleasing snap and the filling was tasty. But it was mediocre on our last two tries earlier this year.

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                                  Redbones
                                  55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                                  1. re: Gabatta

                                    @Gabatta: It was me and two friends. We told them we planned on being there for about an hour and wanted to get a bunch of apps and drinks. We were told by employees both upstairs and downstairs that we couldn't have a table unless we were "there for a meal" and had to sit at the bar. When we pointed out that a bunch of tables were open and the bar was full, they shrugged. We left and had absolutely no problem getting a table at The Burren, where I guess they actually wanted our business.

                                    @FoodDabbler: I've been going to Redbones for years and have always loved how accommodating they are, they're generally a great bunch of people, especially when the owner or long-time waitstaff are there. The 20something kids running the show last Friday night have no idea how to run a restaurant.

                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                      Turnover of staff seems quite high in last couple of years too - after years of always seeing familiar faces. I probably wouldn't recognize anyone now.

                                      Strange experience you had there - especially at that time of day - dining room and downstairs doesn't really get busy until 5-6pm.