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Southern Barbecue in Boston? Oxymoron?

As a reformed Southerner living in Boston, I've been craving barbecue and unable to find any that meets my expectations. I've tried Red Bones, Blue Ribbon, Soulfire etc. and not found anything that approximates Southern-style barbecue. Is there such a thing to be had in the Boston area? If so, where?

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  1. Isn't BBQ pretty varied in style (esp sauce) across the south? Can you get any more specific on region or style?

    Of course, it's probably moot. You won't find what you're looking for here in Boston. Maybe take a drive out to BT's Smokehouse in Sturbridge?

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    BT's Smokehouse
    392 Main St, Sturbridge, MA 01566

    6 Replies
    1. re: emannths

      second that. BT's Smokehouse is the best I've had in NE.

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      BT's Smokehouse
      392 Main St, Sturbridge, MA 01566

      1. re: gourmaniac

        One more vote for BT's. I grew up in Kentucky and have ventured south many times for barbecue (both east to TN/NC and west to MO/TX) and BT's is the only place I'd consider taking southern friends who would want to try our 'cue. Their brisket is great, although occasionally a little too moist (fatty) for my taste.

        I'm going to try to make it BBQ Smith, the food cart near the Chinatown gate on the greenway today for lunch; it looks promising.

        1. re: JoeM

          so I tried BBQ smith this afternoon. Nice people, decent sandwich, but I wouldn't call it serious bbq.

          I tried their beef sandwich. It came on a multigrain roll and with soy-bbq sauce, so I immediately will disqualify it from any serious barbecue discussion based on those two things alone. Not very much smoke flavor. It was tasty though. Best part was the $0.50 coconut oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

          1. re: JoeM

            I was going to warn you on this but slipped my mind. It's an OK sandwich, but not really smoked BBQ. I had the pulled pork on a taco.

            1. re: JoeM

              What the heck is soy-bbq sauce?

        2. re: emannths

          I'm from Alabama, but would take any decent version of a Southern barbecue (East or West NC, Tennessee, Memphis, etc.). I'll take a look at BT's.

        3. Formaggio Kitchen also does some really good BBQ on Saturdays in Cambridge. I admit not on par with down south, but a good rendition.

          Also if you are from Alabama and looking for some Soul Food, Mrs. Jones in Dorchester is another tip, her husband the Chef is from Mobile.

          The thing that is even more difficult for me to find though is proper Sweet Tea. Hungry Mother has the closest to the real thing I have tried.

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          Formaggio Kitchen
          244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

          1. Try Blackstrap BBQ in Winthrop. It's the closest I've found.

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            Blackstrap BBQ
            47 Woodside Ave, Winthrop, MA 02152

            19 Replies
            1. re: CarolinaGirl06

              There's a Groupon for this place today.

              1. re: CarolinaGirl06

                I wish both Blackstrap BBQ and BT's Smokehouse were right next door to my apt, those are the two best I've found in the state and they complement each other pretty well IMO - each manage to excel where the other one is weaker.

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                Blackstrap BBQ
                47 Woodside Ave, Winthrop, MA 02152

                BT's Smokehouse
                392 Main St, Sturbridge, MA 01566

                1. re: jgg13

                  What are the strengths/weaknesses of each, if you don't mind?

                  1. re: emannths

                    Based on my experiences, I've liked the ribs & sides better at blackstrap, but liked the pulled pork better at BTs. I really liked the pulled chicken at BTs (does blackstrap even have that?). I haven't had brisket at either so can't compare.

                    In the "intangibles" category, I have to give a nod to blackstrap for that bacon wrapped fried hot dog contraption they have but I also have to give one to BTs for the pickled condiments & spicy sauces.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      Blackstrap has pulled chicken.

                      1. re: Gabatta

                        Thanks, my blackstrap experiences predate my BT experiences so never double checked that.

                      2. re: jgg13

                        Finally tried BT's last Saturday. Final stop on a road trip to Connecticut involving visits to Wilson's in Fairfield, Bobby Q's In Westport and the Black Duck (no chow, beer only there). Went to BT's on a relatively full stomach and so ate quite moderately but everything was great. This is the first place in New England where I have had brisket that could at least hold its own against Lockhart TX brisket - and that is saying something! Very large portions, nice folks running the place and real wood smoked 'cue. Agree that pulled pork was very good and ribs were good but not better than Blackstrap's (which are great). But the brisket and pickled condiments, the pulled chicken and even the pan heated mac and cheese were great as were the different mopping sauces - particularly the mustard based one. But this is barbecue that didn't need sauce. Great place and worth the drive.

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                        BT's Smokehouse
                        392 Main St, Sturbridge, MA 01566

                    2. re: jgg13

                      This thread reminded me to put in my $.02 on Blackstrap. I didn't post after the 1st visit due to comments about the consistency, however the 2nd visit was every bit as good. Hopfeully this trend continues. For me it is easily the best bbq in the area (I don't consider Sturbridge to be in the area so this does not address BT's). Blackstrap gets my business over Blue Ribbon (even before it went downhill), Redbones and the rest. I will make time to drive over there for the superior bbq.

                      If you are looking for excellent smoke flavor, this is your place. A quick rundown of the items sampled:

                      - Pork Ribs: smoked with dry rub only, apply your own sauce. These ribs were meaty without being fatty and cooked perfectly (not fall off the bone). Killer smoke ring and flavor. The best ribs I have had in these parts.
                      - Carolina Style Pulled Pork: Good smoke and complex flavor. No Blue Ribbon style fat chunks. Could use some more bark bits.
                      - Whole Smoked Chicken: Tender, sweet and smoky. Great flavor and not dry at all. One of the best items.
                      - Shredded BBQ Chicken: Good, but a bit too much sauce.
                      - Burnt Ends (brisket): Sorry Redbones, these are my new favorite burnt ends. Bigger pieces than at RB. Good contrast between bark and meat. Excellent.
                      - Baked Beans: Al dente, good flavor, pretty ordinary.
                      - Cole Slaw: Very nice with vinegar and horseradish bite. Not creamy.
                      - Collard Greens: my wife liked them. A bit sweet, but not overly so.
                      - BBQ Sweet Potato Salad: Yum!
                      - Corn Bread: OK, dense and savory, still not as good as what I make in the cast iron skillet
                      Beef Brisket

                      They have several sauces to choose from and I liked that with the exception if the pulled chicken they go light or no sauce letting the customer do what they want.

                      I am looking forward to a third visit soon to try the sausage.

                      1. re: Gabatta

                        Thank you for the quality review - it is enticing me to have a visit.

                        Redbones does burnt ends? Are they new ? I don't see them on the online menu. Do you mean Blue Ribbon?

                        1. re: LStaff

                          Redbones does not have burnt ends. I look forward to trying the burnt ends at Blackstrap. Blue Ribbon was once the source of my favorite burnt ends.

                          1. re: LStaff

                            I meant East Coast Grill, not Redbones. Thanks for the catch.

                            I held off on trying Blackstrap for awhile because of the location. It was worth it though. As a point of reference it is about 5 min past Belle Isle.

                            1. re: Gabatta

                              My son and I really liked Blackstrap, too. We ordered three half-racks of ribs. One was a little dry, but the other two were fantastic. The pulled pork was very good, too. I also thought the sides were generally tasty and well-prepared. Chili mac was fun and tasty, mac and cheese better than average for the area joints but suffered a little from the thirty minute ride back home. I can't remember what we thought of the collards. My vegetarian son liked his bbq mushroom sandwich so there was something for all of us.

                              After one visit, it's tentatively our favorite area place for q. I'm looking forward to checking it out again soon.

                        2. re: jgg13

                          Consistently awesome ribs at blackstrap... they're a dry rubbed rib with a lot of rub. Good smoke rings, lots of flavor. Their sauces are great if you're into em.
                          I've had 2 straight disappointing brisket experiences there though. The only place that I've consistently got fantastic brisket is Lester's in Billerica. They carve it to order, huge fat cap that they trim off when they carve your slice, and you can see the juice running down each slice. I'm trying sweet cheeks tonight, though that doesn't seem quite as traditional.

                        3. re: CarolinaGirl06

                          I was at a party last night catered by Blackstrap and thought they were very good. I had pork ribs, beef burnt ends, and pulled pork. Catering and putting on a steam table is not ideal and I thought the ribs were a little dry...far better today for lunch when I could reheat in a hot oven. Sides, I thought the slaw was ok, liked the potao salad.

                          re the smoking/grilling debate some Q is done in homemade smokers (not hard to make) or Southern Pride and a few others make what we think of as "smoked." There is regional variance about style but in the Carolina's there are a # of well respected Q places that cook over a low fire and slow cook with smoke. I"ve had a quick look at Sweatmans in Holly Hill,SC and they showed me the smoking shed..long room with low heat open grills with whole hogs cooking..and being tended to.

                          http://www.hollyeats.com/NorthCarolli...

                          There are many variations; but the common factor is low heat and slow cooking.. When in TX, beef brisket..Carolina's..pork and when I make it to KY, mutton..It's all good..:

                          )

                          Anyone want to tell the guy on the homepage that he isn't doing bbq?..:)

                          Locally, I like M&M and also Pit Stop in Mattapan..few tables but mostly takeout. Real feel of a small SC BBQ place; which is not surprising because the owner was a Boston firefighter who had moved from SC and ran the place with his wife and young sons. If they're reading, I'm dating myself because the son are probably adults now..:) It's not particularly public transport friendly so I don't go often but really worth a look. Great food and nice people. They use a traditional, commercial smoker. Like most great Southern BBQ, limited hours so call first. My last trip is a year or so ago, and if it's changed...please move to "bum steer" thread..:)

                          1. re: 9lives

                            Hi 9lives,

                            I didn't see your post and just replied to OP about Pit Stop. We finally learned that it was open on Saturdays and went last week - we were usually driving by on Sundays when they are closed. Definitely worth the trip. I'm sure it's on a bus line.

                            1. re: Berheenia

                              Pitstop is open Th-Sat. If there are tables you probably don't want to sit at them, as it's very small cramped and smokey. It's close to my house so we've gone a few times. The meat was way too fatty for us, so haven't been for awile.

                              It's on the Forest Hills-Ashmont bus line and there is a commuter rail station across the street.

                              1. re: Berheenia

                                Glad to hear they're still putting out good Q. I was pretty much a regular about 25 years ago but ditching a car and a wife who often drove nearby..:), ir became a more occassional stop.

                                I should get back by bus or train, but I tend to think of the subway system first, when doing public transportation.

                                Going backe to the party catered by Black Strap, I forgot to mention taht the smoked sausages were also superb..on a par with some of TX's best.

                                My waistline and cardiologist are probably happy I don't live closer to Blackstrap orPit Stop. M&M is at least a good bike ride..:)

                              2. re: 9lives

                                I agree with the Pit Stop rec. I haven't tried some of the places outside of the city but it sounds like there are a couple dishes worth driving to as the phantom would say haha.

                                1. re: 9lives

                                  I agree, that's definitely BBQ.

                                  Not to be pedantic about it... but

                                  The one line definition of BBQ that I got in culinary school, which I think is the most accurate, is meat cooked with indirect heat provided by hot smoke... there are too many other variables and differences in regional technique to get it more specific than that. According to this definition it really doesn't matter if it's a grill or a bathtub covered in foil. As long as it's being cooked with hot smoke, it's technically BBQ... I might add to the end of that, "and it adheres to one or more elements of one of the basic regional styles of BBQ", because the hot smoked teriyaki salmon that they have at the fish counter at whole foods is not BBQ IMHO... but I've seen legit BBQ catfish. I guess the difference would be in the spicing but not all BBQ is spiced. Cold smoked fish, like smoked salmon that you'd put on a bagel, also doesn't qualify....

                                  This is different from what is referred to as 'grilling', which is any food cooked over direct heat on a grill. Like upside down broiling, rather than, essentially smoke braising.

                              3. Drive about 800 miles southwest, where you'd expect to find it.

                                1. Try Mrs. Jones on Dorchester Ave in Dorchester. I love the food, but I am not a Southerner.
                                  Great food, and a majority of the customers are most definitely from down South.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: dmullin699

                                    Don't know how can say that majority of George and Cheryl's are from the south.

                                    But their food is great!