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Southern Barbecue in Boston? Oxymoron?

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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?

    -----
    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.

      -----
      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.

          -----
          Formaggio Kitchen
          244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

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

            -----
            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.

                -----
                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.

                        -----
                        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!

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      A third vote for Mrs Jones.

                                  2. Have you tried M&M Ribs yet?

                                    http://mandmribs.com

                                    In Roxbury, at 102 Hampden St., and also at SoWa market sometimes.

                                    Really good ribs - best I've had in Boston, and I think their bbq sauce is superior to Red Bones and Blue Ribbon.

                                    15 Replies
                                    1. re: Dave MP

                                      Just to be pedantic though, M&M ribs aren't actually BBQ. Some folks don't care but just in case the OP does.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        What style is M&M? Is it a Korean barbecue rib or something altogether different?

                                        1. re: bfkirk

                                          They're grilled ribs coated with bbq sauce. I'm not knocking them, they are good, they're just not BBQ.

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            "not BBQ" is like saying "not pretty". It's a matter of taste. Growing up in NC, anything that isn't pulled pork in vinegar is "not BBQ". New Englanders call hot dogs and hamburgers BBQ. It's a silly thing to argue about (or it's a fun thing to argue about as long as you agree that it's a matter of opinion, not fact.)

                                            1. re: bobot

                                              It's not smoked, and in pretty much all the major BBQ regions of the country smoke is a required part of the equation even if they might argue as to which bits of which animals are the proper ones.

                                              Anyways, to go back to my first post on the matter, I said I was just putting it out there as some people really do care about such things and IMO if someone is asking for "southern style bbq" they probably do. We yankees get a bad enough rep for Q as it is, sending someone who really isn't looking for grilled ribs to a grilled rib place only hurts us more :)

                                              1. re: jgg13

                                                As a native of NC, I object to the word "we" in your post, even if I otherwise agree! =)

                                                1. re: bobot

                                                  Haha, touche! :)

                                              2. re: bobot

                                                That's like saying that surimi (fake crab) and crab are both "crab." Sure, in the right context, you can't complain about being served surimi when you order "crab," but it's still pretty clear what is meant by "real crab."

                                                Real bbq needs smoke, and for tough cuts of meat, long cook time. No smoke, fast cooking? That's grilling. The difference is pretty clear, colloquial usage notwithstanding.

                                                1. re: emannths

                                                  IMO, slow smoked barbeque is just a subset in the world of barbeque - although a wonderfully tasty subset.

                                                  1. re: LStaff

                                                    True, I supposed. But "American BBQ" (or US-English "bbq") is slow smoked, no? I'll grant that ex-USA cuisines use the word to mean a whole host of different (and often just-as-specific) things.

                                                    As usual with food and terminology, it's all about context--if you can figure out what you're getting, the term doesn't matter too much (i.e., no one would go looking for a smoke ring on a "bbq hamburger" at a pub).

                                                  2. re: emannths

                                                    The ribs at M&M ribs aren't smoked? I thought they were....and apparently I am not the only one who thought this: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/440531. Isn't that a big smoker they have next to their truck?

                                                    Regardless, the restaurant certainly describes itself as "BBQ" and they have ribs, chicken, pulled pork and pulled brisket. Also lots of sides: collard greens, candied yams, mac&cheese, etc. If we're talking about places that compare to Blue Ribbon and Redbones, then I think M&M should definitely be included in the list

                                                    -----
                                                    Redbones
                                                    55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                                                    1. re: Dave MP

                                                      Maybe they've changed but I am pretty sure he just cooks them over charcoal. Granted there's smoke involved with charcoal, but that's not what's really meant by "smoking".

                                                    2. re: emannths

                                                      How do you grill without smoke? Dripping animal fats+hot coals=smoke.

                                                      1. re: Naco

                                                        Well, for one, you can grill over gas or electric elements instead of open coals (much to the chagrin of most grillmasters). How you build your fire, prep and place your meat also can minimize smoke.

                                                        But of course I mean using the smoke of hardwood that's being burned in an oxygen-limited atmosphere to impart smoke flavor to meat.

                                                        1. re: emannths

                                                          Charcoal imparts smoke flavor, and you can grill with hardwood just as easily as you can charcoal. The difference is cook temp and length of cook. Although I'm not a big fan of "smoking/ed" as a term. People get all bent out of shape about it and overformalize it.

                                          2. Positive reports going for Larry J's House of Q in Chelsea. Appears to be a Texas-style theme to the menu, but can't be sure, as it seems to be doing other styles too, not atypical for bbq joints up here. Anybody know what kinda rig & setup Larry's got going ?

                                            http://www.larryjs.com/

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: Nab

                                              Just heard about this place. Not too far from work. Will check out soon and report.

                                              1. re: joth68

                                                So it seems Larry J is up and moving to D Street (Waterfront), across from LTK. Which puts them into our "we can get there" ballpark.

                                                http://boston.eater.com/archives/2012...

                                                Any idea when they might be opening? Any reports on how good they were? What they are best at?

                                                1. re: L2k

                                                  Going to try this on Friday for lunch

                                                  1. re: typhoonfish

                                                    Good! Report back please!

                                                    1. re: typhoonfish

                                                      So? How was it?

                                                      1. re: L2k

                                                        There is no menu online. So I called in at 11am last Friday and asked him what he had. He said "pretty much everything basic" from his old location in Chelsea.

                                                        At 11:30 am I attempted to place an office worth of food orders in for him. "nope, don't have that." "nope don't have that". After the 3rd menu request that he didn't have I said "thanks but no thanks, this is a disaster. Have a nice day".

                                                        If you want to eat there, you have to show up and see what limited menu he has that day. Don't call in.

                                                        That's my review of Larry Js house of Q at the seaport.

                                              2. My family and I recently went to Hampton, NH and happened upon Porkez BBQ Pig Pen and were pleased with the bbq there. There's a smoker right out front and the meat was delicious - obviously smoked and not just grilled. We had a combo platter with beef brisket, two kinds of pork ribs, a beef rib, pulled pork. The ribs had been finished off on the grill. We got the meat dry - and added extra sauce ourselves. Note: there was chicken breast included on the combo platter - which was grilled, not smoked. Sides were ok. I know it's a little ways from Boston, but it's really just over the border on route 1 and if you're up there to go to the beach, I think it's worth going to.

                                                I would also agree with the post that stated bbq is different all over the south. I've had a variety of bbq - mostly in the midwest, Texas, and Kentucky, and each place had a different take on bbq - and the sauces were oh so different too.

                                                http://porkezbbqpigpen.com/menu.html

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: nlg

                                                  As a comment on your last point, that's one of my beliefs as to why NE bbq is so terrible. Most shops will try to represent all/most of the major regional styles and do it poorly (typically due to having to dumb things down for the audience here) instead of doing one style Really Well.

                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                    Actually, I question the wisdom of bothering. Real BBQ is a speciality of places where overhead (land, labor, et cet.) was low, so the cost of time was low, as it were. Boston is so not one of those places, so the need to compromise and cut corners is high. I mean, it might be different in, say, Aroostook County, but in metro Boston, the exigencies of cost-management do not augur well for good Q. And it's high time we started modulating our expectations accordingly and not expect to get great Q in restaurants here.

                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      I agree with you and understand that. I'm not necessarily advocating that a place masters one particular style in a highly authentic manner, I just think that the lack of doing that is a big factor in why most Q joints here suck. If I were to open my own shop and had making money as the primary goal, I'd also likely be pan-style and dumbed down, it's what puts the fannies in the seats as they say.

                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                        Just like the oceans of mediocre-to-somewhat-good Italian food we swim in....because that's what sells. Just keep the portions big, right?

                                                        Aside from the cost issue, the other issue is that we don't have enough of a demanding audience here whose spurning of mediocre Q would make an instructive difference. (Then again, I am quite sure there must be plenty of mediocre Q from Lexington NC to Memphis TN to Texas, et cet.)

                                                      2. re: Karl S

                                                        Disagree. Upstate NY has terrific BBQ. NYC now has very good BBQ. It's not the thing here. There may be no reason other than that.

                                                        I can understand part of it. Some of the regional specialties are just that: regional. It's not that NC pulled pork with a vinegar sauce can't be made here but that there's not much of a market for it. (Speaking as someone with a lot of family in NC, having eaten a lot of BBQ there, I'd agree: it's not what I want if I'm choosing something to eat.) Most people will eat pulled pork, but they don't want NC BBQ.

                                                        Most places here cook ribs and then reheat them with sauce all over. This means you need a killer sauce and that is lacking. Sauces here tend to be sweet - to me, too much KC influence - and I think my tastes aren't that weird. Not many people around here have eaten dry rub ribs, which I prefer, or simple slow cooked meat in the Texas style.

                                                        I think a factor is that covering stuff in sweet sauce is easy. The sauce covers a multitude of sins, including mediocre technique. But it tends to be very sweet.

                                                        For a while, I thought East Coast Grill might lead the way but we lack a big restaurant that sets a standard for the others in town to emulate. We need something that raises the level of the game. Send someone to Lockhart, TX to work for a few years.

                                                        I'd say the same thing about chicken wings. Eat them in upstate NY and you know what it's about. They're made better. It's not the ambience or the sense of place - like French terroir. It's that they aren't made as well here. Maybe someone needs to apprentice in Buffalo.

                                                        -----
                                                        East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
                                                        1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                        1. re: lergnom

                                                          Upstate NY has lower overhead costs (I am very familiar with western NY on this score).

                                                          NYC has volume to compensate for higher overhead costs.

                                                          Boston has neither. Lower volume plus high overhead.

                                                  2. CND's in Wakefield is quite good. Very accommodating and helpful owners.

                                                    1. Any updates on when Sweet Cheeks BBQ will open in the Fenway?

                                                      1. Try The Pit Stop on Morton St in Mattapan. Open Thurs, Fri and Sat 11 am until midnight. Big selection and great sides. 617-436-0485. Very welcoming staff and great prices.

                                                        1. Its not like you can't get really good bbq in the immediate area - just that the planets and stars all have to align to experience it - or increase your chances not giving up on a place and keep going back to places that usually do ok and have the potential for greatness. BBQ in the area is very inconsistent - even from plate to plate on any given day - and each place does some things better than others imo. I've had wonderfully tender, juicy, and smoky brisket from Redbones, phenomenal pulled pork from Blue ribbon (on more than one occasion), perfectly smoked ribs from Soul Fire, and awesomely smoky and perfectly textured ribs and brisket from Lester's. But I've also had abominations of slow smoked bbq at each place too, but usually it just falls somewhere in between which isn't all that horrible. To me bbq is like pizza and sex, even when its mediocre, its good, and when its great - wow!!

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: LStaff

                                                            I can get behind this. I've had good stuff even at places which are panned regularly by Q experts and I've had mediocre stuff at places that get raves - although the former joints are more likely to turn out something mediocre and the latter something good.

                                                            And to echo your sentiment, I generally like even "bad" bbq - which is why I'm somewhat annoyed at myself for starting this subthread :)

                                                            1. re: LStaff

                                                              Totally agree - BBQ is very hard execute consistently, and I have had transcendental awesome, and unbelievably bad barbecue from the places you mention (as well as fireflys). My biggest gripe with it is lack of freshness - when I get something on my plate with no smokering, or a dull brown one, that tastes like what I imagine a porkfat candle would taste like, I get very sad. I would rather be served meat that is still a little chewy, than something that's been reheated a bunch of times, or just sitting around.

                                                            2. Wow, this thread on BBQ in Boston has literally spread all over the map. Some quick thoughts, some of which have already been covered:

                                                              1. Gotta agree with multiple posters that BT's (Sturbridge) is the best in eastern New England right now, based on consistency, creativity and execution. But Southern? Not really. I just dig the smokiness, the over-the-top flavor and the originality.

                                                              2. More so than even pizza, barbecue opinions vary widely based on styles, as pointed out in the first response by emannths. Some arguments over whether a place is good are based more on style (see M&M) than execution.

                                                              3. That said, M&M is open pit and is therefore not smoked. Whether you want to call them "barbecue" is pure semantics, but I prefer a smoked product. Although M&M isn't smoked and isn't my cup of tea, they're sometimes pretty good. CnDs isn't smoked and isn't anywhere close to good.

                                                              4. The other variable on top of style is consistency, as brought up by LStaff. "On any given Sunday' any barbecue joint can have a good day or a bad day. I'm looking for a little more consistency out of Blackstrap, but on their good days they are very good (on their worst days they're still pretty good). Not afraid to bust out the flavor. SoulFire is a little lighter on the flavor but very consistent for texture and freshness.

                                                              5. [self serving alert] For a useful guide to all the joints mentioned and hundreds more in the Northeast USA, with photos aplenty, check out http://www.pigtrip.net. Even if you don't agree with the stated opinions and tastes, you'll get a good idea of what each joint offers and be able to form your own opinion. (Blue Ribbon and Redbones reviews are due for updates that'll be bumped down a peg or two to reflect recent slippage.)

                                                              )

                                                              6. Getting back to the OP, "Southern BBQ" is a wide open term that means many things to many people. If a morphing of soulfood and barbecue is sought, I'd pick Mrs. Jones first, Coast Cafe (Cambridge) second, M&M third, Pit Stop fourth. But for "most Southern" I'd probably go with M&M.

                                                              -----
                                                              Redbones
                                                              55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                                                              1. In my experience the best way to get my fill of bbq has been to learn how to make it myself. Take pork BBQ for instance -- do a simple rub, grill it on low heat with some wood chips, and you'll beat Redbones or Blue Ribbon any day. I know this isn't what you're looking for, but oftentimes the lack of availability of food is the best motivator for learning how to cook.

                                                                -----
                                                                Redbones
                                                                55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: rysilva

                                                                  Very true - and not a bad way to while away 8-24 hours whilst getting blasted in your backyard.

                                                                  1. re: nsenada

                                                                    Has anyone tried New England Barbecue and Catering in Canton Mass? The proprietors are successful competition pit masters. They had some very good barbecue when they worked the Kitchen at the Red Rose Cafe in Weymouth, but left there to start this business. They offer barbecue most days until 7PM most days. I haven't yet made it down there to check them out.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Red Rose Cafe
                                                                    800 Broad St, Weymouth, MA 02189

                                                                2. I am surprised, no one has even mentioned Firefly's BBQ. They have two locations Marlborough and a hidden gem in Framingham. They just redid their menu and added Burnt Ends. They smoke daily and the ribs have never tasted better. We love the Combos there, mix and match your meat with sides. I enjoy the St. Louis Ribs.. nice smoke ring, just enough sauce on them so your hands are messy, but the ribs aren't dripping wet. I've learned to wear stretchy pants and embrace it all.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ChloeM

                                                                    I went once 3-4 years ago and wasn't impressed enough to go back. Didn't like the charring on the reheat which dominated the flavor of the meat - maybe because I asked for the ribs without sauce. But will try again the next time I'm in the area - (still asking for the ribs without sauce though).

                                                                    1. re: ChloeM

                                                                      Firefly's is solid. Always enjoy the food, but have never once said WOW, like I have at some of the newer or smaller joints around town.

                                                                      1. re: L2k

                                                                        I have had remarkably good spare ribs there on a couple of occasions - great bark, not destroyed on the grill, and you can get them unsauced. On the other hand, I have had a number of less than awesome experiences there too, ranging from spare ribs that were from the "all bone" end, that were also on the elderly side, and inadvertent babybacks (I only ever order spare ribs there). The service is great, though, and they are a great option for groups containing people that don't want barbecue (their selection is massive).

                                                                    2. I've read reports here that Lester's Roadside on Route 3 in Burlington is inconsistent. I can't comment on that since this weekend marked my first visit, but I will say that the brisket I had on Saturday is the best I've had since moving away from Texas, and that includes the ones I smoke myself.

                                                                      Perfectly trimmed fat cap, perfectly sliced (none of that foolish 1.5-inch-thick slices idiocy you see at Sweet Cheeks or Soulfire), assertive but not overpowering smoke, nice seasoning...really just completely ideal brisket.

                                                                      Good-not-great beans and mac and cheese, genuinely bad potato salad (they were going for al dente, which is fine, but some pieces were downright crunchy), excellent sweet tea. Can't want to go back and try the smoked sausage and other meats!

                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                        I'm in the minority here, but I haven't found Lester's to be very inconsistent with the exception of having a little too much vinegar in the pulled pork a couple of times a while back.

                                                                        Their family sandwich pack for four is an excellent value. It's $24.99 and includes a full quart of pulled pork or chicken or chopped beef, when most places give you a pint. Makes great leftovers for chilaquiles.

                                                                        Great to know about the brisket. That's high praise coming from you and defintely on the list for next time.

                                                                        1. re: bear

                                                                          That's awesome to know about the sandwich pack! Now to find a little picnic spot near there for summer...

                                                                        2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                          Have you had the brisket at BT's? Their mac & cheese is fabulous, as is their sweet tea.

                                                                          1. re: CookieLee

                                                                            Just had it last week (the brisket) and it was the best I have had in New England. The mac and cheese was very good too, as you pointed out

                                                                            1. re: CookieLee

                                                                              +1 Cookie on BT - it is the only barbecue I've found worth wasting calories on other than what I make at home. It could be proximity but right now I rate their ribs the best I've had, south or North.

                                                                            2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                              I've been to Lesters at least a dozen times in the last few years and for the meats I like there - the ribs and brisket - usually range from B- to B+ and very rarely A to A+. Smoke levels vary which has an impact on quality imo. Portion sizes are really inconsistent - I started speaking up when watching the guy cut the meat after getting a 2 meat combo platter once that had 4 ribs the size of my pinky finger that were dried out and 3 small slices of brisket. They are consistent with the sides though - including the potato salad. ;-)

                                                                              1. re: LStaff

                                                                                Interesting point about the portion sizes. We got sandwiches (one sliced, one chopped) and both had as much meat as we could eat on them. Plus he comped us an extra side when I expressed an interest in trying the beans. So all that and two fine sweet teas with lemon for $20.07 felt like the bargain of the week.

                                                                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                  Bumping up an old thread to report that having now eaten at both BTs and Lester's within a couple of weeks of each other -- two different meals at BTs, as a matter of fact -- I remain entirely confident that the brisket at Lester's is better than the brisket at BTs to the same extent that the Beatles were better than Herman's Hermits. BTs' brisket is entirely adequate but nothing special: better than Soulfire or Blue Ribbon, less good than what I can do with a lazy weekend day and my Weber bullet. Lester's brisket is moist, succulent, intensely meaty and perfectly smoked. Sides are better at BTs, but if brisket is your baseline of a good barbecue place, go to Burlington, not Sturbridge.

                                                                            3. From one reformed Southerner to another, Southern Style BBQ does exist just north of Boston at a little place in Lawrence called Three Dogz Diner. Stumbled upon this place through another CH post, I can honestly say that after growing up in Florida with Sonny's BBQ these folks at the diner do a great job with the Q. They have Brisket, Pork, Turkey and Ribs rubbed with their own recipe and served with homemade sauce on the side.

                                                                              1. So we went to Larry J's in his new location on Friday.

                                                                                You remember Friday, right? 95 degrees, humid, etc etc? We were picking up friends in Southie at 6:45, but made good time through the TWT and scouted out the site ahead of time so we would be able to make a beeline over there for dinner. Found the joint, in that little splash of green to the left of Morton's, and to the right of LTK and the Renaissance Hotel.

                                                                                Here, if you must: https://maps.google.com/?ll=42.348597...

                                                                                Even in that part of Boston, right on the water, the thermometer on the car said 94 degrees, and we realized we would be eating out of doors.

                                                                                Picked up our friends found a meter on D Street just beyond the Westin, and walked across to the restaurant. There was a nice breeze, so it felt more comfortable than the temperature suggested.

                                                                                There's a window on the left (LTK) side to order at, and a handwritten menu (how long have they been there?) with no prices on it. Asked, "sandwiches are mostly $8, entrees are around $15" (sure about sandwiches, not certain about entrees). "extra sides are $1). Full rack of ribs was $22, half rack was either $12 or $14. They also do 1/4 rack.

                                                                                No chicken on the menu (and brisket was crossed out), so wife got a turkey leg (not Disney sized) for $8, and some good cole slaw. I got the half rack, friends got a full rack (they wanted leftovers) and a pulled pork sandwich. Food was ready in under 10 minutes (plenty of outdoor seating), and we brought it to our table. Ribs and PP sammy came with small containers of decent BBQ sauce (kind of runny).

                                                                                We all agreed. The food was tasty. But it wasn't so good as to require a return. We did not see as smoke ring on the ribs, nor was a smoker (or the smell of a smoker) present.

                                                                                Larry was there and was very friendly. We suggested he needs to update his website (even offered to help, as one of us (not me) is an expert at this). He agreed that he is working on this, but it is taking time.

                                                                                It's a great inexpensive option in a very expensive dining area. But I won't be going out of my way to visit again.

                                                                                1. Kudos for this post-- I'm a Boston transplant living in Georgia for military service and when I come home I like to still have some sweet tea and some good bbq..and some to die for mac and cheese, banana pudding, collards and the like :). Thank you for posting this!