Wildwood BBQ now open in Hadley
I did a writeup a few weeks ago (didn't see this thread otherwise I would have posted in here) and had one of the poorest food experiences in recent memory. The ribs were actually great but the brisket was so overcooked and subsequently had no flavor. The majority of the sides were bland because they weren't seasoned properly. I've read the weirdest things in some peoples writeups on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook. One person said it's 'not your traditional BBQ so don't expect hamburg in your mac and cheese' (WTF?). Another said (I believe on TripAdvisor) that the pulled pork has no crispy edges... again, WTF? I don't think I'd describe bark (if thats what he's referring to) as being a crispy edge. People who say the 'service' is good here also bewilder me. You order the food at the counter and they call you when it's ready and you pick it up. If you want BBQ sauce, you get that yourself too. When you're done you bus your own table. And in my experience, no one checked in and asked how everything was or if they could get us anything. How is that 'service'? There's a difference between a girl being pleasant to you as you put in an order and service. There's no service here by what I feel the definition of service is.
Wildwood BBQ posted to a 'thank you' on their FB page to the authors of their first Yelp reviews and I thought it was suspicious that user Kate C, who lives in New Haven and only reviewed restaurants in that area gave such a glowing 5 star review. I sent her a direct message asking if she knew the owners since it was a little random that she'd make a trek 86 miles north to review a place that was weeks old, or that if it was indeed a legit review, did she at least take pictures that she uploaded of the staff (including the owner), the building, and what looked to be the kitchen area AFTER she ate, so as not to bring any favorable attention/treatment in the interest of a fair review and she responded back defensively, saying I clearly had a vendetta against the restaurant and that I was now harassing her. In short - read the reviews carefully so you can assess the reviewers ulterior motives or level or food knowledge. It's possible this review was legit but my gut is telling me something else.
The owner took issue with my review and sent me a message on Yelp and said I was fair in some parts but that he felt I made it personal when I questioned the pride level of his workers and that I disagreed with some of the reviews of others. I responded as kindly and honestly as I could and he responded back with a few thoughts and ended his message by saying he gave my review one star. Hey, knock the guy who went into more detail than every other review and who did the best to explain why he didn't like the things he did.
I just recently read a writeup in the Hampshire Gazette that said they smoke some of their meats in one big shot and have it last around five days. I sincerely don't know if this common practice but the first thing that comes to mine is the issue of freshness and as someone who does a fair amount of BBQ smoking I can say that the meat certainly doesn't taste as delicious five days later and I'm not sure if any meal for that matter would. I mentioned in my review that I like my pulled pork as is, unsauced, so you can taste the meat and really see the skill of the pitmaster shine through, and that I get suspicious when its come sauced without asking because it can cover up any dryness (whether from the smoking process or how it's held) and now that I know you aren't necessarily getting fresh stuff and that meat surely gets drier the longer it hangs out this is probably true. The owner told me in his Yelp message that the food isn't at the level that it will be yet he clearly has no problem with you paying top dollar for it now, even though you can go 7 minutes further up the road to Bub's and get a meal at it's most expensive option for no more than $15, which includes an unlimited hot and cold bar and drink. Another user recently posted that the ribs were dry in their visit and the owner responded that they switched to a bigger rib and they needed to change the cooking time/temp because they noticed the same thing... so why on earth is that acceptable to still serve a dry piece of meat to a paying customer? They served me dry brisket with the same attitude. It doesn't take a degree from the Culinary Institute of America to know what dried food looks like or feels like to the touch, so as I stated in my review, they either don't care or they don't know! And they charge a premium price! Am I the only one who is outraged by this?!
The owner strikes me as a nice person and you always want to root for a local guy to do well. If you read the Gazette article you will see he quit a good gig to pursue this opportunity and certainly has a lot of money invested so I don't think he outwardly means harm but I have a hard time having sympathy for a business owner if I feel as a customer I'm being taken advantage of and when I see people complaining about dry meat and his responses are in the nature of 'ya we noticed that too but we're fixing it' I ask myself, how can he in good faith still serve it if he knows its not up to snuff?