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Can anyone recommend a great barbecue place? ( Burbs or Philly )

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  1. Fette Sau (fishtown), sweet Lucy's (northeast Philly)

    6 Replies
      1. re: barryg

        Found ALL the food at Fette Sau, which l loved in Brooklyn, to be barely luke warm, a death knell for me.
        Sweet Lucy's was OK, but certainly not awesome.

        Will have to try Blue Belly when back in Phila.

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Deluca what time of day did you go? I did remember seeing a lot of heat lamps. I had some very good (not on the menu yet) burnt ends there that they are considering adding to the menu. And the house made pickles are very good. Brisket was good but a bit fatty for me, and I didnt like their tomato based sauce (didnt try the vinegar based sauce as I did not have any pork.)

          I am curious if your concern about temperature is more likely to happen later during the day?

          1. re: cwdonald

            I had the fattiest most disgusting brisket at Fette Sau but I went the first weekend when they opened. But I hear some people like it that way. And the other stuff I tried there (ribs, beans, pork) were all mediocre.

            I found Sweet Lucy's to be just OK too.

            Percy Street used to be much better. Their most recent menu really leaves BBQ afficonados in the lurch.

            Thank God for Blue Belly!

            1. re: bluehensfan

              That's a shame, I've been to Fette Sau twice and found their brisket, ribs and pulled pork to be all top notch. Not to mention that on a few separate occasions each bartender has managed to throw together a phenomenal Sazerac for me. Good luck with that at any other BBQ place!

            2. re: cwdonald

              Were there right at opening with 6 people, chicken was hot, but l didn't have chicken.

        2. Great bbq above the Mason Dixon line is hard to find.

          Four very good bbq places in Philadelphia proper are

          Fette Sau (Fishtown)
          Percys (Old City)
          Sweet Lucys (NE Philly) Sweet Lucys does a bbq buffet that is AYCE on Mondays.
          Blue Belly (Have not been here, but some on the board think its the best bbq in the city right now... )

          Bubba's Texas BBQ also in fishtown is liked by some. The owner just landed a show on Foodnetwork.

          Depending on how far you are willing to travel in the burbs there are quite a few options. Are you looking for ribs, pork, chicken, brisket, sausage, burnt ends?

          14 Replies
          1. re: cwdonald

            Bubba left Bubbas when he got the show. I love their wings and I like the place as a bar, but I tried the BBQ once and it was weak. Their sandwiches sound like they might be good but I just keep getting the wings.

            1. re: cwdonald

              Please list the burbs options just in case I've missed one cw.

              1. re: cwdonald

                CW, your first sentence nails it! Had the good fortune( good fortune?) to be transfered to North Carolina for a couple of years and found some great BBQ in that area although I am not a big fan of the vinegar based sauce the dry rub offerings with self selected sauces were often great! Nothing that I have ever had "up north" comes close.

                1. re: Bacchus101

                  Yes they know something south and west that we here don't. I don't eat BBQ but my family and friends are BBQ lovers and they say Tex, Tenn and the Carolinas do it best!

                  1. re: Bacchus101

                    Oh my gosh Bacchus, I lived in Raleigh for a coupla years and I hated the NC bbq sandwich on a bun with slaw the first time I tried it. But my friend kept ordering and I kept trying it and now what I wouldn't do for a real NC bbq sandwich. I don't even want to think about the pig pickin' I attended. /swoon
                    I also have lived in various sections of the Miami area and Gainesville FL. Gainesville great bbq Miami area not so much. There was this shack that served bbq goat sandwiches and not much else in Gainesville. Yum yum.

                    1. re: givemecarbs

                      They do love there BBQ in Raleigh. I also became "educated" to the NC BBQ although not a first choice for me. Never spent much time in Memphis but enough to visit a few of the "biggies" in the ongoing BBQ battle in that city. Damn I loved them all. Not really sure of the names of the types but who cares when one is chomping one down. Never been to a pig pickin but I can envision it clearly. The local feeding frenzy which I found bizarre was a fish fry at a cabin/restaurant in a country grove. UGH!

                  2. re: cwdonald

                    Jim's in Frazer
                    Phamous Phil's in Evansburg

                    1. re: Chefmonty

                      Phamous Phils is the best we've found in the area. We're headed to NC in April for the Ford Mustang 50th Anniversary extravaganza and plan on eating lots of good BBQ! Can't wait. :)

                    2. re: cwdonald

                      Just FYI, Percy Street is on South Street. Old City's local BBQ source is Khyber Pass Pub.

                      1. re: gina

                        Does Kyber smoke in-house? I've enjoyed their fried chicken, but I make it a personal rule never to order barbecue at a place that does not have a stack of wood on premises...

                        1. re: MainLiner

                          Hmm...to be quite honest, I don't think I've ever noticed stacks of wood at any BBQ joint I've ever been to! Too busy looking at my food, I guess. Lol

                          I live on the street behind Khyber, and haven't noticed wood being delivered or smelled wood smoke. This doesn't necessarily mean anything, though. I was told that the former Q around the corner from Khyber did in fact have a smoker, but again, never saw or smelled wood.

                          So, to answer your question, I don't know for sure. I feel like I heard at some point that they did, but can't confirm.

                          1. re: gina

                            I can't recall if the Tequila BBQ around the corner had a smoker or not. I know The Fogo de Chao was forced to use gas. Most of the Fogos I have visited have been out West, and standalone, so they cooked over wood. Huge difference. There must be ordinances in Philly about live fire... Blue Smoke in Battery Park, NY built a 40 foot smoke stack...

                            1. re: MainLiner

                              Q which was the former Philly Fish Co definitely had a smoker. Have no idea about Khyber, but to be honest, the food that attracts me there these days is the N'Orleans style food rather than the 'cue.

                              1. re: cwdonald

                                The residents of the Academy House clearly knew that the Smoked Joint had a smoker :)

                      1. re: waking1

                        +1 for Zachary's! The whole BBQ chicken is heavenly!!! And nice, homemade sides.

                      2. A bit of a drive, but there is Henri's Hotts in South Jersey...


                        1. I've been looking for some awesome beef ribs. Does anyone do those anymore?

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Misha

                            You might try fette sau. I didnt have them but the person i dined with last time I was there had them. They are quite big, almost resembling something out of the Flintstones.


                            1. re: cwdonald

                              Will do; thanks. And yep, lol. Heard they're sometimes called Dinosaur bones. REAL glad they're not extinct.

                              And darn. I'm busy this Sunday, too, but will keep an eye out for 2014. Sounds like a great time for a worthy cause.

                              1. re: Misha

                                Some of the meat selection rotates at FS. Not sure if the website is kept up to date about current selections.

                                If you think beef ribs are big you should try bison ribs. I had some of these out in Wyoming.

                                1. re: barryg

                                  I think I had boar ribs years ago at the Half Moon in Kennett...

                            2. re: Misha

                              Beef ribs are pretty hard to find in most BBQ joints. Not sure why.

                              1. re: MainLiner

                                The southwest is where one will most often find BBQ Beef ribs. A staple at Texas BBQs. In the south it is most often PIG.

                                1. re: Bacchus101

                                  Very true, and if you want to try something really different mutton bbq is very good. Owensboro, KY is the mecca for it. I have found lamb ribs on the menu at places like Fiorella Jack's Stack and Gates BBQ in Kansas City.

                                  With regard to Beef ribs in the Philadelphia area, Fette Sau definitely has had them. BarryG pointed out they may not be on the menu all the time.

                                  1. re: cwdonald

                                    Used to take a trip to Owensboro every couple of years, mutton is so my favorite.

                            3. If you want to try a variety of the city's bbq while contributing to charity, mark Aug 13 on your calendar:


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: gaffk

                                Whoa, it's actually this weekend, on the 3rd!


                                I thought it was unusual they were having it on a Tuesday this year. :)

                                1. re: oliviasaru

                                  Wow, that's a pretty big error by uwishunu (and tells you how closely I looked at the calendar).

                                  Big bummer as I already have plans for this Saturday.

                              2. If you are in the Main Line, Barbacoa in Ardmore is great, and very reasonable. Excellent Peruvian chicken ala Brasa as well as the standards. Brisket is excellent. I am also a fan of Zachary's in Norristown. Good homemade stuff and interesting sauces.

                                1. Sweet Lucy's and El Camino Real are good. I like Sweet Lucy's a bi better. Neither is as good as some of the Southern BBQ I had, but they are sufficient.

                                  1. I realize chains are unpopular on Chow, but truthfully, you can get some pretty decent 'cue at any one of the Famous Dave's outlets. They smoke meat over wood for a long time at low temperatures. This is not rocket science, and does not require the chef be born in Memphis, Kansas City or a shack near Raleigh. They have an interesting selection of sauces, and though the sides may not stack up to a local mom and pop purveyor, will get you through a BBQ craving. They also sell beer and liquor which if consumed in sufficient quantities will significantly enhance your dining experience. I have had much worse BBQ at roadside shacks in Virginia/NC/SC/Georgia etc. than at this chain.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: MainLiner

                                      You got it right on the birth requirements! Thanks for the tip on Famous Dave's; seems famous it a hackney adjective in the BBQ world. Never heard of Dave's but I will definitely google locations on your advice as your stated experience does indeed qualify you as a BBQ guy.

                                      1. re: Bacchus101

                                        There used to be a (IN)Famous Dave's in Center City but it closed. There is one on the Boulevard north of Grant Ave, and there is one on 202 in Wilmington. I have eaten at the one on 202 several times as it was fast and convenient but certainly not due to its quality. I am not a fan of the KC style sauce, their is a distinct lack of smoke flavor in their meats, and they have real consistency issues overall.

                                        1. re: cwdonald

                                          I thought there is a Famous Dave's on Delaware Ave in South Philly. It's just ok if you ask me...

                                      2. re: MainLiner

                                        <you can get some pretty decent 'cue at any one of the Famous Dave's outlets.>

                                        I agree. I have been to Famous Dave's a few time (5-7 times), and they are mostly good. Once awhile, the BBQ is off, but majority of my experience has been great there. It is not as good as some of the best, but it is definitely good -- way above average. In fact, I don't think Famous Dave's is any worse than Sweet Lucy's. I am actually a bit more used to Famous Dave's style of barbecue. Thanks for bringing this up.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          I actually like some of the BBQ from Famous Dave's better than Sweet Lucy's.


                                          1. re: bluehensfan

                                            Same here which is why I really appreciate MainLiner for bring this up. On the other hand, I have only been to Sweet Lucy's twice.... so it may be unfair for me to pass a final judgement. I find both charming, but there are a few things I like more about Famous Dave's.

                                            1) More choices on the barbecue sauce
                                            2) The meat comes without the sauce on them. I really like this.
                                            3) I can ask for chopped pork instead of pulled pork. I am very used to chopped pork from my years living in Georgia.

                                            One thing I don't like about Famous Dave's is that I cannot just buy the barbecue to go (like buying a pound or two).

                                      3. Barbecue and consistency are two words which just don't belong together. If you've ever cooked a few hundred briskets of the same size at the same temp with the same wood and wondered why some are done in 8 hours and other require 14, you know what I'm talking about. It's hard to do good cue at volume, and the ethics of the manager dictate whether or not your meal is out of the smoker or reheated from three days ago. Whenever possible, I try to ask for the pitmaster's recommendation and may pick the ribs, or brisket or pulled pork accordingly. A chain like Famous Dave's may be less likely to give you that option, but there's no harm in asking the waitress. If you get the "It's all good" reply, they probably don't care, and you're rolling the dice.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: MainLiner

                                          <Barbecue and consistency are two words which just don't belong together.>

                                          Yeah, this is why 90% of experience of Famous Dave's has been great, but sometime it is off. There is just something cannot be controlled.

                                        2. I really like to get my Cue without sauce (assuming there has been dry rub applied.) That way I can sauce it to my liking. All too often a gloppy high-fructose corn syrup sauce can hide pretty skanky core product. I do like all kinds of sauces from the NC Vinegar and pepper flake up to the sweet and sticky KC style (especially when it has been caramelized over fire.) All too often the sauces are overdosed with liquid smoke to disguise the fact the meat spent more time in an industrial oven than bathing in hickory or oak...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: MainLiner

                                            <(assuming there has been dry rub applied.)>


                                            < All too often the sauces are overdosed with liquid smoke>


                                          2. Stopped at Percy St. the other day for some takeout. Got some brisket and a pulled pork sandwich. The pork was okay but preferred the brisket. Seemed to have more depth of flavor.

                                            What was surprising, though, was that they had no ribs that day. And couldn't have run out since I got there not longer after they opened. A BBQ joint without ribs? Unacceptable!

                                            14 Replies
                                            1. re: Misha

                                              Curious what day of the week you went Misha. If you went early, I am wondering if the ribs were not done yet? Or has the summer doldrums but a big limit to the food they providing.

                                              1. re: Misha

                                                <A BBQ joint without ribs? Unacceptable!>

                                                It is not that unacceptable. I know many places do not have ribs.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I was born and raised in NC and I've never eaten rib at a bbq place down there. I'm not sure I've even seen them offered on a menu (nor have I seen anything described as "pulled pork" on a menu)

                                                  1. re: caganer

                                                    <I was born and raised in NC and I've never eaten rib at a bbq place down there.>

                                                    I was not born in the South, but I have lived in Georgia for years, and have been to other southern states. In my experience, 30-50% of the BBQ joints do not offer ribs. The larger ones almost always do, but the small ones often do not, and many of them are very good despite that they don't have ribs.

                                                    Now, all of them offer pork at least in the few Southern states I have been too.. :)

                                                    <anything described as "pulled pork" on a menu>

                                                    I have seen the term here and there. A lot of time, they are just described as "pork".

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      I stand corrected. I guess my experience up North has been BBQ=ribs, especially when it's listed on a menu. But, point taken.

                                                      1. re: Misha

                                                        <I stand corrected. I guess my experience up North has been BBQ=ribs,>

                                                        I think you are correct. I now live in the North(east), and it seems that several barbecue places here are heavily judged based on their ribs. I have heard many people here say "This is a really nice barbecue place. It makes great ribs"

                                                        I often ate alone, so this gave me plenty opportunities to talk to the staffs. Years ago, I got to be friendly with a BBQ owner/manager in Georgia, and he was telling me a lot of stories. One time, he told me that he have seen old timers coming into his restaurant and simply ordered "barbecue". He would ask what kind of barbecue? The old folks would reply "What do you mean? Of course, it is pork."

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          "Barbecue" is interpreted differently by region. In the North (where it doesn't count) it means grilling over fire. In NC, i probably means a whole pig to purists. Texas it means beef (brisket and maybe beef ribs.) Kansas City is pretty open. California it is tri-tip, etc.

                                                          I love it ALL!! I don't care where it comes from or if it's goat or alligator. My only criterion is that it's meat cooked on fire .. briquettes will do .. hardwood is better, but NO parboiling. It has to be kissed by smoke.

                                                          1. re: MainLiner

                                                            I think if you look at the areas that are known for ribs, you would have to say that Texas is known for beef ribs with a dry rub and a mopping sauce, kansas city certainly for spare ribs with the tomato based sauce, St Louis for their spin on ribs, Memphis for the vinegar meets brown sugar for pork ribs. And throw in the rapidly disappearing kentucky/tennessee (especially owensboro ky) for lamb ribs. So it is both the type of ribs and how they are prepared that distinguishes the cue. I just don't like something to be called cue if its a sysco product that has previously been run under the broiler with bbq sauce on it to give it a glaze. They are ribs for sure.. but not cue.

                                                            1. re: cwdonald

                                                              I was in St. Louis once for a week and could not find ribs anywhere. I am convinced it is more the cut (with the diaphragm muscle removed.)

                                                              1. re: MainLiner

                                                                I think the rule used to be that you had to go to bad parts of town for good ribs in St Louis. Now I do not think that is the case. Look at this article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch on 3 joints in STL named as top 20 in ribs in the Nation.


                                                                Real question is: does anyone in Philly area do St Louis style ribs.

                                                                1. re: cwdonald

                                                                  It was probably 10 years ago .. When ever it was the Cardinals lost the World Series.. :( At the time the whole TOWN was the "bad part of town." Pretty high rate of muggings. I did even cross the river to EAST St. Louis and didn't see any BBQ joints. I think BBQ has grown everywhere since then. You can find some good joints even in Manhattan today. So I still maintain St. Louis STYLE ribs refer to the cut and not a cooking technique. Most BBQ joints these days sell St. Louis cuts. I have never seen a real 'cue house sell baby backs. I think those all go to places like Chili's, and sports bars.

                                                                  1. re: MainLiner

                                                                    While I agree that St Louis Style ribs may refer to the cut, there is also a distinct sub group that combines both the cut and the sauce representing St Louis ribs. The sauce is different than the KC based sauces. You raise an interesting question about how they ribs are cooked. That's not something I had even considered...

                                                                  2. re: cwdonald

                                                                    Interesting Wikipedia article. Says St. Louis tend to GRILL it's ribs as opposed to smoke them. A legitimate technique I guess. Also, as it says, Pork Steak was what I saw on all the menus. It was pretty good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Loui...

                                                              2. re: MainLiner

                                                                < It has to be kissed by smoke.>


                                                  2. I learned today, The Lucky Well (in Ambler) will be opening very soon. Chad plans to announce the opening date in the next week or so. I also saw they will be serving ribs......

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: crazyspice

                                                      Mo' bbq Mo' bbq! Hit Jesse's in Souderton again today. Not literally but I did miss it on the first pass and then remembered to park up top. There is a special white line to mark where to walk down to the joint and I advise my fellow hounds to stay between the lines lest they be crushed by bbq mad soudertonites zooming down the driveway.
                                                      We hit a sweet spot around five thirty pm where they had dinner sides and no wait for the smoked wings yet the place had not yet filled up. I got the asian smoked wings and I'm so glad I got a full portion rather than the half I was considering. I was surprised and delighted to find cooked red cabbage as one of the sides. I got the cabbage, corn bread and garlic mashed washed down with their fine on draft root beer.
                                                      John got the brisket platter with mac and cheese, two snickerdoos and some sort of berry crumb cake. We ate out on the deck and the radio was playing country music. There was a bizarre moment when the announcer warned against the health angers of charred meat on the grill. And to think I almost got the burnt ends.
                                                      I did do one really stupid thing. The table was sturdy and wrought iron and I managed to drip bbq sauce from the succulent wings through the holes and onto myself. Doh! I really can't wait to go back for more wings.