Below is a transcript of a live online panel discussion on barbecue places in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England, which took place on Thursday, July 21, 2011. The panel included several panel members, with food writers, bloggers, and media people participating. The hour-long chat included talks with the panel on both American and ethnic BBQ spots in the area, with the chat including viewer participation as well. [Note: The original discussion can be replayed at the following link: http://www.hiddenboston.com/online-discussion-0711.html and please go to the restaurant discussions link to check out our other chats.]
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Good morning, everyone! Welcome to another discussion focusing on restaurants in the Boston area (and beyond). Today we'll be looking at good places to go for BBQ in and around Boston as well as elsewhere in New England, including spending a little time on ethnic barbecue.
Rich O: Hey marc
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: Good Morning!
Marc H.: Hello!
Marc H.: This is our 13th discussion (maybe I should call it our 14th, as I'm a bit superstitious), and once again, we have a few panel members who may be familiar to you. Let's begin with some introductions. I'll start--I'm Marc, the founder and owner of Boston's Hidden Restaurants as well as the news-based blog Boston Restaurant Talk http://www.bostonrestaurants.blogspot.com).
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: I'm Steve, owner of Firefly's BBQ in Framingham and Marlborough. www.fireflysbbq.com
MC Slim JB: Oh, yay! the Pig Trip guy is here! I officially retire from this discussion.
PigTrip: I'm Gary, of PigTrip.net, a directory and review site for BBQ restaurants across New England and New York.
Rich O: I'm a friend and food trip companion of Marc's. I just started a blog on cooking for beginners http://noexcusescooking.blogspot.com/
MC Slim JB: Seriously, so glad you started the blog again, Gary.
MC Slim JB: I write about cheap restaurants for the Boston Phoenix, fine dining restaurants for Stuff Magazine, and bars for Serious Eats. Links to all my professional reviews are on my blog: http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/
Marc H.: Welcome, all! We may have one or two more folks joining the panel a bit later, but I think we'll be able to start.
Ed: Good morning, Ed Cornelia from sweltering Silk Road BBQ joins
MC Slim JB: It's a great day to be in the pit, I imagine.
PigTrip: Or a great day to have a great staff.
Rich O: Wow some heavy hitters here today
Huey: Gary, do you consider BT's Smokehouse in Sturbridge to be one of the top BBQ joints in the state?
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: Sounds great...
PigTrip: BT's is one of the best and they really rock the specials too. Creative stuff, hands-on owner.
Huey: Never been but always wanted to stop on road trips. Thanks for the reassurance. You do great work! Matter of fact all you guys rock!
SusanTran: hi all... i'm susan. i work in news and i just like to eat bbq
Marc H.: Hi Susan! Welcome to the chat!
Marc H.: So today's discussion focuses on a food that many people love, yet definitely isn't as big as in other parts of the country (North Carolina, Texas, Memphis, Chicago, etc.). But there are a good number of places to get BBQ in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England, including ethnic restaurants (which we will get to later in the hour).
Marc H.: I'd like to focus a bit more on lesser-known BBQ spots if possible, though since there are relatively few in the region, talking about popular places is by no means off-limits this time around. But I would love to hear about some eateries that few seem to know about, especially as we get a little further away from Boston.
Marc H.: Also, a quick note to our viewers: For each part of the discussion, we will talk first with the panel, then we will open up the chat to all of you if you would like to ask or answer any questions.
Marc H.: So let's get started. Like I say, we'll focus on American BBQ for now, then talk about ethnic BBQ later on. What are some places you like to go to in the immediate Boston area (say, inside Route 128) for barbecue? What do you like to get there?
Rich O: My all time favorite dish locally is the KC burnt ends at Blue Ribbon in Arlington. Just don't find them everywhere
Marc H.: Yes, I've always been a fan of that too, Rich. Never had it at their Newton location, but I assume it's just as good there.
PigTrip: Inside 128 I like Blue Ribbon, Blackstrap, Silk Road, Lester's and East Coast Grill.
PigTrip: And SoulFire in Allston.
Marc H.: I've heard some good things about Blackstrap. That's in Winthrop Center, right? What do you like there?
PigTrip: Anything can be good on any given day, but the chicken and ribs have been the most consistent.
MC Slim JB: I like to enjoy my BBQ next to a construction company's sandpit, so I like Big Moe's, a/k/a M&M Ribs. I'm not sure he's doing proper slow-smoke Q, but he's open late on weekends and he's a five minute drive from the South End. Some pretty fine soul-food sides, and very nice people, too.
Marc H.: That's near Dudley Square, MC? Haven't been yet.
MC Slim JB: Not far from Dudley, actually closer to Boston Medical Center, just off Melnea Cass Blvd.
PigTrip: Yes, M&M is closer to grilling, but good people, good vibe.
PigTrip: M&M is also at the SoWa open market (as is Silk Road) on many Sundays.
MC Slim JB: For M&M seekers, they park most days at the corner of Hampden St and Norfolk Ave (use the entrance to the sandpit on Norfolk), a few short blocks south of Melnea Cass. I drove by it five times the first time I went looking for it.
Rich O: I know Redbones is one of those places people argue about and I must say the Q is inconsistent but as its the closest place to me I will say I like the sides and apps more then the Q
Marc H.: I tend to agree with you, Rich.
PigTrip: Redbones is a good "compromise" place when you have a group and not everyone is into the 'cue. Fun atmosphere, good beer selection.
McRib: What is Q?
Rich O: Sorry, just being lazy. Q=BBQ
Marc H.: Have any of you been to Larry J's House of Q in Chelsea? People keep telling me to try it.
PigTrip: Yes. Larry J's is an up and comer. Nice textures, light on the smoke and rub component.
Rich O: I only just heard of Larry J's recently but would like to check it out
PigTrip: Best thing at Larry J's: the hog wings (better than similar product elsewhere). Parking is easier than you'd expect.
Marc H.: How about Pit Stop Barbecue in Mattapan? It has very limited hours, so it's almost always closed when I go by it.
MC Slim JB: I'm a fan of Pit Stop. They got a real brick & mortar location on at 888A Morton Street a few years ago. But you're right: tough hours.
PigTrip: I like the vibe at Pit Stop. The 'cue? It's definitely smoked, but has a flavor and texture more typical of grilled meats.
anatinc: Thumbs-up to Blackstrap...made my first visit a couple of weeks ago. And I still miss Uncle Pete's....my heart breaks when I see the buffet going into that space.
Marc H.: Yes, I miss Uncle Pete's as well. Just heard that the Latin American place that took over that space is becoming some kind of buffet spot.
PigTrip: Rule of thumb: If "Buffet" is in the name of the restaurant, it ain't a good buffet.
Marc H.: Ha ha, that's not the first time I've heard that.
MC Slim JB: Yep, when I see "buffet", I think "hog trough".
McRib: That is why Bershire Hathaway is not called Buffets
Marc H.: Never thought of that!
anatinc: Yes, drove by there last weekend going to revere beach and they were putting the new sign up.
Marc H.: Before we move a bit further outside of Boston, do any of our viewers have any favorite BBQ places in the Boston area?
anatinc: How big is Larry j's? is it a sit-down place or counters and a few tables?
PigTrip: Larry J's is spacious, many tables, family friendly.
anatinc: Thx - will check it out. I miss the soul food restaurant on Ferry St in Everett too. A Taste Of Soul IIRC
Rich O: I know someone mentioned it already but East Coast Grill is outstanding
PigTrip: ECG is another great place that you don't have to go all BBQ; in fact, the seafood is even better. I like to have a rib or two as an app and then hit the chefly fish creations for an entree.
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: I completely agree about ECG.. the seafood blows the BBQ away, Chris is the man!
MC Slim JB: I quite agree that East Coast Grill does BBQ right; easy to overlook, considering how beautifully they grill seafood.
LDGourmet: Jackie's here better late than never. Rendering leaf lard has distracted me this morning!
Marc H.: Hey, Jackie! Welcome to the chat once again! Feel free to tell folks a bit more about yourself.
LDGourmet: Writer, speaker - mostly food. On Twitter @LDGourmet follow hashtags like #BBQBonanza #hognoscenti for my 'cue lovers out here
LDGourmet: Today a pulled pork with three sauces guest post just went up: http://jacquelinechurch.com/ldg/2082-bbq-bonanza-2011-pulled-pork-tacos
Marc H.: Wow, does this ever sound good....
LDGourmet: Slim I think sometimes people forget ECG does more than Hell Night
Rich O: Is the BBQ place in Ryles still there or long gone??
Marc H.: All right, let's move on...
Marc H.: How about places a bit further out, say between Routes 128 and 495? I go to Tennessee's in Braintree a lot, usually finding it to be excellent (love their North Carolina pulled pork).
PigTrip: Gotta give props to Steve's Firefly's. The ribs are where it's at there. Good smoked wings too.
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: Woot Woot! Thanks Gary...
LDGourmet: There's a guy out West of 128 supposed to be great BBQ from a roadside truck, I think.
LDGourmet: Is Meathead here? He knows 'em.
PigTrip: Hmmm, don't know about a truck that far out.
LDGourmet: Hmm. Let me see if I can dig it up...
Marc H.: Just a bit outside of Route 495, but have any of you been to Texas BBQ Company in Northborough? What do you think?
PigTrip: Texas BBQ Company is one of those places that's a little inconsistent, but on their good days is surprisingly good. On any given day any of the meats can be good. (Or not.) But good potential.
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: Recently talked with Robert @ Redbones, his food truck should be ready in a couple of weeks...
Marc H.: A lot of people are excited about the Redbones food truck. I posted an article on it recently and it seemed like the whole world came to a crashing halt.
Rich O: I was excited to see a redbones concession at Harvard Stadium!!
PigTrip: There's a joint called Little Red Smokehouse in Carver that closed and reopened. They had potential. Haven't been to the new version yet, but it's on my list.
MC Slim JB: I'm sorry to admit that my BBQ dining map has white space and "There be dragons" outside of 128.
PigTrip: MC, that's probably true for you even outside of BBQ ; )
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: MC you need to branch out and come visit me.
MC Slim JB: I'm am a pitifully urban creature, but that's all they pay me to write about.
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: You don't have to be in work mode to visit, what about pleasing your palate?
LDGourmet: Okay I'll bite (but you knew that already) Where is Fireflys?
LDGourmet: city girl here
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: Ahh LD, we are in Framingham & Marlborough.. don't be afraid of 508 area codes.
MC Slim JB: I do get off my "within 5 miles of the State House" chain occasionally, have had Firefly's on my to-try list for ages.
LDGourmet: I am very afraid if the T doesn't reach it...my bad.
Rich O: Hold that thought, Rich. Actually...
Marc H.: Let's move even further out, into the rest of Massachusetts. Any favorites?
Marc H.: And yes, I like Bub's as well. A very funky place in the middle of nowhere...
Marc H.: Any decent spots for BBQ in the Berkshires or on the Cape?
PigTrip: BT's, obviously. Route 7 Grill out in Great Barrington is one that's really into the farm-to-plate movement. "Local" is all over the menu.
Marc H.: Never been to the Route 7 Grill. Just one more reason to go to the Berkshires, I guess.
LDGourmet: That might be the one, I've been told about it before.
LDGourmet: Good pigs, raised right. Makes a huge diff. (Btw my house smells porky-good - rendering that leaf lard!)
Marc H.: What time should we all come over, Jackie?
PigTrip: LDG, are you Jacqueline?
LDGourmet: We have emailed, I believe.
Ed: we can smell that pork lard all the way down the Greenway, Jackie
Ed: Hey Ed! Your Yurt was killing me on my exercise walk the other day!
PigTrip: Yes. We gotta share a meal sometime.
LDGourmet: Goat empanadas on Friday. ;-)
LDGourmet: Bring me beers and Tequila and come any time!
Marc H.: I just made some spruce beer and a German wheat, so that might just work out! Someone else can bring the tequila.
Rich O: Marc, I've had that spruce beer.....
Marc H.: Don't say another word, Rich. :-)
LDGourmet: YES to shared meal there PigTrip!
Rich O: Sorry, my paying job got in the way of my chatting...but I'm back
LDGourmet: Turners Falls: Holy Smokes BBQ - I'm told it's great
LDGourmet: Is everyone on twitter?
MC Slim JB: Twitter: mcslimjb
Marc H.: Twitter: @hiddenboston
Rich O: twitter- richo976
LDGourmet: If so, #BBQBonanza hashtag will lead you to a great series of guest posts bbq'g and grilling everything from classics like today's pulled pork to new and diff.
PigTrip: Just Facebook here.
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: us too...FB
Marc H.: Let's briefly cover the rest of New England. Any spots worth checking out in RI, CT, ME, NH, VT?
Marc H.: I'm curious about a few places, including LJ'S BBQ in Pawtucket, Big Fatty's BBQ in Hartford, VT, Cider House BBQ and Pub in Waterbury, VT, and Wilson's Barbeque in Fairfield, CT.
PigTrip: Goody Cole's in NH. Buck's Naked in ME.
LDGourmet: Must be some good 'cue in Providence area?
PigTrip: Wilson's is another good one, although (I know I keep saying this) they have their good days and just okay days. Thurs-Sun only.
Marc H.: It's tough for me to justify going to Wilson's with Super Duper Weenie and Rawley's in that town.
PigTrip: It's EASY for me to justify: hit 'em both!
Rich O: Had decent BBQ at Moat Mountain brewery
PigTrip: I like United BBQ in Providence, but just the ribs (beef and pork). Not so high on their pulled stuff. Good wings.
Marc H.: Are there any good BBQ places in some of the big cities in CT, such as Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, etc.?
PigTrip: Surprisingly, not many.
LDGourmet: Really? Not even New Haven?
PigTrip: Flaggstead BBQ in Farmington CT is fairly close to Hartford. Ditto Little Taste of Texas in S. Windsor. But the one in Hartford proper I'm not so fond of.
Rich O: New Haven has food other then pizza??
Marc H.: New Haven is a great food city, Rich. We should probably gather some troops and do a food-based road trip just to that city one of these days.
Rich O: eh, I'm good with Pepe's!!!
PigTrip: There used to be a few small ones in New Haven, but for some reason wings are much more popular down there. Really popular. There's Uncle Willie's in West Haven.
Marc H.: Anyone ever get to that trailer near Sunday River in Maine called BBQ Bob's Real Pit BBQ? Are they even around anymore?
Rich O: I have a friend who went to Bob's and said it was vile...but he's kind of a tool
PigTrip: BBQ Bob's changed names. Now called Smokin Good BBQ. Almost the same. Still haven't been though.
LDGourmet: Anyone doing goat? -(sorry to go off on tangent you can hold this comment if you like) Seems it must be BBQ or grilled in many parts of the world/cuisines
Marc H.: Before we move on to ethnic BBQ in the Boston area, do any of our viewers have any favorite BBQ places in the rest of New England?
SusanTran: oh oh... i have my list
Amy Mills: I import most of my bbq, but when I eat locally, I'm a huge fan of firefly's ;o
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: I love you Amy ;)
Marc H.: Let's briefly move on to ethnic BBQ in and around Boston. Brazilian and Korean restaurants, for instance. Any favorites?
SusanTran: el centro -- carne asada
hong kong eatery - cha shu
super 88 food court - kalbi
h mart food court - kalbi
new dong khanh - vietnamese pork chop
cafe romero - Cochinita Píbil
Marc H.: I'm a huge fan of Hong Kong Eatery, Susan.
SusanTran: i am also on the hunt for some good barbacoa.
LDGourmet: The BBQ place next to HLM is our go-to - if you like Chinese style.
LDGourmet: HK Eatery also very good.
PigTrip: Where's New Dong Khanh?
Marc H.: That's on Harrison Avenue in Chinatown. I've been once--thought it was pretty decent.
LDGourmet: BBQ next to Hei La Moon btw Lincoln and Surface on Beach. "Dai Gai Bei" is a bbq chicken leg so so good
LDGourmet: Okay - I'll make the sojourn. Firefly's wanna shoot me a link pls?
MC Slim JB: Korean grill table places: Koreana (near Inman Square), New Jiang Su (Burlington), Yasu (Coolidge Corner), Apollo Grill (Chinatown).
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: www.fireflysbbq.com
Rich O: Gotta cut out a bit early today to justify my phony baloney job (Blazing Saddles for those not in the know). Good to chat with you all again
Rich O: Or for the first time
Marc H.: See you, Rich! Thanks for participating!
SusanTran: if you go to new dong khanh try #88 or #89 yummy stuff
MC Slim JB: Brazilian churrasco rodizio: Midwest Grill (near Inman Square), Churrascaria Rodeo (N. Woburn).
PigTrip: Which of those two do you prefer, MC?
MC Slim JB: Gary, I think Rodeo is better. Midwest has declined in quality as it has gotten much more popular and expanded to Saugus.
PigTrip: Agreed on the decline.
Amy Mills: Not ethnic, but Belted Cow Bistro in Essex Junction, VT does BBQ once a week. Spectacular food there. John Delpha, the chef, is a member of the IQue bbq team that won The Jack in 2009
LDGourmet: Sustainable, deeelicious, versatile meat.
LDGourmet: *ahem* didnt Silk Road best IQue in the Chicken category?
Ed: gosh, Jackie, I don't think we did
Ed: though we did impress Chris, Andy, and John with our jerk chicken sandwich once
LDGourmet: Ed this trophy? http://jacquelinechurch.com/ldg/2072-bbq-bonanza-kicks-off-with-
Ed: Nah, that was 1st place in pulled pork, though with 3 Mass state championships this year, there's lots of bragging rights to be had
Marc H.: How about some decent BBQ spots in East Boston? Any Central/South American places that do it?
LDGourmet: I want to see goat at Silk Road - it's a natural~~
PigTrip: I agree, Ed: you need goat.
MC Slim JB: Brazilian weigh-your-plate churrasco: Mix Flavor Grill (near Union Square, Somerville), Gauchao (charcoal! Somerville), Tudo Na Brasa (downtown Woburn), Oliveira's (Eastie).
LDGourmet: Slim is the Eastie Guru I'm putting Oliveira's on the list.
Marc H.: To our viewers--any favorite ethnic BBQ spots in the Boston area?
Ed: sorry, Greenway wifi burped -- yes, we will add goat
LDGourmet: Must try Chinatown and why don't we get a lunch meat up, meet up for BBQ takeout together? Good Cheap Eats!
PigTrip: Can't do Chinatown without the bakeries too.
LDGourmet: okay we an add that
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: Roast Pork Buns... delish
LDGourmet: love me some pork buns
MC Slim JB: Cantonese roasted meats: Vinh-Sun, Hong Kong Eatery, and Wai Wai, all in Chinatown.
LDGourmet: Thanks Marc! Great stuff here. Is Wai Wai the newish one near Gourmet Dumpling?
MC Slim JB: New home, not a new place.
LDGourmet: will look for it - as always you rock my world Slim!
MC Slim JB: Happy to help, Ms. Leather District!
Marc H.: We have only a couple of minutes left. Would any of you like to comment on your single favorite BBQ dish in the Boston area?
MC Slim JB: If I had to pick one dish, it might be Blue Ribbon's pulled pork.
Marc H.: And I might pick Tennessee's pulled pork with a side of their outstanding mac and cheese.
LDGourmet: I'll tweet link to transcript when it's up. Great tips here.
Marc H.: Wow, that hour went pretty quickly, didn't it?
Marc H.: I could go for some good Q right now, but alas, it looks like PBJ and a plum from Wilson Farm. Could be worse, I guess.
MC Slim JB: I am drinking BBQ sauce as we speak.
LDGourmet: Thanks to all. sorry to be late. back to my lard and cracklins
Marc H.: Now I'm REALLY hungry.
Marc H.: Thanks to all of you for participating today. Lots of great info here!
PigTrip: Thanks for inviting me, looking forward to some of the tips!
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: Thanks everyone... off to make some BBQ Stuffies (stuffed quahogs with smoked pork, applewood bacon, and chorizo)
MC Slim JB: Thanks as always for inviting me, Marc: a great panel today!
MC Slim JB: Love me some stuffies: that's sounds awesome, Steve!
LDGourmet: Thanks all! Come join me on twitter! or the blog - I'll find you on FB, too. Good eating everyone! Remember happy pigs make happy pork.
Steve Uliss Fireflys BBQ: oink oink!
MidwoodSmokehouse: If you're ever in Charlotte come check us out http://midwoodsmokehouse.com/