Newsflash: I’m from South Carolina.
Newsflash: I like pork – more specifically, pulled pork and BBQ.
Newsflash: I’m not an expert (though sometimes I annoyingly act like it).
Those aren’t really newsflashes are they? Maybe not, but it needed to be said. Since I moved to Boston, I have been on the quest for the best BBQ in town. Now, I know what you might say, “Have you been to Redbones?” The answer is yes. Then you’d say, “Well that is the best, isn’t it?” And I would say, “Meh. It’s decent, but not the best.”
In the South, BBQ is a buffet, where for $10-$12 you can eat as much BBQ and fixins’ as your little (or big) belly can handle. (This may also have a direct correlation to the obesity problem in America. But that is besides the point.) In the South, when you say, “Let’s go get BBQ,” you know they are talking pulled pork – and this says it the best…
The No. 1 thing you need to know about Carolina BBQ is this: it is the other white meat (aka Pork). Carolinians stress that BBQ beef is just that; but “BBQ Pork” is redundant. BBQ is Pork! More specifically, BBQ is pulled (or shredded, or chopped, or sliced) pork that has been low and slow roasted and served with a sauce that varies depending on personal taste and somewhat on geography.
So, my favorite BBQ place in SC is Palmetto Pig… believe me, it is nothing fancy, but it is the best. Why? Because Palmetto Pig has just enough options and the food is always above average. The pulled pork was always cooked perfectly, never burnt or undercooked. Another thing that makes SC BBQ stand out is the sauce. Mustard-based BBQ sauce is FAN-TASTIC to say the least and I couldn’t do without Tomato-based BBQ sauce. I never thought I was a fan of it, until I moved up here and realized that no one really has this bottle of awesome – most sauces around here are mostly, if not entirely, vinegar-based. The SC sauces, as I like to call it, sweetens up the BBQ just enough to balance out the saltiness of the pork. It’s something you have to experience to understand, I think.
So in all fairness there are a few good places in Boston that I would recommend. Additionally, my recommendations are based on the pulled pork that I have had from these different places.
Blue Ribbon BBQ – I found this place to be the most authentic of the BBQ, in terms of pulled pork. They also have fried chicken, ribs and all those other BBQ options. The pulled pork was good and they give you a heaping portion. I was beyond full by the time we left. I went to the Arlington location, but another BBQ enthusiast (and what I would consider an expert because she is from Texas) told me that I need to try the Newton location. So, I will. You don’t have to tell me twice.
Sweet Cheeks Q. - Being a huge fan of Top Chef and Tiffani Faison, I was beyond excited to try out Sweet Cheeks Q on Boylston Street in Fenway. I was pleased to be served my fancy cocktail in a mason jar. Some people may be turned off by this, but it made me feel like I was back in the South at a friend’s BBQ enjoying the summer and the sweltering heat and humidity – when really I was in Boston, in Fenway’s backyard, on a 50-something degree, cloudy day. Having been here recently, I have a lot to say…
The portions are massive – so order cautiously. Being there for the first time, I had to try a few appetizers – HUMONGOUS biscuits with honey butter. Two words – Freaking Awesome. We also had the hush puppies. Not as awesome as I was hoping. There were six of them, and they were huge. Hush puppies are supposed to be as there name intended, puppy-size, small… They also didn’t have the sweetness that southern hush puppies have. They were served with a honey mayonnaise but it didn’t do the trick.
The “trays” come with one meat and two sides – hot & cold. I got the pulled pork, mac-n-cheese and a farm salad that was pretty delicious. The pulled pork was good. It had a nice smoky flavor and was cooked pretty nicely. The sauces I was a little disappointed with. They had the NC vinegar based sauce and then they also had a jalapeno sauce that was really good, though I’m not sure it mixed well with the other sauce.
I would definitely recommend that people try it. It is a little pricey for BBQ, but that being said, we had leftovers so in reality, we had two meals. I am looking forward to going back on a nice day when the patio and doors are open – so we can smell the
sewer-y sweet smells of Boston.
Other BBQ places in Boston worth trying at least once.
Red Bones - Like I said, not my absolute favorite, but they have a great beer selection and cool atmosphere.
Blackstrap BBQ – I had high hopes for this little, quirky joint in Winthrop, MA. I know, who goes to Winthrop? I do, in the name of BBQ. Anywho – this place was started up by two guys from East Coast Grill, which I love and made me think this place would be great.
So here’s the scoop… the BBQ was served in tin foil in a styrofoam box. I wouldn’t usually have a problem with this, but it made the food sort of soggy or over-damp… the pulled pork was drenched with some sort of sauce. It was a good hot sauce, though I would have liked the opportunity to choose how much and what kind of sauce I wanted. I had mac-n-cheese, which was actually really good. I also had sweet potato salad, which was ok. The cornbread was overcooked to the point of being burnt.
There was one thing that I was upset I didn’t see until we were leaving… they have BBQ fries and they sounded absolutely amazing.
Firefly BBQ – I haven’t actually been here, but had their Q at a music festival I went to last summer. It was good, but I can’t give it a fair judgement.
Does anyone have any other places I should check out? Please name them in the comments and add your thoughts on what I said up there. Like I said, I’m not an expert, so school me, if you will.
I would also not be a nice sister if I did not say that my brother Steve roasts an awesome pig!