Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Chester's BBQ, New London CT

As part of our Connecticut BBQ crawl on Sunday, Gary Goldblatt of Pigtrip.net, Mike Boisvert of Lakeside Smokers and I visited Chester's BBQ in New London. The restaurant is located on Bank Street in New London, several blocks away from the Bank Street bar district, in a commercial/industrial area near the shoreline.

The place is tiny, a true BBQ "joint." There are only three tables in the small customer area. Fortunately, only one of the tables was occupied, and we were able to get the biggest of the three tables.

We went to Chester's after having visited Big Bubba's BBQ at the Mohegan Sun Casino. We ate pretty heavily at Bubbas, but we did save some room for a wide sampling at Chester's. The person at the counter wasn't the owner Chester, but was one of his employees named Shawn. He was very cooperative and when we explained that our goal was to sample a wide range of items, he provided us with three individual cups of each dish.

We started with the brisket chili. This was my favorite item of the Chester's meal. It was very flavorful, not overly spicy, and was loaded with large chunks of brisket. The chili was loaded with beans. I prefer my chili meat only, but the beans were very good. The chili is a winner.

The second item in our initial wave of food was a hot link, which I thought tasted like a very spicy hot dog. I don't eat hot dogs so this isn't something for me, so I'm probably not the person to pass judgment on this item.

The first wave also came with the brisket. Chester's brisket served by itself was very moist and tender, but it really lacked flavor. I didn't taste a whole lot of seasoning in the bark, and it didn't have much smoke flavor.

The brisket sandwich, however, I liked a lot better. It came with the second wave of food, along with the spare ribs and cornbread. The little bit of sauce on the sandwich added to the meat, along with the serving on untoasted, thick cut white bread, really made this dish. I recommend this to anyone who visits Chester's.

The spare ribs puzzled me a little bit. They have two smokers at Chesters, both are Cookshacks and both are electric. While it's clear the ribs were cooked in the smoker, there was very little smoke flavor and no smoke ring at all. They were pretty good though, and like the brisket did not have a whole lot of flavor on their own. I did not try them with any sauce. I bet a little splash of sauce would bring these from my personal rating of fair/good to a good/excellent. I will visit again, and I will try the ribs with some sauce.

I only took one bite of the cornbread. Seemed moist, good flavor.

They have a bunch of other smoked meats on the menu that we didn't try this time, including baby back ribs, chicken, pulled pork, wings and turkey. We didn't have any of the sides except the cornbread.

Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Chester's. The food on the whole is good, and the prices are among the best values I have seen in a Q restaurant.

My main thought is that the BBQ probably would be top notch if it was cooked over charcoal and/or wood. To me, it has to be the electric smokers that take away some of the real BBQ flavor I crave and try so hard to create myself. I do understand that it is not easy to cook with wood and charcoal in a storefront restaurant, and there may be zoning restrictions that make it impossible. But to me that is what will keep Chester's from being great instead of good.


Iamamammal said...

I believe he used to do it outside with wood but the neighbors complained so the landlord made him stop. This place is still easily some of the best BBQ in the area. It blows Russel's ribs in Groton away in my opinion.

Ted Lorson said...

I really enjoyed the food at Chester's. I probably would have liked it even more if we hadn't just had a full meal at Big Bubbas!

I have only been to Russell's once, and thought their ribs tasted like they were boiled. This was years ago though.

Have you tried Sunset Ribs? I look forward to checking that place out when they open for the spring.

Ernest said...

You hit it on the head... it will never be good. He gas a cute slogan, (BBQ is not the sauce but what the sauce goes on) stolen from Mike Mills and Oddly no actual Trade Mark as his literature suggests. While Bubbas screws up by using green wood and Russells is it own nightmare with white smoke (creating a cresote coated tough product) Chester's is about as good as it gets texture wise but another slogan is "BBQ is not made on a smoker that plugs in."
I was at a house during Sailfest and there is a guy named Popdaddys that uses all wood (Charcoal is a no-no too). His stuff is the real deal... smoke ring, flavor, texture is spot on each year. I don't know his number but if you pop in POPDADDYSBBQ in youtube you can see his stuff. He is out of Montville or Oakdale.

Your insane for wanting to go to Sunset.


Ted Lorson said...

Why, what is wrong with Sunset? I have never been there before, so what exactly makes me insane for wanting to try a new restaurant?

Ernest said...

Go ahead Ted, be my Guest. But on your deathbed, August 15th 2089 at 5:34 PM as you Reach for your 12 Sons Max, Judas, Sammy, Moon Unit, Prince, Vai, Mark, Edge, Steve, Wang, Tommy, Thelonius, you will laugh... thinking that Popdaddy was right... I will never get the time I wasted at Sunset Ribs Back.

Even their slogan lowers the standard. "At Sunset ribs the only thing better than the food is the view!"


Ernest said...

It is chemically impossible to get a "real" smoke ring from any electric smoker. Nitric acid is formed when nitrogen dioxide from wood combustion in smoke mixes with water in the meat.

It also only forms under 140 degrees... thats not internal either but the temp of the surface of the meat. The longer you stay under 140 the deeper the ring.

Basically pink rings are a chemical reaction between the smoke and the meat. But with dry chips and a electric smoker and no BURN all you get is a HEAT RING.
Even a cookshack.

You can also forgo the creosote fear and place COLD meat into a smoker that has a clean fire.
Pitmaster "T'
Oakdale CT

You can cheat... but even using MTQ with an electric won't get you far. Of course its not cheating now as most reputable comps rule out smoke rings as a form of judging due to all this cheating with MTQ.

I think this was stupid as the chemicals in TQ were found traditionally in esp. GERMAN markets so its like saying your cheating because you dusted off and old traditional recipe.

The BUSINESS of BBQ competition has Ruined traditional BBQ in chasing the all mighty dollar by lowering its standards so they can attract more contestants and more regional grilling contests.

Its kind of like when a friend of mine ran a community theatre in Tennessee and decided to direct the play Bad News Bears.... in order to make sure that his money kept rolling in by donations... the cast (0riginally only 9) of the baseball team grew to around 50 as the more kids you cast the more money and support you get from the parents. There were clearly kids on that stage that did not belong there.