Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Connecticut BBQ Crawl

This past Sunday, I accompanied Gary Goldblatt of and Mike Boisvert pitmaster of the competition team Lakeside Smokers on a Connecticut BBQ crawl.

"What is that?" you ask.

It's when a bunch of guys hit the road and try some of a region's BBQ offerings. Like a pub crawl with excessive eating instead of excessive drinking. Sometimes excessive drinking too I'm sure.

Since Gary is a veteran of these trips, we deferred to him to select the restaurants. Gary made it really easy for me, as he picked Big Bubba's BBQ at Mohegan Sun Casino, Chester's BBQ in New London and finally, Bank Street Roadhouse, also in New London. I live minutes from Mohegan Sun, so the choices were perfect for me. Mike and Gary carpooled down from Massachusetts and met me at our condo in Norwich.

Gary Goldblatt is clearly the preeminent BBQ reviewer in the Northeast. He gets all over New England and New York, and has a very organized and well written BBQ site. Gary is very passionate about BBQ, much the way Mike and I are about being BBQ competitors. He's very knowledgeable and also judges BBQ competitions. I'm sure he would be a great competitor if he decided to go that route. We had been trying to go out for BBQ for around a year, and I was glad to finally get the chance to go.

Mike Boisvert and I have become friends since we met on the circuit. We both started competing at around the same time. He's one of my favorite people to talk Q with, and has become a great friend. There he is below.

I got us started with some ABT's and a beer before we hit the road for our first stop, Mohegan Sun. We got to Bubba's and we got a table immediately.

We decided to start with slow smoked chicken wings and a quartered Big Bubba Burger. The wings were probably the best thing I ate all day. They were nicely marinated, rubbed and smoked. The sauce was somewhere between buffalo and BBQ. They were complete wings with the tips still on. I really enjoyed these wings. Don't let the $9.99 price scare you away here, there were seven huge wings in the order.

The bayou burger was served with a slice of ham and cheddar cheese, and seemed tasteless after the wings.
We finished up with the main course, the Big BubbaQue ($24.95). This grand order includes BBQ ribs, chicken, brisket, pork and hon link sausage, two sides and cornbread. Sometimes my wife and I come and order this to share, and always end up bringing home leftovers.

We convinced our friendly and accommodating waitress to substitute the link for extra ribs, and she also agreed to have both spares and baby back ribs included.

The massive platter provides a really good sampling of all of the restaurant's fare. I've reviewed Bubbas twice before (8/24/06 and 9/19/07), and really covered most of the meats there. But being so close to home we have been to Bubba's many times, so I was curious to see how Mike and Gary felt about the food.

I thought it was interesting that Mike preferred their baby backs to the spares, because he is someone that usually likes spares better. He later noted how much he liked the jalapeno cornbread, which is always one of my favorite things at Bubba's.

We all agreed that the pork was rather forgettable on this day. Mushy. The brisket was good, maybe a little dry. The baby back ribs are my favorite too. They're served without any sauce, and that is how they are best. Spares were good too.

We barely touched the chicken, or the onion rings we added for good measure. Just too much food.

I definitely learned that on a BBQ crawl, you really need to pace yourself. But despite the feast, we pressed on, driving around 10 minutes to Chester's BBQ in New London. That part of the trip I already reviewed the other day, see it HERE.

The final leg of our journey brought us to Bank Street Roadhouse in the Bank Street bar district in downtown New London. This place had previously offered a few BBQ items, but had recently removed all of them from the menu. That was actually good news, because we were all pretty much stuffed.

Fortunately, it was only a short ride back home for me, where I was passed out on the couch minutes after arriving. I feel for Gary and Mike, who must have been zonked for the drive back to Massachusetts. Sorry guys! But thanks for a great day!


Anonymous said...

Great review of the day Ted.
Don't feel to bad for us because the next BBQ crawl you can drive up here to meet us. :)


Pigtrip said...

The wings were the second best thing I ate all day, taking a back seat to those ABTs.

Ernest said...

I hate Bubbas not for their subpar green wood smoked bbq and no smoke ringed tough brisket... but mostly because I used to be able to buy a pallet (2/3) cord of hickory from my friend near the waterford speedbowl for under a 90 bucks.

They are like strip miners! The cost of Hickory has gone up to 150 a pallet... there is a lot there reserved only for their wood of about an acre or two and since they use the green white quick smoke method (why their ribs taste so dirty) they go through cords like wildfire.

This is Russells Ribs problem as well.