I went with a fellow carnivore for lunch. And being that we were a party of two, we were able to order each the combo dinners plus get a few extras, giving us chance to really span the menu. The meats we picked were; BBQ chicken (on the bone),smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and the pork ribs. The sides were coleslaw, cornbread, Mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, BBQ baked beans and a side of the chili con carne.
While we ordered, I noticed the impressive Southern Pride smoker built into the side wall, and watched one of the prep chefs “gingerly” sprinkling some BBQ rub on some chickens, which by the way, was about the strongest of the BBQ offerings at United BBQ.
When the food came out it, everything was buried in a horrid, tomato/ketchup heavy, house BBQ sauce. Not an inch of meat was left uncovered, and there were pools of grease intermingled with the acidic sauce which made for a giant mess, as well as a major case of heartburn that lasted well into the night. OK, shame on me for forgetting to ask for the sauce on the side!
As I tasted the food, I thought about what was missing; a bold BBQ spice taste and deep smoked wood flavor, and maybe the overbearing sauce completely killed any chance of recognizing those taste tones. But even so, the rub was very muted, and it was applied way to scantily, and the meats were too lightly smoked. Did I mention I hated the sauce yet?
The smoked meats were all overcooked or reheated, nothing had that fresh out of the smoker crisp texture, and I really question if anything being served is better than a select grade meat. The brisket was mushy from either overcooking, re-cooking or being held too long and it had absolutely no bark, not that it was easy to discern from being under a puddle of sauce. The pulled pork felt “gummy” in the mouth, and the ribs also had an over held/reheated consistency. The chicken was pretty good, but it was just a bit too light on the spicing.
The sides were just OK, with the coleslaw being about the best, the cornbread was a bit dry, but the baked in whole corn kernels were a nice touch. The baked bean were unremarkable, and the mashed potatoes came with no gravy.
To say I that I was disappointed, would undermine the fact that I had walked into United with low expectations anyway. In other words, I didn’t come out to New England with high hopes of finding my next BBQ nirvana. For that I knew I have my weekly trips back home to Chicago to hit the local joints or to even BBQ on my own, of course there is always my multi-annual trips down to Austin Texas when I’m truly seeking perfection.
So what I really mean by my being disappointed, is that I can’t believe how disconnected New England may be from knowing what good BBQ is supposed to really taste like. Because this was some really bad tasting Q after being heavily touted as being the best.
Now that’s not to say that the restaurant wasn’t nice looking, or that the staff wasn't very helpful and nice, because they were. And to look at the place, its easy to see that United BBQ has one of the nicest looking BBQ storefronts anywhere.
After United BBQ however, I feel doubtful that I’ll bother to try very many other New England BBQ joints, but one thing is for sure, if this is where the bar is being set for BBQ out here, I’ll be probably be giving up BBQ well before lent this year.