The search for great barbecue in Southern New England is not a futile effort, but it is most certainly an effort. There is, of course, plenty of edible barbecue, but really great barbecue, like the kind you might find in the Southern U.S., is hard to come by. There are a few havens I’ve come across like B.T.’s Smokehouse (the reigning New England champ in my humble opinion), Kinfolk’s Award Winning Barbecue, and Durk’s Barbecue (click any of the restaurant names to read my reviews). I can now feel confident adding Blue Ribbon as one of those barbecue places worth visiting in Southern New England.
Blue Ribbon Barbecue
1375 Washington Street
West Newton, MA 02465
Service and Atmosphere
The first thing you’ll notice walking up to Blue Ribbon is it’s wonderful vintage style sign. The shape and neon lights really give off a lot of welcoming character as well as history. The interior has the same style as the sign and the smells of barbecue immediately greet you on entry. It’s also small with a register to order at and very few stools lined up along a counter by the front window for seating. The staff is friendly and they work very quickly to get your food out to you.
I always have a big problem when trying a new restaurant that I’m excited about because I want to try everything. After getting so many recommendations for Blue Ribbon and driving a while to get there, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I tried as much as I could. Luckily, they have combo plates where different meats can be paired with different sides. My wife and I ordered two different plates so that we could try a good portion of the menu in a reasonable way. Our only regret was that we didn’t try the ribs, but when we go back, we surely will.
Barbecue Trio Combo (Brisket, Pulled Chicken, Smoked Sausage) – On my platter, I ordered the brisket (the true touchstone by which any barbecue place that serves it must be judged), the pulled chicken, and the smoked sausage. As sides I ordered potato salad, baked beans, and the platter came with cornbread. The sides were all pretty good. The cornbread wasn’t too cakey or too dry, so it struck a nice balance. The baked beans were pretty standard, which is a good thing, but they didn’t “wow” me. The potato salad on the other hand was utterly fantastic. I don’t know why, but it’s possible the potato salad was the second best thing I ate! It was really rich and decadent. The pulled chicken was good with its light smokey flavor, but it wasn’t especially memorable as something I’d order again. The brisket is probably the most tender brisket I’ve ever had, but also the fattiest. The smoke to meat ratio was just right. The leaner pieces tasted great with some of the spicy house barbecue sauce, but some of the brisket pieces were actually just pure fat. Lastly, the smoked sausage was probably my favorite item from Blue Ribbon. The sausage held light smoke, retained a great snap to the casing, and contained a little spicy heat, but it wasn’t overpowering.
Barbecue Duo Combo (Burnt Ends and Pulled Pork) – My wife tried the Kansas City Burnt Ends, North Carolina Pulled Pork, collard greens, and coleslaw. Again, starting with the sides, I thought the coleslaw was a decent, no frills, mayo-based slaw. The collard greens were also pretty standard. They didn’t have much going on in terms of flavor or spices, but the greens were cooked well. The pulled pork was tender and juicy, and sauced with a North Carolina style vinegar sauce to cut through the heaviness. I just wish they had a little more smoke or vinegar or just something else to give the pulled pork some punch. As far as the burnt ends go, I was really excited to try them, but they were the biggest let down of the meal. It’s not that they tasted bad, it’s just that Blue Ribbon’s burnt ends aren’t what I think of when I think burnt ends. They were more like shredded beef rather than the crispy and caramelized goodness one expects from the burnt ends off brisket. They were also very heavily sauced with a sweet bbq sauce, which I could have done without, but that is what makes them Kansas City style, I guess. My wife enjoyed her plate though, so like all things barbecue – as long as it’s made well – the flavors just come down to personal preference.
Blue Ribbon Barbecue is one of the better barbecue restaurants in Southern New England that holds its own with a variety of the barbecue styles of the Southern U.S. from North Carolina style pulled pork to Kansas City Burnt Ends to Texas style brisket and more. The Smoked Sausage is fantastic and the potato salad is some of the best I’ve had for that style. The brisket is incredibly tender, but also pretty fatty. In general, all of the flavors are pretty great and it’s fun to go to one restaurant to try many different styles of barbecue.
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