New England is not known for barbecue. The South is not known for clam chowder. But does that mean you won't find exceptional examples of each in either region? Of course not, as long as the food is prepared with the best ingredients and with loving and knowledgeable care.
The folks at The American BBQ in Beverly are the latest entry of 'pit shops' on the North Shore. They execute beautifully on the smoky tradition of preparing protein - in its many forms - low and slow.
Like many of the Q-joints around Boston The American BBQ's menu promises to treat diners to real barbecue from several regions. As a sixth generation Texan I always wince at this pan-regional approach. The purist in me wants a place that sticks to one theme and knocks it out of the park. However, after tasting several regional standards here and one particular new idea, I am convinced that The American BBQ folks know what they're doing.
The Beverly location opened in mid-2009 and follows in the footsteps of its parent location in Rowley. It's located in the Cummings Center and there is no shortage of parking.
The setting is my only complaint, but it's a minor one. Barbecue is best served in shacks. After all, aren't fried clams and lobsters best served there? The restaurant is placed in what can only be described as a strip-mall. Step inside though and they have done a respectable job of creating a down home feel. The only thing missing is a wide plank hardwood floor, instead its carpet. The carpet leaves me wondering if it's okay to throw the complimentary peanut's shells on the floor.
Regional specialties from the barbecue realm include Memphis style baby-back ribs, pulled pork from the Southeast, grilled jerk chicken from Jamaica (not really barbecue but worth a try), Texas smoked sausage, and the king of Texas barbecue…brisket.
The ribs are smoky and tender. Slowly cooked for hours, finished on the grill and slathered with a tangy-sweet ketchup-based sauce. They were excellent but on the two occasions I tried them the silver skin on the concave side had not been removed. Another minor bother but experience shows that removing this barrier allows more smoke to penetrate the meat and makes for less need for a toothpick after the meal.
The pulled pork was excellent as well. Succulent and shredded fine it is served with a sweet sauce but one can opt for the more traditional south eastern treatment by using the vinegar based sauce.
The sausage was a bit of a disappointment. Traditional Texas sausage used in barbecue is often coarse ground and leans to the hot side. Neither is true here. It is more akin to a hot dog with a nice snap in the casing but with flavors that do not compel.
In Texas, nary a squeal can be heard from the barbecue pit over the echoes of moos emanating from the bovine protein packed into the smoker. Beef was more plentiful in Texas compared to the Southeast and this gave rise to its dominance in barbecue preparations there. The American BBQ pit master has done a fantastic job on their brisket. It is more moist than any other barbecue joint I have tried in Boston. Served in quarter inch slices and awaiting (or not) your choice of self-serve sauces, including mild, hot, and mustard-based.
There are other options on the menu as well. Including pulled chicken, and grilled items such as chicken, turkey tips, tenderloin and salmon. For the reluctant New Englander they even have fried haddock.
But the real surprise - the aforementioned new idea - and star of the menu has to be the chicken wings. They are large and meaty, coated with the house dry rub and smoked. They are offered two ways, wet and dry. Wet means they simply toss the dry wings in a hot wing sauce. They are pretty good but the dry wings on their own are unique and outstanding. Juicy, redolent with smoke and evenly coated with the rub, these were the best wings I have ever had.
Thankfully every table has an under-mounted roll of paper towels. You're gonna need them if you dive into the ribs or wings.
They have most of the sides you would expect too. Cole slaw, collard greens, baked beans (ranch style would be more appropriate), mashed potatoes, grilled corn and of course, corn bread.
I highly recommend The American BBQ. The only thing missing is sawdust on the floor and Shiner Bock beer.
For more information:
The American BBQ
950 Cummings Center Suite 96x
Beverly, MA 01915
Tue-Sun - 11:30am to 9pm