I’m on a mission to find great BBQ in the Boston area. I have no real Southern BBQ experience, so take my opinion with the necessary grain of salt. For context, the BBQ I obsess over is at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (the original two locations in Syracuse and Rochester – forget the newer ones) and Fette Sau in Brooklyn. While I haven’t thoroughly exhausted the options closest to me yet, I’ve been intrigued by the buzz about the newish place in Winthrop, Blackstrap BBQ. My mom lived in Winthrop until she was nine, so last time my parents came into town from the ‘burbs to meet me for dinner, we decided to drive out to Winthrop, see the old house, and give Blackstrap a try.
Although it mostly feels like a takeout joint, Blackstrap does have a small seating area, and it’s more hipster-adorable than gritty Southern BBQ. Sure, it doesn’t give off an authentic vibe, but it’s bright, cheery, and fun – and impeccably clean. From Christmas lights to a shelf of books for swapping to the chalkboards covered with the menu scrawled in pastel chalks, the ambiance is immediately welcoming, as is the staff.
As for the menu, well, it’s obviously a whole lot of meat. Classic BBQ sides. Lemonade and ice tea. For some reason, we thought we needed an appetizer, so we ordered the BBQ fries, crispy and golden and topped with brisket burnt ends, cheese, and sliced jalapenos: Southern poutine. Probably highly addictive.
Amongst the four of us, we demolished a substantial amount of Texas brisket, dry-rub pork ribs, and a variety of sides, and we tried every sauce available (our favorites were the spicy guava and the sweet BBQ). With the right sauce on top, the brisket was fantastic, and my dining companions tore through their portions of ribs. The weak spots? The mac and cheese (tasteless), the cornbread (very dry), and the lemonade (bland).
If your arteries are in the mood for a workout, Blackstrap offers a dish called the Hog: a bacon-wrapped sausage, smoked and fried, served on a roll. We couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. We also weren’t able to squeeze in dessert, but the cornbread pudding with blackstrap rum might tempt me on a return trip.
I want to love Blackstrap – I really do. The dishes I’ve tried so far are good, and this is the best I’ve had in the Boston area so far, but I feel like there is more ground to cover on my BBQ mission, both at Blackstrap and beyond. I’ll certainly be back, though, and maybe that Hog will one day make it to my plate. For now, I’ll file this one under ‘worth the occasional drive from Somerville’ and ‘mostly awesome.’
Hours: Mon Closed; Tue – Thurs, 12pm – 9pm; Fri 12pm – 10pm, Sat 11am – 10pm; Sun 11am – 9pm
Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.