Nate and I have been getting very into House of Cards lately, and real talk: those scenes where Frank Underwood goes to Freddy’s BBQ Joint to get ribs and unwind after a day of political deception and double-crossing have been getting to us. In other words, two seasons and twenty episodes in, we’ve been finding ourselves thinking more and more about finding a place in the city to eat good barbecue than about Frank and Claire’s depraved quest for political power.
So, we hopped in the car and headed to West Newton, home of Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q, for some down-home Southern-style comfort food. And let me tell you, if Frank Underwood was eating here instead of at Freddy’s, he’d be too full and satisfied to be so angry and devious all the time.
The storefront itself is very small — there is only counter seating available (other than a few tables and chairs located on the sidewalk outside) — but the atmosphere is fun, homey, and exactly what you’d expect from a Southern BBQ joint.With a full wall of pickled veggies surrounded by a bevy of out-of-state license plates, kitschy neon signs, a menu full of classic Southern sandwiches and platters, and a barbecue sauce station with a myriad of flavor combos, Blue Ribbon is a casual and fun slice of the South located in the heart of Newton.Nate got the North Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich — made from pork shoulder smoked for 14 hours and mixed with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce traditional to North Carolina. The pork was tender and juicy and the sauce was tasty but there needed to be more of it (the BBQ sauce station came in handy since the sandwich needed extra sauce for dipping in order to bring out the full flavor of the pork). Each sandwich comes with two sides and Nate chose the mashed potatoes (garlicky, creamy, and flavorful) and the baked beans (which came smothered in a sweet, tangy, and thick molasses-based sauce that made the beans irresistibly delicious).I decided to go a little off the beaten path and get a dish I had never heard of before — the Kansas City Burnt Ends, beef brisket smoked for 14 hours with oak and hickory and then chopped and cooked in sweet BBQ sauce until the meat is caramelized. I’m not usually a huge fan of Southern BBQ brisket, but the Burnt Ends were otherworldly. Each piece was unbelievably tender (to the point where there weren’t even whole pieces of brisket on the plate — it was just a pile of sweet, juicy, stringy, fatty goodness) and the portion was so big that I hardly made a dent in it. I chose to get a platter instead of a sandwich, which meant I got to choose three sides. I went with the mashed potatoes, baked beans (which I devoured), and the cornbread, which had a dense, almost cakey consistency.Blue Ribbon has a location in Arlington as well as Newton, but despite the fact that the restaurant has been in business for over 20 years and is such a household name that they even sell their sauces online, the restaurant has the feel and technique of a roadside barbecue joint (the meats are all slow-cooked at low temperatures over oak and hickory hardwoods to ensure that every piece of meat comes out tender, juicy, and flavorful). Along with Tennessee’s Real BBQ in Braintree, Blue Ribbon BBQ is one of Massachusetts’ best pieces of proof that good barbecue isn’t just a Southern tradition.
Tl;DR: If you want delicious barbecue and don’t have the time to take a trip down South, Blue Ribbon BBQ is the next best thing to being there.