Friday, January 22, 2010
Carlisle, we have barbecue
With the opening of the FireBox BBQ in Bedford last fall, Carlisleans can now count on a substantial addition – at a reasonable price – to our dining options. Even though the FireBox occupies the dreaded black hole of restaurant locations (Sandwich Shop, KnowFat! and others were there before) the food, service, ambiance and culinary skill of the owners make me bet that they will be the ones to thrive there.
Barbecue is a fun food.
Anything that is inherently messy that you can eat with your hands makes for a good time. Paper napkins and plastic forks make for a picnic. The look of the restaurant supports and contrasts that “down home’ feel with a New Age Retro look: orange/red color scheme, metallic weave chairs, marbleized plastic table tops, small couch and a few bright cube chairs. The big screen TV tuned to the sports channel (on mute) is on at all times; music ranging from country western to Paul Simon emanates from the speakers.
The staff members are quick, polite, patient and knowledgeable. You place your order and pick up the same on your own, and condiments are located on a side table. Portions are generous so you will want to bring the family for shared dinners. Entrees are under $10 for single servings, a very good value for the money.
The basic menu
Now for the food. The menu follows most barbecue joint offerings – chicken, pork, beef, burgers, turkey and a surprise addition, fish. Sandwiches, starters and platters are also available. The pork ribs are finger–licking sweet and meaty, tender and smoky; adding a side of sweet potato cubes, first roasted then fried with a touch of rosemary, makes a terrific meal. The pulled pork is succulent, with enough burnt bits to kick up the natural juicy flavor to new highs. The beef brisket was a bit problematic, as both times I ordered it the meat was a touch dry and lacked the authority of the pork dishes. The chicken came with a peppery dry rub and then was carefully roasted to perfection. The sauces for the meats are mostly sweet barbecue sauces with some variations, like chipotle pepper and mango, plus zingy mustard vinaigrette with rosemary that was most unusual. The really hot sauces are bottled (Cholula is the best known to aficionados) which you can add to your liking.
The hamburger was great tasting and perfectly cooked to order, the meat tender and flavorful. The owners blend their meat to order, and the burger is as tasty as a great steak. I have always considered a wonderful burger the best indication of restaurant greatness; add perfect fries and nirvana has been reached.
Lettuce wraps and fish tacos
Lettuce wraps and fish tacos were a real surprise. The wraps feature any of the meat offerings and the crisp lettuce adds a low–cal option for those hoping to lose pounds in the new year. The fish tacos were a delicious home-made crab cake wrapped in fresh corn tortillas, with cilantro and onion and a slice of lime. It is best to eat these immediately, as letting the tortillas get cold detracts from the pairing of the hardy corn and the delicate crab cake flavors. (That, and cold tortillas have the texture of cardboard.)
Sides are dependable – mac and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw, greens, fries, sweet potato cubes to name some. I loved the baked beans the first time I tasted them, buttery with a tangy sweetness that did not go over to cloying, but my second order was under–cooked and under–seasoned. The coleslaw was bland and mayonnaise heavy, needing salt and celery seed. Homemade pickles were sour spears, just right. Corn bread comes with your platter order.
There is a wide selection of soft beverages, but try the lemonade which is delicious. There are several good beers, and a surprising selection of wines from Kick Ass (boutique) Vineyards of Australia. We had the Shiraz and it was deliciously smooth and plummy.
Dessert was a hoot: a chewy, dense brownie and rich chocolate ice cream plate that was big enough for two chocolate addicts or three to four chocolate lovers. Pecan pie was dependably gooey and sized for one.
The restaurant offers a take-out menu, a catering menu and most importantly you can order and pay online. The first time I ordered online my order was not ready when I arrived, so they threw in a pecan pie as an apology. This is the sort of thing that makes for a loyal clientele.
Owners and chefs David Goldstone and Bryan McConnaughey want to make the restaurant a destination for more than food in Bedford. They started a jazz night series on January 21 and if it hits, they plan on having music once a month or more often if warranted. Check the web site for more information.
Go! Eat! Enjoy! ∆
347 Great Road, Bedford MA 01730, (across from McDonald’s)
Open Sunday–Wednesday 11 a.m.– 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday 11 a.m.– 9 p.m.
Seats 44, take out and catering services offered. Online ordering available.
Phone: 1–781–325–1653; Fax: 1–781–325–1654
© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito